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Rakshabandhan is an auspicious day in India. The festival signifies love and affection between brothers and sisters. It is a time where brothers reaffirm their duty to protect and care for their sisters during their entire life.

Usually brothers gift cash and or gifts to their sisters as a sign of their love. But what if you could give them something that will truly be there in their life? A sound piece of contribution could end being a much more significant gesture in the long run, both personally as well as her financial future.

Sounds to good to be true? Well here are some options you can consider:

Systematic Investment Plan (SIP) Investments: An easy option, but not not many know it can be gifted or that it can be started with an amount as low as Rs 500 per month. Also, one can not only do SIPs into mutual funds (either equity or debt) but certain blue chip equity stocks as well. So forget those fancy gifts for once and gift your sister that will truly be there for her in the future

Systematic Withdrawal Plans (SWP): A rather new feature in the Indian Mutual Fund environment. Certain AMCs now allow you to initiate an SWP, which essentially is the opposite of SIP such that money flows from the mutual fund to your bank account at pre – specified periods and at specific amounts; but with the added benefit that you can chose your relatives to be the beneficiary of this inflow rather than yourself. Another benefit of such a SWP is that because this inflow would be considered a gift in the hands of your relative, there is no tax applicable to the receiver of this SWP. Perfect way to support your sister with cash flow needs!

Insurance Cover: Few things may convey that you truly care for your sister’s health than an adequate health insurance cover. Now more than ever, health insurance is the need of the hour with parallel rise in not only health costs but also increase in reports of lifestyle diseases and ailments. A health insurance cover will insure that your sister is never financially affected by these hurdles.

On the other hand, providing a term cover for your sister who may have her own financial dependants is a warm way of showing that you are there to share her responsibilities

Estate Planning: This almost always is a personal and complicated topic. But having a solid estate plan is as important as any other life decision. And as a brother you could be the trusted guide to helping her make this important decision.

Furthermore, you yourself can be a part of Estate Planning as a potential guardian to her underage children. Or possibly a trustee in case she needs to make a trust. Ensuring one’s hard earned assets are bequeathed as they intended to is a huge responsibility and who better than a brother to take this up

Gold: The yellow metal will protect her from any economic crisis and will act as hedge during volatile times.But not the cumbersome physical gold that comes with its own headaches and costs. Rather you should consider paper gold i.e. instruments that invest into gold themselves or track their prices. These instruments range from Gold ETFs to the Sovereign Gold Bonds

On this day brothers take a pledge to protect and take care of their sisters under all circumstances. We at Plan Ahead Wealth Advisors understand the enormity of this pledge. And through our experience of understanding the complexities of money and human emotions, we also pledge to help you ensure that your sister stays financially secure in her lifetime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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bias

It is a well known fact that human cognitive abilities and emotions both have a huge say on how one goes about investing, both negative and positive. However it is the negative side of such aspects that come to front more often that not. Such obstacles are usually termed as “biases”.

This article looks to highlight and explain some of the common “biases” which tends to prove a hindrance to an investor from achieving his or her’s investment objective. As fundamental part of human nature, these biases can affect all types of investors. Therefore understanding them may help you to avoid such pitfalls.

