INVESTOR CENTRE - Education

Source: SEBI Investor Education Programme

What is a mutual fund?

Mutual fund is a mechanism for pooling the resources by issuing units to the investors and investing funds in securities in accordance with objectives as disclosed in offer document.
Investments in securities are spread across a wide cross-section of industries and sectors and thus the risk is reduced. Diversification reduces the risk because all stocks may not move in the same direction in the same proportion at the same time. Mutual fund issues units to the investors in accordance with quantum of money invested by them. Investors of mutual funds are known asunitholders.
The profits or losses are shared by the investors in proportion to their investments. The mutual funds normally come out with a number of schemes with different investment objectives which are launched from time to time. A mutual fund is required to be registered with Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) which regulates securities markets before it can collect funds from the public.

What is the history of Mutual Funds in India and role of SEBI in mutual funds industry?

Unit Trust of India was the first mutual fund set up in India in the year 1963. In early 1990s, Government allowed public sector banks and institutions to set up mutual funds.
In the year 1992, Securities and exchange Board of India (SEBI) Act was passed. The objectives of SEBI are – to protect the interest of investors in securities and to promote the development of and to regulate the securities market.
As far as mutual funds are concerned, SEBI formulates policies and regulates the mutual funds to protect the interest of the investors. SEBI notified regulations for the mutual funds in 1993. Thereafter, mutual funds sponsored by private sector entities were allowed to enter the capital market. The regulations were fully revised in 1996 and have been amended thereafter from time to time. SEBI has also issued guidelines to the mutual funds from time to time to protect the interests of investors.
All mutual funds whether promoted by public sector or private sector entities including those promoted by foreign entities are governed by the same set of Regulations. There is no distinction in regulatory requirements for these mutual funds and all are subject to monitoring and inspections by SEBI. The risks associated with the schemes launched by the mutual funds sponsored by these entities are of similar type.

How is a mutual fund set up?

A mutual fund is set up in the form of a trust, which has sponsor, trustees, asset management company (AMC) and custodian. The trust is established by a sponsor or more than one sponsor who is like promoter of a company. The trustees of the mutual fund hold its property for the benefit of the unitholders. Asset Management Company (AMC) approved by SEBI manages the funds by making investments in various types of securities. Custodian, who is registered with SEBI, holds the securities of various schemes of the fund in its custody. The trustees are vested with the general power of superintendence and direction over AMC. They monitor the performance and compliance of SEBI Regulations by the mutual fund.
SEBI Regulations require that at least two thirds of the directors of trustee company or board of trustees must be independent i.e. they should not be associated with the sponsors. Also, 50% of the directors of AMC must be independent. All mutual funds are required to be registered with SEBI before they launch any scheme.

What is Net Asset Value (NAV) of a scheme?

The performance of a particular scheme of a mutual fund is denoted by Net Asset Value (NAV).
Mutual funds invest the money collected from the investors in securities markets. In simple words, Net Asset Value is the market value of the securities held by the scheme. Since market value of securities changes every day, NAV of a scheme also varies on day to day basis. The NAV per unit is the market value of securities of a scheme divided by the total number of units of the scheme on any particular date. For example, if the market value of securities of a mutual fund scheme is Rs 200 lakhs and the mutual fund has issued 10 lakhs units of Rs. 10 each to the investors, then the NAV per unit of the fund is Rs.20. NAV is required to be disclosed by the mutual funds on a regular basis - daily or weekly - depending on the type of scheme.

What are Open-ended Fund/ Schemes

An open-ended fund or scheme is one that is available for subscription and repurchase on a continuous basis. These schemes do not have a fixed maturity period. Investors can conveniently buy and sell units at Net Asset Value (NAV) related prices which are declared on a daily basis. The key feature of open-end schemes is liquidity.

What are Close-ended Fund/ Schemes

A close-ended fund or scheme has a stipulated maturity period e.g. 3-7 years. The fund is open for subscription only during a specified period at the time of launch of the scheme. Investors can invest in the scheme at the time of the initial public issue and thereafter they can buy or sell the units of the scheme on the stock exchanges where the units are listed. In order to provide an exit route to the investors, some close-ended funds give an option of selling back the units to the mutual fund through periodic repurchase at NAV related prices. SEBI Regulations stipulate that at least one of the two exit routes is provided to the investor i.e. either repurchase facility or through listing on stock exchanges. These mutual funds schemes disclose NAV generally on weekly basis.

Schemes according to Investment Objective:

A scheme can also be classified as growth scheme, income scheme, or balanced scheme considering its investment objective. Such schemes may be open-ended or close-ended schemes as described earlier. Such schemes may be classified mainly as follows:

Growth / Equity Oriented Scheme

The aim of growth funds is to provide capital appreciation over the medium to long- term. Such schemes normally invest a major part of their corpus in equities. Such funds have comparatively high risks. These schemes provide different options to the investors like dividend option, capital appreciation, etc. and the investors may choose an option depending on their preferences. The investors must indicate the option in the application form. The mutual funds also allow the investors to change the options at a later date. Growth schemes are good for investors having a long-term outlook seeking appreciation over a period of time.

Income / Debt Oriented Scheme

The aim of income funds is to provide regular and steady income to investors. Such schemes generally invest in fixed income securities such as bonds, corporate debentures, Government securities and money market instruments. Such funds are less risky compared to equity schemes. These funds are not affected because of fluctuations in equity markets. However, opportunities of capital appreciation are also limited in such funds. The NAVs of such funds are affected because of change in interest rates in the country. If the interest rates fall, NAVs of such funds are likely to increase in the short run and vice versa. However, long term investors may not bother about these fluctuations.

