By Sanket Dhanorkar, ET Bureau|Updated: Oct 16, 2017, 11.20 AM IST
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has asked fund houses to classify their schemes into clearly defined categories. For long, there were no clear guidelines to categorise mutual funds. Fund houses even launched multiple schemes under each category, making scheme selection a confusing exercise for investors. To introduce clarity, Sebi has now asked fund houses to have just one scheme per category, with the exception of index funds, fund of funds and sector or thematic schemes.Mutual funds which have multiple products in a category will have to merge, wind up, or change the fundamental attributes of their products.
Simplification of choice, fewer options
At the broadest level, mutual funds will now be classified as equity, debt, hybrid, solution-oriented, and ‘other’. Equity schemes will have 10 sub-categories, including multicap, large-cap, mid-cap, large- and mid-cap, and small-cap, among others. The stocks of the top 100 companies by market value will be classified as large-caps. Those of companies ranked between 101 and 250 will be termed mid-caps, and stocks of firms beyond the top 250 by market cap will be categorised as small-caps. Debt and hybrid schemes will similarly be grouped into 16 and six sub-categories respectively.
In particular, people interested in debt and hybrid schemes will now be better placed to identify the right schemes. For instance, duration funds have been segregated into four sub-categories, based on the maturity profile of the instruments they invest in. Debt funds belonging to the broader ‘income funds’ category will now be identified as dynamic bond fund, credit risk fund, corporate bond fund, and banking and PSU fund, based on their unique characteristics. Similarly, segregation of hybrid funds—based on their equity exposure—as aggressive hybrid, conservative hybrid and balanced hybrid, will allow investors to better identify the type of hybrid fund they want to invest in.
“Now that scheme labelling is clearly linked to a fund’s strategy, the investor will clearly know what he is getting into. The fund category will define the scheme, and not its name,” says Kunal Bajaj, CEO, Clearfunds. Fund houses will also not be allowed to name schemes in a way that only highlights the return aspect of the schemes— credit opportunities, high yield, income advantage, etc.
Adherence to fund mandate
With strict classification of schemes, fund houses may not be able to alter the investing style or focus of their schemes, as they did earlier. For instance, mid-cap funds stray into the large-cap territory or across market caps, in response to market conditions, which dramatically alters their risk profile. Now, funds will be forced to maintain their investing focus. Any drastic change in style will constitute a change in the fundamentalattributes of the scheme, which would have to be communicated to the investors. For investors, this means they won’t have to worry about their chosen schemes altering mandates to something which doesn’t suit their needs or risk profile.
Better comparison with peers
Distinct categorisation of schemes will also enable a better comparison of funds within the same category. While the earlier largecap funds category had schemes with pure large-cap focus as well those with a sizeable mid-cap exposure, now such distinctly varied schemes won’t be clubbed together. This will further help investors identify the right schemes by facilitating a like-for-like comparison of funds. “All schemes of different AMCs within a similar category will have similar characteristics, which will enable customers to make a better ‘apples to apples’ comparison,” says Stephan Groening, Director, Investment Solutions, Sharekhan, BNP Paribas.
These schemes may be reclassified or merged
The new Sebi norms require funds to have only one scheme per category.
Note: This is only an indicative list. All schemes mentioned may be retained by the respective fund house. There may be other duplicate schemes from other fund houses also. Source: Value Research.
Sharp rise in fund corpus
Since fund houses will now be forced to merge duplicate schemes within the same categories, it may sharply increase the size of certain funds. This could hurt the scheme’s performance. “Some larger fund houses with multiple schemes will have to opt for mergers. This may lead to a sudden, sharp rise in the corpus of schemes, which could dent the fund’s returns,” says Vidya Bala, Head, Mutual Fund Research, FundsIndia. “There could also be an impact cost on the investor, as fund may rebalance or churn the portfolio to ensure the fund aligns with the category norms,” adds Bala. For instance, both HDFC Balanced and HDFC Prudence are aggressive hybrid funds, with a corpus of Rs 14,767 and Rs 30,304 crore. Merging the two will create a Rs 45,000 crore fund. However, it is more likely that the fund house may instead reposition one of the schemes in another category.
Possible fall in outperformance
While the new norms are likely to lead to better adherence to the fund style and mandate, it may result in reduction in alpha—outperformance compared to the index—for some schemes. Funds often tend to stray away from their chosen mandate in the pursuit of generating excess return over the benchmark index. Now, with limited flexibility to stray into another segment, some funds may find alpha generation more difficult than before, reckons Bala.
Need for portfolio review
Since fund houses will now have to align their product suite with these norms, there is likely to be a flurry of activity related to recategorisation of funds. In order to avoid merging certain duplicate schemes, these are likely to be renamed or reclassified into another fund category. Some funds may witness a change in scheme attributes to facilitate its repositioning. As such, over the next 5-6 months, several schemes may change colours. Investors would then have to undertake a thorough portfolio review to ensure their funds continue to meet their requirements, insists Bajaj.