  1. Overconfidence: It is common for people from all walks of life to see their abilities to be superior than the rest. But by definition of average, 50% of individuals would be lesser than average. Hence not everyone can be better off than others every single time. Whilst this high level of confidence can help in overcoming loss sooner, it also quite often leads to poor decision making. Examples: Taking too much risk in your strategies; Trading more often than what is required; Confusing luck for skill
  1. Anchoring Bias: This occurs when an investor is basing his decision to either buy or sell on arbitrary price levels. Example: An investor has bought a stock ‘X’ at Rs. 100 and has risen to Rs 140. However the stock price starts declining backed by deteriorating fundamentals. Here the investor holds on to the stock nonetheless in the belief that the stock will return to its previous price point of Rs 140, even though data may not back the case.
  1. Endowment Bias: Sometimes an investor adds an irrational premium to as asset that he/she is holding which would be higher than the amount they are willing to pay for that same asset if they had to acquire it. This usually happens for reasons such as familiarity/family value of the asset or simply to avoid transaction/tax cost. Example: Real estate owners often set the selling price of the property higher than the maximum prices they themselves would be willing to pay for it
  1. Problem of Inertia: The failure of a person to act on items, even those he has agreed on, is called Inertia. Inertia often acts as a barrier to effective investment and financial planning. This is usually caused from uncertainty on how to proceed forward and results in an individual taking the path of least resistance i.e. wait and watch approach. One way to bypass this is “Automation”. Putting your monthly investments on autopilot i.e. SIPs in case of mutual funds is a popular way of removing inertia and adding discipline to your investments
  1. Confirmation Bias: It is human nature for an individual to seek out views and information that support their own choices and thought process; and ignore those which do not. The same is often viewed amongst investors in their decisions.  While doing research, investors often find all sorts of positives while glossing over the red flags in trying to “confirm” the return potential of the investment.  As a result, this bias results in a poor, one-sided decision making process.

Whilst there are potentially more such biases that are identified, the above mentioned ones are the more common and frequent ones that should be actively avoided as far as possible. Human nature is such that there is no “remedy” for it. However by greater awareness and through taking professional advice from advisors, you could stand a higher chance of effectively navigating these hurdles.

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The-Beginner_s-Guide-to-Index-Investing

According to SPIVA India Year End Report 2017, S&P BSE 100 climbed 33.3% whilst S&P BSE MidCap rose by 49.9% for the calendar year 2017. Stellar returns! Question is, did your actively managed mutual fund do the same? As per the SPIVA report, 59.38% of large cap funds under performed their benchmark, whereas 72.09% of mid/small cap funds under performed their benchmarks.

We have started to notice a trend in Indian Equities where the actively managed funds are in the nascent stages of showing continuous under performance viz a viz their respective benchmarks. Even with a three-year time line, 53% of large cap funds have under performed whilst a whopping 80% of mid/small cap funds have under performed their benchmarks!

These data points certainly raise the question of whether passive managed investment strategies should be seriously considered now. Are funds and ETFs which passively just track a particular index the next big thing?

Two major reasons to consider a passive investment option into equity are

  1. Returns especially over long investment horizons and for those who wish to nullify fund manager bias; and
  2. Lower Costs

1

As you may notice, Index Funds/ETF’s can provide sufficient returns over long terms, though they are yet not on the same level as the top performing actively managed equity funds.

2

This is where passive managed strategies truly out do actively managed funds i.e. significantly lower costs.

Besides the above mentioned points, passively managed investments also provide added benefits such as (1) reducing fund manager bias, (2) a diversification strategy that can allow for less volatility, (3) passive funds are more favourable treated from a tax perspective when compared debt instruments.

One recent event that puts passive funds in a more positive light is the recent SEBI notification and the mutual fund recategorization. Due to the clear-cut guidelines for large cap funds i.e. can only invest into stock 1-100 as per market cap, it is likely that fund managers will find it increasingly difficult to generate favourable alpha considering the high costs associated with these funds. Therefore index funds that capture the Sensex or Nifty may find significant favor moving forward as an alternate to large cap funds.

However, they are certain limitations to Index Funds/ETFs in India, such as:

  1. Fewer options: They are not a ton of options available for the investor in the Index Funds/ETF space. Therefore one requires to do thorough research before choosing which instrument to select.
  2. Onus still on Active Managed Funds: The top quartile of actively managed equity funds, which also have most of the assets under management, continue to currently outperform their respective indices in certain time horizons, despite their higher costs. And this trend will not vanish over night.
  3. Inefficient Markets: Unlike Western Countries, where efficient markets negate the need for active management, the Indian Equity Market is still somewhat far from that state. Hence opportunities continue to remain which can be exploited by experienced fund managers/investors.
  4. Liquidity and Tracking Error: For ETFs, liquidity has been a major concern. Retail investors are often forced to hold onto their investments even when they would wish to redeem the same.