Balanced Fund

The aim of balanced funds is to provide both growth and regular income as such schemes invest both in equities and fixed income securities in the proportion indicated in their offer documents. These are appropriate for investors looking for moderate growth. They generally invest 40-60% in equity and debt instruments. These funds are also affected because of fluctuations in share prices in the stock markets. However, NAVs of such funds are likely to be less volatile compared to pure equity funds.

Money Market or Liquid Fund

These funds are also income funds and their aim is to provide easy liquidity, preservation of capital and moderate income. These schemes invest exclusively in safer short-term instruments such as treasury bills, certificates of deposit, commercial paper and inter-bank call money, government securities, etc. Returns on these schemes fluctuate much less compared to other funds. These funds are appropriate for corporate and individual investors as a means to park their surplus funds for short periods.

What are sector specific funds/schemes?

These are the funds/schemes which invest in the securities of only those sectors or industries as specified in the offer documents. e.g. Pharmaceuticals, Software, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), Petroleum stocks, etc. The returns in these funds are dependent on the performance of the respective sectors/industries. While these funds may give higher returns, they are more risky compared to diversified funds. Investors need to keep a watch on the performance of those sectors/industries and must exit at an appropriate time. They may also seek advice of an expert.

What are Tax Saving Schemes?

These schemes offer tax rebates to the investors under specific provisions of the Income Tax Act, 1961 as the Government offers tax incentives for investment in specified avenues. e.g. Equity Linked Savings Schemes (ELSS). Pension schemes launched by the mutual funds also offer tax benefits. These schemes are growth oriented and invest pre-dominantly in equities. Their growth opportunities and risks associated are like any equity-oriented scheme.

Can non-resident Indians (NRIs) invest in mutual funds?

Yes, non-resident Indians can also invest in mutual funds. Necessary details in this respect are given in the offer documents of the schemes.

What should an investor look into an offer document?

An abridged offer document, which contains very useful information, is required to be given to the prospective investor by the mutual fund. The application form for subscription to a scheme is an integral part of the offer document. SEBI has prescribed minimum disclosures in the offer document. An investor, before investing in a scheme, should carefully read the offer document. Due care must be given to portions relating to main features of the scheme, risk factors, initial issue expenses and recurring expenses to be charged to the scheme, entry or exit loads, sponsor’s track record, educational qualification and work experience of key personnel including fund managers, performance of other schemes launched by the mutual fund in the past, pending litigations and penalties imposed, etc.

When will the investor get certificate or statement of account after investing in a mutual fund?

Mutual funds are required to despatch certificates or statements of accounts within six weeks from the date of closure of the initial subscription of the scheme. In case of close-ended schemes, the investors would get either a demat account statement or unit certificates as these are traded in the stock exchanges. In case of open-ended schemes, a statement of account is issued by the mutual fund within 30 days from the date of closure of initial public offer of the scheme. The procedure of repurchase is mentioned in the offer document.

How to know the performance of a mutual fund scheme?

The performance of a scheme is reflected in its net asset value (NAV) which is disclosed on daily basis in case of open-ended schemes and on weekly basis in case of close-ended schemes. The NAVs of mutual funds are required to be published in newspapers. The NAVs are also available on the web sites of mutual funds. All mutual funds are also required to put their NAVs on the web site of Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) www.amfiindia.com and thus the investors can access NAVs of all mutual funds at one place
The mutual funds are also required to publish their performance in the form of half-yearly results which also include their returns/yields over a period of time i.e. last six months, 1 year, 3 years, 5 years and since inception of schemes. Investors can also look into other details like percentage of expenses of total assets as these have an affect on the yield and other useful information in the same half-yearly format.
The mutual funds are also required to send annual report or abridged annual report to theunitholders at the end of the year.
Various studies on mutual fund schemes including yields of different schemes are being published by the financial newspapers on a weekly basis. Apart from these, many research agencies also publish research reports on performance of mutual funds including the ranking of various schemes in terms of their performance. Investors should study these reports and keep themselves informed about the performance of various schemes of different mutual funds.
Investors can compare the performance of their schemes with those of other mutual funds under the same category. They can also compare the performance of equity oriented schemes with the benchmarks like BSE Sensitive Index, S&P CNX Nifty, etc.
On the basis of performance of the mutual funds, the investors should decide when to enter or exit from a mutual fund scheme.

How to know where the mutual fund scheme has invested money mobilised from the investors?

The mutual funds are required to disclose full portfolios of all of their schemes on half-yearly basis which are published in the newspapers. Some mutual funds send the portfolios to theirunitholders.
The scheme portfolio shows investment made in each security i.e. equity, debentures, money market instruments, government securities, etc. and their quantity, market value and % to NAV. These portfolio statements also required to disclose illiquid securities in the portfolio, investment made in rated and unrated debt securities, non-performing assets (NPAs), etc.
Some of the mutual funds send newsletters to the unitholders on quarterly basis which also contain portfolios of the schemes.

Is there any difference between investing in a mutual fund and in an initial public offering (IPO) of a company?

Yes, there is a difference. IPOs of companies may open at lower or higher price than the issue price depending on market sentiment and perception of investors. However, in the case of mutual funds, the par value of the units may not rise or fall immediately after allotment. A mutual fund scheme takes some time to make investment in securities. NAV of the scheme depends on the value of securities in which the funds have been deployed.

Can an investor appoint a nominee for his investment in units of a mutual fund?

Yes. The nomination can be made by individuals applying for / holding units on their own behalf singly or jointly.  Non-individuals including society, trust, body corporate, partnership firm, Karta of Hindu Undivided Family, holder of Power of Attorney cannot nominate.