Posts Tagged ‘liquidity’



Unlike a pure insurance policy, a Unit Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP) is a product designed to give investors the benefits of both insurance and investment under a single integrated plan. ULIPs are insurance + investment plans suited for investors with long investment horizons. They work well with investors who may not otherwise keep the discipline of investing as they usually come with long lock ins and high exit costs.

The tempting benefit ULIPs offer is the administrative convenience of not needing to execute the two legs of transactions i.e. insurance and investments separately.

From our experience with investors, we understand that there’s a good chance you already own a Unit Linked insurance plan (ULIP) that either your parents bought for you, or you landed up buying one in the hurry scurry of tax related investments, only to realize later that one should not be mixing insurance and investments.

In the case that you may have purchased a ULIP or you may be contemplating to buy one, it is critical to know a few important items related to them so that you are more aware of what you have or might get yourself into.


1. Understand the purpose for purchasing the ULIP – tax planning cannot be the sole motive

While tax planning is clearly on the agenda, you should also assess the objective for which you want to purchase an insurance policy. Is the policy being bought for long term wealth creation, retirement planning or building a corpus for your child’s future? A decision that is prompted solely by the need to save taxes often results in the purchase of a wrong or an unsuitable product.


2. Check the charges carefully

All Ulips come with a host of charges. Understanding each of them is crucial to understanding if the product is suitable or not. Such charges include:

  • Premium Allocation Charges: As the name suggests, these fees are to cover expenses incurred by the company to allocate funds, do the underwriting, medical expenses, etc.Your agents commission is also covered under this head.
  • Policy Administrative Charges: These are the charges that are deducted on a timely basis to recover the expenses incurred to maintain the policies under the fund.
  • Surrender Charges: Similar to the exit loadin a mutual fund, these are the charges applicable when encashing a part or the full investment in a plan. As we know that in most of the Mutual Funds, exit load is at about one percent. In ULIPs, surrender charges could vary from a few percentage points to very exhorbitant amounts, basically to deter investors from exiting the plan in a short horizon.
  • Mortality Charges: These are the fees that are deducted on a monthly basis to cover the costs borne by the insurerfor providing a life cover to the policy holder. Depending on the age and the sum insured, these charges are deducted for life cover.
  • Fund Management Charges: The allocation of investment in debt and equity requires the insurer to bear the costs of managing the fund.These are charged as fund management charges.
  • Fund Switching Charges: As the name suggests, switching from one fund to another requires the insuredto pay an amount for covering the expenses borne by the company for making the switch.


3. Understand the flexibility to Switch

An investor’s need for liquidity, time horizon, and risk appetite will determine the initial allocation but these change over time. ULIPs offer the flexibility of switching between the funds based on changes in market cycles and changes in investor preferences. The number of free switches during a policy year, the cost of switches and the ease of switching are factors that are important evaluation points when choosing a ULIP.


4. Analyse and estimatperformance

With the complexity of the ULIP structure plus the huge list of charges and expenses that comes with it, it is difficult to approximate the kind of performance the product may have given during its existence. Always insist with the insurance agent/advisor to show illustrations and data demonstrating how the fund would has performed and is likely perform considering markets ups and downs. More often that not, data would help you decide better on the decision to invest or not.


Probably the only benefit, though largely accidental, of an ULIP is that the investor’s money is locked in due to the structure of a ULIP, forcing him to think long term. However, it is needless to say that other options must also be evaluated in comparison to ULIPs before making a choice to invest in them. The most common strategy might be a combination of Pure Term Life insurance policies along with separate investments in Mutual Funds. But like every investment decision, the first step to take is to determine the investment horizon and risk appetite and not get swayed by fancy words or past performance.




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blog 2With the recent launch of the ICICI Bharat 22 ETF, a lot of buzz around Exchange Traded Funds or ETF’s has been doing the rounds. Most investors may be wondering whether it is worth investing in ETF’s?

So what is an Exchange Traded Fund?