Furthermore, how well the fund/ETF tracks the relative index needs to be assessed. A lower tracking error would justify the inclusion of that instrument into your portfolio.

3

What should you do?

At Plan Ahead Wealth Advisors, we feel as an investor it is crucial to introduce passively managed instruments into your portfolio at this juncture. While the debate of active v/s passive will go on, it feels certain to us that a blend of strategies is the need of the hour. What instruments you choose and the allocation of them in your portfolio depends on your risk profile as well as your investment objectives and return expectations.

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retirement

It is one of the biggest, if not biggest, money question that often keeps people awake at night. The uncertainty of whether what you have earned and saved is enough for that dreamy retirement life can be quite stressful. And it is this ambiguity that often leads to making incorrect assumptions which, in a vicious cycle, leads to misguided money decisions.

Through this blog, we hope to focus of some items that need to be looked at to better judge just how much preparations you need for your Golden Years.

  1. Goals:

First of all, it is important to accept that your retirement will not mean doing absolutely nothing for the remainder of your life. Chances are you would still be at least partially responsible for your child’s post graduation/ marriage. If not those, then planning for those holidays and long travel plans, or having a dedicated medical corpus or even starting philanthropy or your own consultancy would need financial planning and funds.

There even might be recurring goals to consider such as cars. If you drive a Honda City today, chances are you would want similar car throughout your life. Assuming a Honda City costs Rs 13.75 lakhs as of today, you would need Rs 65.8 lakhs at the start of retirement just to fund purchasing the same car every 5 years (accounting for 7.7% inflation)

 

  1. Your Current Expenses:

While we usually have approximate amounts in our heads, rarely do we know our exact expenses for a year. If you think you may know, even so the detailed expenses are not known. If you do track and compare average expenses of the year versus that of two years ago, you would probably see higher than expected changes. This is due to inflation and lifestyle changes. It is critical to keep tabs on your expenses, as discretionary expenses tend to creep up and inflate your overall expenses.

  1. Changing Expenses during Retirement:

It is common notion that expenses will reduce once you retire. But data and experience shows otherwise. For example: Travelling and Medical costs tend rise whilst dependent cost tend to go down and groceries tend to remain the same.

Also, how expenses change depend on the stage retirement you are at. Early on during retirement sees uptick in expenses due to higher travel and entertainment costs. Then they slowly start coming down in the intermittent phase of retirement. Towards your super senior years, they tend to same constant.

  1. Medical Costs:

As per Willis Tower Watson Global Medical Trends Survey Report 2018, medical inflation in India is currently at 11.3% p.a. In other words, the cost of the same surgery will double every 6.5 years! Your retirement needs to plan for this.

  1. Lifestyle Expenses:

Urban inflation is around 7.7% p.a. on an average in the past 20 years. But that does not account for everything. We aspire for better things during our retirement. For example, you would have a Sony Home Theatre System which would cost approximately Rs 35,000. But aspirations would strive for a Bose System which is closer to Rs 90,000. That is a 181% jump! It is crucial to have both sets of inflation accounted for during retirement.

  1. Life Expectancy:

An incorrect assumption of life expectancy can have significant consequence. Data shows the life expectancy of Indians is closer towards 70 years and above. Furthermore, it is a fact that women have higher life expectancy than men. So planning for your spouse’s life expectancy is something which is not given adequate thought.

Life expectancy in developed countries are much higher. And as India steadily progresses to that status, it can be reasonably assumed that our life expectancy will only increase.

These are just some items, amongst others, that need to be carefully looked at to ensure you are planning for a good enough retirement corpus and are financially well placed to live your retirement years in peace.

To provide an even deeper understanding, Plan Ahead Wealth Advisors is conducting a seminar on Planning for Retirement on the 7th of July 2018.

For a complimentary invite do write in to us or leave us a comment to this blog.

