Mutual Funds: An Overview


Nidhi Srivastava
Faculty (Finance)
Institute of Technology & Science

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 as unit holders. 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.

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. SEBI formulates policies and regulates the mutual funds to protect the interest of the 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.

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 unit holders. 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.

The performance of a particular scheme of a mutual fund is denoted by Net Asset Value (NAV). 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.

Schemes according to Maturity Period:

Open-ended Fund/ Scheme: 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.

Close-ended Fund/ Scheme: A close-ended fund or scheme has a stipulated maturity period e.g. 5-7 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.

Schemes according to Investment Objective:

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. 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.

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.

Money Market or Liquid Fund: 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.

Gilt Fund: These funds invest exclusively in government securities. Government securities have no default risk. NAVs of these schemes also fluctuate due to change in interest rates and other economic factor as is the case with income or debt oriented schemes.

Index Funds:

Index Funds replicate the portfolio of a particular index such as the BSE Sensitive index, S&P NSE 50 index (Nifty), etc These schemes invest in the securities in the same weightage comprising of an index. NAVs of such schemes would rise or fall in accordance with the rise or fall in the index, though not exactly by the same percentage due to some factors known as "tracking error" in technical terms. Necessary disclosures in this regard are made in the offer document of the mutual fund scheme.

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.

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).

Load or no-load Fund: A Load Fund is one that charges a percentage of NAV for entry or exit. That is, each time one buys or sells units in the fund, a charge will be payable. This charge is used by the mutual fund for marketing and distribution expenses. Suppose the NAV per unit is Rs.10. If the entry as well as exit load charged is 1%, then the investors who buy would be required to pay Rs.10.10 and those who offer their units for repurchase to the mutual fund will get only Rs.9.90 per unit.

There is a difference between investing in a mutual fund and in an initial public offering (IPO) of a company. 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. Therefore, the investors must read the offer document of the mutual fund scheme very carefully. They may also look into the past track record of performance of the scheme or other schemes of the same mutual fund. They may also compare the performance with other schemes having similar investment objectives. Though past performance of a scheme is not an indicator of its future performance and good performance in the past may or may not be sustained in the future, this is one of the important factors for making investment decision and an investor is always advised to keep his eyes wide open to fetch the desired results out of a mutual fund scheme.



Nidhi Srivastava
Faculty (Finance)
Institute of Technology & Science

Source: E-mail August 11, 2005


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