An ETF is a passive investment instrument whose value is based on a particular index and such a scheme mirrors the index and invests in securities in the same proportion as the underlying index. For example, a Nifty ETF will invest in the 50 stocks compromising the Nifty index. ETF’s are freely marketable securities which are traded on the stock exchange.

Since ETF’s trade on the exchange, their value fluctuates all the time during the market trading hours. This is different from the working of a mutual fund scheme which has a single Net Asset Value (NAV) per day that is determined after the trading hours are over.

Theoretically, ETF’s are structured to provide a variety of advantages to investors. The most prominent among them are as follows:

  • Diversification: ETF’s can provide a variety of diversification based on following themes:
  1. Asset classes such as equities, gold, fixed income
  2. Sectors such as financial services, consumption, infrastructure
  3. Based on market cap i.e. large, mid and small cap
  • Low Cost: One of the biggest attraction of ETF’s has been it’s very low cost structure, especially in comparison to Indian mutual funds. The low costs is primarily due to the fact that an ETF is a passive investment i.e. there is no active intervention in stock selection, re balancing based on a certain view. Therefore the costs associated with hiring professionals and the required infrastructure is avoided, resulting in a significantly cheaper product. Furthermore, most ETF’s have kept the expense ratios low to induce significant inflows from institutional investors. Following are examples of some commonly known ETF’s and their respective Expense Ratios
ETF Expense Ratio
CPSE ETF 0.07%
Motilat Oswal MOSt Shares M100 ETF 1.50%
Kotak Banking ETF 0.20%
ICICI Prudential Nifty iWIN ETF Fund 0.05%
SBI – ETF Nifty 50 0.07%
Average 0.38%

(Source: Value Research, mutual fund websites)

  • Suited to Efficient Markets: it is a global observation that passively managed funds have performed significantly better over actively managed funds where markets are more efficient. This is because in developed markets, all related information that should be priced into the equity market already happens, leaving very little space for the fund managers to beat their respective benchmarks.
  • Reduced Risks: Due to its passive structure, the risk arising due to stock selections by a fund manager are reduced. Furthermore, as an ETF comprises the same stocks in the same allocation as in the underlying index, tracking error is significantly reduced to the point of it being almost negligible. Tracking Error is the standard deviation between the returns of the fund and the underlying index. A lower tracking error indicates the fund is that the ETF will mirror the index more closely and therefore its performance will be more consistent with the same index.

Despite many advantages that ETF’s can bring to the table, in India they so far have been primarily avoided for the following reasons:

  • Liquidity: One of the major disadvantages plaguing ETF’s currently is liquidity. As ETF’s are traded on the exchange like any stock, its not always you will have to opportunity to either buy or sell at the desired quantity or price, depending on the type of ETF involved. However an alternative to this problem is the use of a market maker. A market maker is appointed by fund houses. They, on behalf of fund houses, provide quotes for buying or selling an ETF based on the current NAV of that ETF. This helps ensure liquidity for investors. Any investor can approach a market maker for transaction. The difference in their quote and the NAV of the ETF is called “spread”, is the cost for the services. –
  • Lack of awareness: Distributors receive negligible commission for recommending and executing an investment into an ETF. Because of these low margins not much efforts have gone into promoting ETF’s. Thus, most investors are unaware of what an ETF is and how it can add value to their portfolio.
  • Relative Underperformance over long term: While in theory ETF’s should out perform active managed funds in an efficient market, the point to note is that India is still some time from achieving that status. Hence actively managed equity funds, especially in the top quartile, are able to beat the underlying index, and ETF’s over long term horizons. This currently results in alpha creation which ETF’s may take time to match up to. The following table is a comparison between a random mix of actively managed equity funds and equity oriented ETF’s:
  1yr 3yr 5yr 10yr
Aditya Birla Sun Life Frontline Equity 26.62 10.21 16.89 10.61
Franklin Templeton Franklin India Prima Plus 24.86 11.17 18.22 10.87
HDFC Top 200 28.42 8.39 14.99 10.65
IDFC Premier Equity 30.35 11.72 18.68 14.08
ICICI Prudential Nifty 100 iWIN ETF 27.54 8.44    
Kotak Sensex ETF 23.88 5.36 10.7  
Reliance ETF Nifty BeES 26.78 6.7 11.91 5.75
S&P BSE Sensex 25.58 5.01 11.15 5.14
NSE Nifty 100 26.97 7.55 12.71 6.08
source: value express , date (07 Dec 17), returns data CAGR        