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Oil has always had a major influence on India. Whether it be politics, stock markets or the general state of the economy, oil continues to have it’s say in these matters. And this is so because India is a net crude oil importer to meet it’s ever growing demands, and it is not just about energy requirements.

brent crude price chart

Oil in the last year has gone up 48.5% (Brent Crude Price in USD), whilst in the last three months alone it is up by 16.9%! This huge surge can and probably has started to show it’s effect across the various aspects of the economy. But as an investor into that economy, we hope to underline the impacts of this event on your portfolio holdings.

EQUITIES

  1. Inverse Relation:Data indicates that Nifty and Crude Oil prices have an inverse relationship. Between 2014-2017 whilst oil prices saw a significant drop the equity markets showed significant upwards trends. However the latest data seems to suggest that this inverse relation is currently not being witnessed, at least temporarily, with both the markets undergoing volatility and oil prices sky rocketing. Oil price rises however do impact both debt and stocks and hence need a careful watch.

nifty vs crude

  1. Oil Sector:Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) are directly impacted by oil price movement. While retail prices have been continuously raised for the last few days, the worry remains that the government may ask these companies to absorb further hikes rather than passing them to end consumers for controlling inflation. Such a move could dampen their stock prices in the immediate future. Therefore if your stocks portfolio has high exposure to such stocks its time to review the same.
  1. Other Sectors:Besides oil companies, other sectors that do get affected are the Aviation and Consumer Durable sectors. For airlines, jet fuel is the single largest cost. Hence rises in oil prices prove serious strain on their margins. This can also be seen through their Q4 results. Also, a lot of companies such as rubber, paints, lubricants, chemicals and even footwear are heavily dependent on oil derivatives as raw materials for their products. Therefore a higher oil price has an indirect impact on their profit margins.
  1. Any positives?:Higher oil prices invariably lead to a slide in the Indian Rupee (which we will discuss below). But a weaker rupee can be a positive for IT and Pharma companies as a lot of their business in exports of services and goods.

FIXED INCOME

  1. Widening Current Account Deficit (CAD) and Fiscal Deficit:As India imports most of it’s oil needs, rise in oil prices means more money spent for the same amount of oil. This increases the Fiscal Deficit i.e. our expenditure is more than the revenue. As such the government then has to borrow more to meet this gap. This also puts serious pressure on the gap between total imports and exports and invariably leads to a ballooning CAD, resulting in loss of foreign exchange reserves.
  1. Weakening Rupee:As mentioned above, oil affects the CAD of our country which in turn has a direct impact on the currency due to higher Fiscal Deficits, Increased Borrowings and Current Account Deficits.

Year Rupee Dollar Exchange Rate % Change Avg. Brent Crude Oil Price per barrel ($) % Change
15-06-2008 42.48 91
15-06-2009 47.75 12.41% 58 -36.26%
15-06-2010 46.45 -2.72% 77 32.76%
15-06-2011 44.7 -3.77% 100 29.87%
15-06-2012 55.51 24.18% 110 10.00%
15-06-2013 59.53 7.24% 110 0.00%
15-06-2014 60.06 0.89% 110 0.00%
15-06-2015 63.6 5.89% 58 -47.27%
15-06-2016 67.5 6.13% 35 -39.66%
15-06-2017 64.62 -4.27% 55 57.14%
15-06-2018 67.45 4.38% 76 38.18%
  1. Inflation:Rising oil prices means rising input, freight and transportation costs for companies, which finally means bills and expenses increasing for the end consumers. In other words, strong reasons for rising inflation in the country.
  1. Where is the actual Impact?:For fixed income investors currently holding debt mutual funds, the above event has a negative impact on the underlying benchmark I.e. 10 year G Sec Bonds. As such, the yields of current 10 year G Sec bonds goes up, which results in a loss in value of bonds held (both sovereign and corporate). In fact, for any investor who may have recently put money into debt mutual funds may be experiencing a notional principal loss!