As in the Indian economy continues its march towards being recognized as a developed nation, there is fair certainty that ETF’s will have a far larger role to play. However in current scenarios, practical hurdles continue to keep them out of favor among investors. We believe that assigning a small allocation towards ETF’s, after due diligence, is sufficient basis investor’s risk appetite and investment horizon. As Indian Equity markets evolve, so will the ETF space and this will increase investors interest towards them.

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FinalTreasuryManagmentAs the owner and /or CEO of your HR Consultancy firm, cash flow management is a constant topic of discussions with the finance and accounts team.

What do with the excess cash in hand? Where should it be deployed so that it works a little bit more and grows whilst being highly liquid and safe? How does one ensure that enough reserves are maintained to fund working capital expenses during the low business cycles?

What makes cashflow management critical is that it helps the firm maintain the business flow and also balance better returns for idle money. This in turn goes a long way in ensuring operational functioning and continuity. The question is how is this achieved?

First things first, when you talk about treasury management, you are indirectly referring to constant flow of money in very short time periods. And as most boutique/SME’s face volatile business turnovers, money can be required on priority basis at any point. Hence the priority in Treasury Management primarily lies in ensuring liquidity and safety of capital invested rather than high returns.

Secondly, while significant growth in short term investments should not be expected; it should not necessarily be considered that there are no better options other than the company current account. While Fixed Deposits and Recurring Deposits have been traditional avenues for company owners to park extra monies, they remain inefficient from a taxation perspective. Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) is a definite thorn as tax incidence is occurring even though there are no capital gains received in hand.  Furthermore, falling interest rate scenarios are making them an even less attractive option.

An alternative that should be considered is liquid/ultra short Term/ short term debt mutual funds. Two aspects they score over traditional avenues is (A) they usually do not have any exit penalties  as compared to bank FDs and (B) they are more tax efficient due to tax deferment, as tax incidence only occurs at the time of realised capital gains at the hands of the investor, and they are eligible for indexation benefits as gains from any debt mutual fund investment held for 3 years or longer are taxed at 20% after indexation, thereby improving post tax returns.

In addition, often companies decide to park certain monies with a longer term view. This could be to prepare for possible expansion/acquisition as envisaged in their business plans. But as the requirement of funds is not in the immediate future, short term investment options might not work out in the best interest. Hence separate planning should be considered for such investment purposes.

Last but not least, understanding past company cashflows and extrapolating the data to approximate future cashflows is essential to determine the kind of investment strategy would be ideal. This analysis, while including business growth projections, should also include current liability repayments and expected abnormal gains in the future.

While managing cashflows will indeed be a constant objective, through efficient planning and proper advisory it need not become a source of constant headaches.

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RBI in its monetary policy review earlier today, decided to keep rates unchanged as expected by most economists and the financial markets. However, he did provide some interesting insights that could impact your personal finances.


Your investments

Whilst it maintained status quo, it indicated that there could be an upside risk to inflation, as has been evidenced in the last couple of months. A good monsoon, higher oil and commodity prices and consumption demand driven by the 7th pay commision could drive this upside risk to inflation. Whilst it maintained that the policy would continue to be accommodative ie there could be a possibility of rate cuts going forward, this will be driven by data going forward. Thus, adding exposure to fixed income portfolios dependent on the falling interest rates may need to be tempered, and accrual and short term/mediumd term strategies may be more suitable to lock into current yields. On the equity front, whilst consumption driven growth could be positive and an early signs of a recovery are evident , significantly higher oil prices and inflation could start to impact corporate earnngs that are just starting to show early signs of a recovery. Adding exposure to equities will also need to be tempered with slowing global growth data. Thus, a blended portfolio of equities bought with a long term view, and fixed income focussed on accrual strategies is most suited in this environment. The rupee could be negatively impacted by the potential outflows on account of FCNR maturities in September, and the intense debate on whether or not Rajan will get a second term as RBI governor.