While elevated oil prices have certainly bought about uncertainties in both fixed income and equities, as an investor it is crucial to know the fundamental reasons of investing into your current investments, along with a certain understanding of when you would require the monies i.e. your time horizon. Like oil, there are always other factors that have short term impacts on portfolios, but by ensuring your appropriate asset allocation through consistent professional advice, your portfolio will likely navigate such times.

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bonus 4

Anxious times lie ahead for employees across India as the season for the annual bonus starts in full swing. People often consider bonuses as “money found” rather than “money gained” and therefore almost always consider using these pots of income for discretionary expenses such as gadgets and treats and vacations. While there’s nothing wrong in indulging oneself, it is also equally important to have the big financial picture in mind.

And whilst the list of to-do items can be endless, we at Plan Ahead Wealth Advisors have distilled that list into a few essential options.

  1. Payoff those Debts: As crucial as it can get, reducing those crushing debts can go a long way to ensuring long term financial happiness. With that thought in mind, one should ideally those pay the ballooning credit card and personal loans which have very high interest cost. This could be followed by any car or educational loans, though do remember that an educational Loan has certain tax benefits. If nothing else, prepaying your home loan should also be considered though the pros and cons of prepaying the loan might be best arrived at after consulting with a registered investment advisor.
  1. Replenish Emergency Funds: Keeping funds aside for unforeseen events is a handy tool. And ensuring that tool is always at optimal levels is critical. Therefore, if you had dipped in those funds previously, the bonus is a good opportunity to return them to their originally intended levels. Ideally, anywhere between 3-6 months of expenses, including any EMI or insurance premiums, should be available in such funds.
  1. Revisit your Insurance Needs: Speaking of insurance premiums, it is common knowledge that with age, insurance requirements change. Chances are high that as you age, your health insurance premium might be bumped up or that you realize that your life cover is inadequate and needs an increase. Using your bonus for such needs is a prudent way to utilize the same.
  1. Pay attention to your unfunded Financial Goals: There may be certain milestones that may not have been attended to by you earlier. Some may be upcoming in the next year, while others could be years away. Earning a bonus is always a great time to re look at those goals and use the bonus to bridge any gaps that may be there to fund such items. This could also be, but not limited to, ensuring adequate investments into tax saving instruments as appropriate.
  1. Invest in yourself: They say the biggest asset anyone can have is himself/herself. Therefore, using the bonus to upgrade your skills/knowledge can be a rewarding decision for the future either by increasing your prospects for that next big professional leap or even increasing your earning capabilities.

While the above are some of the “to-do” items with bonuses, there are also certain “do nots” that one should look out for, such as:

  1. Although quite common, never over spend beforehand, especially with credit cards, with the assumption that you will receive adequate bonuses in time to cover for the same.
  1. Money in savings accounts usually vanishes quicker than one expects. So, don’t wait too long on deciding what to do with that bonus. You may find out that by the time you decide what to do with it, it has already been spent somewhere unknowingly.

Bonuses are the result of your hard work throughout the year, so ensuring that your bonus works as hard as you have, can go a long way to a financially secure future. By considering the items listed above, you are more likely to arrive at the right choice of what to do with your bonus. And if you are still confused, it is always advisable to bring on board professional advice to ensure that you are on the correct path.

 

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mutual-fund_660_102417043136

Like it or not, your Mutual Fund holdings, at least some if not all, are already undergoing significant changes. While the changes in some were predictable, there are instances where the proposed changes were never imagined. Now, everyone from advisors and distributors to AMCs and mostly importantly the investors are starting to scramble to make sense out of the commotion!

Since the mutual fund AMCs have started to list out the changes in their schemes, there have been plenty of eyebrows raised with some of their decisions.

For example, one particular AMC had a Liquid Fund and a Money Market Fund prior to re- categorization. As per the new re-categorization rules, there is a Liquid Fund and a separate Money Market Fund Category. The AMC has gone ahead and moved their existing Liquid Fund into the Money Market Fund category and vice versa!

Another major example is that of another AMC, where they have changed the mandate of an existing MultiCap Fund to that of an Aggressive Hybrid Fund (where only up to 80% can be invested into equities ) as per the new rules. In addition, they have decided to merge one of their existing Balanced Fund with this newly formed scheme. The N.A.V. of this newly merged entity would be that of the earlier existing MultiCap Fund.

The same AMC has dealt another googly by changing an existing pure Equity scheme to a Balanced Advantage Category Fund (a fund that manages debt and equity allocation on a dynamic basis). Note that there is no cap on either asset class as per new rules. Furthermore, they have merged another existing Balanced Fund into this new scheme, while keeping the N.A.V. of the prior equity fund. The fund could now theoretically go 100% into debt or the other way as per the discretion of the fund manager.

Another example is that of an AMC that had an Ultra Short Term Fund and separately also ran a debt fund that primarily invested into bonds of Banks and PSUs. Post the introduction of the re- categorization rules, the AMC has merged the above Banking and PSU fund into the Ultra Short Term Debt Fund. It has further gone on to change the mandate of an existing Short Term Debt Fund into a Banking PSU Fund as per new rules. Now imagine the plight of an investor who was anyways confused with the huge universe of schemes. If he/she is not careful, he/she might end up investing into the current Banking and PSU fund expecting to remain in that category when it actually will get merged into an Ultra Short Term Fund. Or he/she may invest into the current Short Term Debt Fund not realizing it will become a Banking and PSU fund shortly. These unintentional errors could have big implications later on the mutual fund portfolio.

There are thousands of mutual funds schemes out there. And if not selected right, which can often be the case, investors end up with a plethora of funds in their portfolio over time. Now imagine looking at your fund list and realizing that a lot of them are going changes and may come out as something new and unintended. In such a context, it is easy to make unintended errors or make ill informed decisions in deciding what to do next with your mutual fund portfolio.

It is with this concern in mind that Plan Ahead Wealth Advisors is conducting a seminar tomorrow at The Regus, Andheri West to enlighten both our clients and their friends and families, on the impact this massive reorganization of mutual fund schemes will have on their portfolios and how they can navigate these changes in an efficient way.

While it may seem a little inconvenient to come out on a Saturday 19th May 2018 to attend this event, the take away from this event could lead to much better decision making on your current mutual fund holdings in the immediate future!

 

 

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In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court on Friday recognized that a terminally-ill patient or a person in persistent vegetative state can execute an “advance medical directive” or a “living will” to refuse medical treatment, saying the right to live with dignity also includes “smoothening” the process of dying.

What is a Living Will?

It is essentially a document that sets out a patient’s wishes regarding how they want to be treated if they are seriously ill or in a permanently vegetative state. With this judgment, the right to die with dignity has been recognized as a fundamental right.

As regards personal finances, perhaps a big critical function that a living will performs is that it allows the maker of the will to prevent their family from financially overburdening themselves, sometimes to the extent of bankruptcy. Usually family members are spurred on out of love, guilt or a sense of duty to keep the patient alive, often at any cost. This results in the family’s financials going into disarray and jeopardizing their financial future and important life goals.

Who qualifies to write down a Living Will?

  • An adult who is of a sound and healthy mind and in a position to communicate, relate and comprehend the purpose and consequences of executing the document.
  • An adult must make such a will voluntarily 

What are the important items to cover in the document?

The judiciary has laid down guidelines on how such a document can be formed. They are as follows:

  • It should clearly indicate the decision relating to the circumstances in which medical treatment can be withdrawn.
  • Instructions must be absolutely clear and unambiguous.
  • It should mention whether the patient would like torevoke the instructions/authority at any time.
  • It should specifythat the patient has understood the consequences of executing such a document.
  • It should specify the name of a guardian or close relative who, in the event of the patient becoming incapable of taking decision at the relevant time, will be authorized to give consent to refuse or withdraw medical treatment
  • It should be in writing and should clearly state as to when medical treatment may be withdrawn or if specific medical treatment that will have the effect of delaying the process of death should be given.
  • If there is more than one valid Advance Directive, the most recently signed Advance Directive will be considered as the last expression of the patient‘s wishes and will be implemented.