Your loans

Since it has only been two months since the Marginal Cost of Lending Rate has adopted by banks, it will take some more time for RBI to be able to evaluate its actual impact on the ground. As per early observations, the transmission on the ground via cut in lending rates by banks has been slower thus far, but increased pressure on banks for tranmission is likely to result in this happening faster going forward.

What did RBI do?

The RBI in its policy review kept rates unchanged with Cash Reserve Ratio at 4%, Repo rate at 6.50% and Reverse repo at 6%.

On the liquidity front RBI had said it would provide some durable liquidity in the last policy review which was held in April and it did as promised. RBI will continue to provide liquidity as required in the system. RBI had also mentioned last time that there is an intention to move from a liquidity deficit to a liquidity neutrality position. RBI has not attached any time line to it and said it will depend on the market.

The FCNR B deposits that are due to mature in September have been matched with forward positions. RBI will intervene if excess currency fluctuation happens. On the issue of cleaning up of books of banks RBI mentioned that it will not reverse its action and will stick to its original target of March 2017.

What to expect going forward

Further policy action will depend on inflation numbers, oil prices, US Fed actions  and monsoons which are expected to be above average. Also withthe governor’s term with RBI ending in September, there is no clear indication whether he will continue for another term. This is likely to continue to be an area of intense debate till finally settled, which is unlikely immediately.

Watch out for the next policy on 9 August 2016.

 Image credit: www.canstockphoto.com



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As the Indian Rupee continued to face downward pressure against the US dollar, the Reserve Bank of India, late on Monday, took the classical textbook response to a falling currency by indirectly raising interest rates, following in the footsteps of other emerging markets, including Brazil and Indonesia.

The bond markets were surprised and saw a big sell off on Tuesday as a result. But should they really have been? RBI, over multiple conversations for many months now, has been talking to bond market participants and explaining that whilst falling inflation is good news and gives them some leverage to bring down interest rates to boost slowing growth, there is also a significant focus that they have on the external environment considering the high current account deficits that India runs and the possible tapering of Quantitative Easing by the Fed, which needs to be kept in mind as well. Unfortunately, most bond market participants were not listening, or listening to only what they wanted and liked to listen to.

Essentially, the RBI has been trying multiple things to stabilize the depreciating rupee with limited success thus far. A falling rupee is not good news for India due to the inflation risks that it poses, and high current account deficit as well as India’s dependency on foreign capital flows. Thus, as a part of its rupee management process, the RBI brought in three steps to reduce liquidity, and thereby speculative activity on the rupee:

  1. Increased interest rates on Marginal Standing Facility ( MSF) by 2% to 10.25% – This is the penalty rate at which banks can borrow over repo rate.
  2. Announced sale of Rs 12000 crores of G Secs under Open Market Operations (OMO) – ie it will sell securities to market and mop up liquidity
  3. Capped liquidity under Liquidity Adjustment Factor ( LAF) at 1% of Net Demand and Time Liabilities ( NTDL). This means bank borrowings above Rs 75000 crores will be at 10.25%.

The good news is that these steps have brought in, through a manner that they can be changed overnight, just like they were introduced, unlike a classical interest rate hike that can take much longer to reverse. Thus, RBI could pull these steps back very easily, if the rupee stabilizes.

Whilst the bond markets adjust to this, there is likely to be a negative impact on a mark to market basis that investors will see on their bond portfolios, whether held through short term bonds or long term bonds or even liquid/liquid plus funds.

We believe that as bond markets digest this news over the next few days and weeks, there is an opportunity for long term investors to buy into this weakness from a medium to long term perspective. Short term bond funds, fixed maturity plans and dynamic bond funds are good options for investors to look at in this environment, considering their tax efficiency if held over one year.

The next time your spouse nags you about something continuously, please listen. You don’t want her to tell you – I told you so!

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