How should this document be stored? 

The Supreme court has further laid down a road map on how the Living Will needs to be stored safely:

  • The living will should be signed by the maker in the presence of two witnesses. It should be countersigned by the judicial magistrate of first class (JMFC), confirming that the will has been drawn up voluntarily.
  • The JMFC will maintain a copy of the will and forward a copy to the registry of the district court of that jurisdiction.

Implementation of a Living Will 

The Supreme Court has described various checks on how a living will may be implemented:

  • Execution of the will can only be done if the medical board approves it. The medical board will consist of the head of the treating department and at least three experts from various specialized medical fields with at least 20 years of experience. The board can only give their certification (or not) in presence of the closest relatives. Furthermore, the board’s certification is only preliminary.
  • Once the board approves, the hospital has to inform the jurisdictional collector of the same. The collector will then appoint a separate board consisting of the Chief District Medical Office and three other experts from specialized medical fields. If this board approves the same, the chief medical officer will relay the decision to the jurisdictional magistrate who will then have to visit the patient at the earliest and authorize the implementation.

Any advantages of a Living Will?

  • Providesrespect towards a human being’s fundamental right to live and die smoothly
  • Doctors are likely to suggest appropriate procedures and medication knowing what the patient wantsas per his living will
  • A living willspares both the doctor and immediate relatives from taking difficult decisions
  • A living will could also spare the immediate family from the financial burden that comes up in cases of unnecessarilyprolonged medical procedures for a terminally ill family member

While Living Wills are common in the west, it is a very new concept in India. Although the general verdict, by and large is that this is a positive step in the right direction the complexity is still something that needs to be addressed.

 

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The universe of mutual funds within the Indian space is quite big; as per latest data on AMFI, to be precise. So it’s not particularly easy for an investor, especially a first time investor, to navigate through it to identify the right kind of mutual fund for his/her requirements.

In response to fund houses launching multiple schemes in one category, which confused investors, market regulator SEBI has come up with a new system for fund classification. The new system aims to bring uniformity to the schemes launched by different fund houses, thus facilitating scheme comparison across fund houses.

Based on the categories, mutual funds will be forced to either merge, wind down or change the fundamental characteristics of a particular scheme. This move could also have short term impacts on the portfolio on any investor depending on the schemes they have currently invested into.

As per the new classification, all open-ended mutual fund schemes will be placed under the following categories:

  • Equity
  • Debt
  • Hybrid
  • Solution-oriented
  • Others (index funds/ETFs/fund of funds)

Only one scheme per category would be permitted except index funds/ETFs, fund of funds and sectoral/thematic funds.

However, each of these categories will have sub categories:

  • Equity will have 10 sub classifications
  • Debt will have 16
  • Hybrid will have 6
  • Solution Oriented will have 2
  • Other will have 2 sub classifications.

That is a grand total of 36 classifications an investor can choose from.

As such, these new classifications will have varying impact on existing funds and consecutively on an investor’s portfolio. Such impacts could include:

  • Schemes will be forced to stick to their mandate:Funds often change their investing style based on market conditions. For example, a large cap fund may have sizeable mid cap exposure because its chasing higher alpha. But now, any drastic change will force the scheme to change its characteristics resulting in the same being communicated to the investors. So now the investor will not have to worry about the fund becoming something it originally was not set out to do.
  • Like for Like Comparison:As AMCs will have one scheme per category, it will be easier for the investor to compare the options available. All schemes of different AMCs of a category will have similar styles and characteristics, which will result in a “apples to apples” comparison.
  • Better choice by fewer options:With AMCs forced to ensure one scheme per category and fund labeling to be made in line with investment strategy, options will become lesser which should result in investors being more aware of their choice.
  • Need for review in the short term:With the latest mandates, one can expect a short period of fund houses realigning their products. As such, many schemes may end up being quite different they what they originally were. Therefore, investors may need to keep a thorough eye on their funds to watch out for any changes that may occur and act accordingly.
  • Possibility of reduction in performance:Like mentioned above, funds often change their investing styles to generate significant alpha. But after these regulations, alpha creation may be more difficult as the universe of stocks will be same for all schemes in a category. Furthermore, as per the latest mandate, if a fund wants to be categorized say as a large cap, it will have to invest only stocks defined as large cap as per regulations. So in the short term it may have to sell or buy some stocks which could have an impact on cost that would be borne by the investor. Also, as regulations would demand funds to rebalance their stocks as per the semi – annual publications of AMFI which enlist large, mid and small cap stocks, it may result in forced selling to accommodate any change in status of a stock, resulting in a possible negative impact on the performance of the fund.

Overall, while there may be short term practical hurdles for both investors and fund houses alike while adjusting to the new mandates, the general consensus has been that this move is a positive step taken by the regulators in the right direction as it will bring reliability and simplicity to investors. For any investor, it would be prudent now to get professional advice on how such changes may impact their own portfolios.

 

 

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According to Investopedia, “Geographical Diversification” is the practice of diversifying an investment portfolio across different geographic regions so as to reduce the overall risk and improve returns on the portfolio.

As with diversification in general, geographical diversification is based on the premise that financial markets in different parts of the world may not be highly correlated with one another. For example, if the US and European stock markets are declining because their economies are in a recession, an investor may choose to allocate part of his portfolio to emerging economies with higher growth rates such as China, Brazil and India.

There are two major advantages in diversifying one’s investment portfolio based on geography:

  • Taking Advantage of Opportunities in other Strong Economies:

A significant benefit to a geographic diversification of assets has to do with the way it allows you to mitigate risk by taking advantage of stable economies elsewhere in the world. It’s no secret that some economies are struggling to recover from the trying economic times of the last few years. Other countries, however, have seen higher growth rates due to a variety of factors. International portfolios have been shown, in general, to outperform domestic ones, this is because when there are so many markets to choose from, it is unlikely that the same country will ever repeatedly achieve the highest level of growth. With improved access to international markets and investment instruments such as mutual funds bringing down the costs, an additional option to further diversify has been to buy in international markets.

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(Source: Bloomberg, Kotak MF. As of 31st Jan, 2018)

The above returns data chart clearly shows that while the Indian Equity Markets have performed significantly in the last year, there were opportunities elsewhere which proved even better. Diversification into such economies can therefore result in better yielding portfolios.

  • Balancing out the risks:

While chasing better returns might definitely be one aspect of any investment portfolio, it is also crucial to understand how any strategy helps in mitigating the associated risks that are part of every investment decision. Geographic diversification provides a much needed balance that all investors strive for. If one of your assets is located in a part of the world that is or could be vulnerable, the investments in other geographies could compensate or buffer any unexpected losses. This is because despite the impact of globalisation, geographies and economies can still have limited correlation between them, and over time international markets could perform very differently to domestic markets. Following is a chart that shows how various sectors form part of some regions around the world, in % of total market capitalization:

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(Source: credit suisse global investment returns yearbook 2015)

As you may notice, different regions give different weightages to every sector. Thus by accessing these regions, you can in essence, reduce investment risks in individual sectors and therefore your entire portfolio as a whole.

Since the cycles that drive business and investment are experienced at different times in different countries, foreign markets seldom move in perfect tandem with each other. Losses in one market may be offset by gains in another. Geographical diversification significantly reduces the overall level of volatility and exposure to external factors. For an investor, theoretically this would mean that the more diversified your assets, the safer is your money. However it is true that a significant black swan event, such as the financial crisis of 2008, will likely deplete any such benefits, especially in the short term immediately after such an event. What is rather important to keep in perspective is (a) your investment horizon and (b) your risk taking capability to diversify into foreign markets.

 

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