Trends in Indian Mutual Funds since Abolition of Entry Load

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8 April 2011
Arin Ray
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has undertaken a number of initiatives and brought in new regulations for the mutual fund industry in the last two years, the most important change being the abolition of entry load for selling mutual fund products since August 2009. The effect of this rule change has been widely debated. Some argue the impact of this change has not been significant as fund flows have registered year on year growth in 2009, while others argue that in absence of upfront commission distributors are now less motivated to sell mutual funds. We take a look at quarterly sales data of equity mutual funds to analyze the effect. Sales of euity funds, which constitute a third of industry AuM, is a good proxy to understand retail investor buying behavior, because the retail (including HNI) segment accounts for around 85% of total equity fund assets. According to data from AMFI, quarterly sales have been steady since the second quarter of 2009, and higher than they were in 2008. However, one needs to decouple the effects of the crisis that hit the markets in 2008. From the figure, one can conclude that though equity fund sales grew after the rule change, they are still far below the trends observed during 2006–2007. The decline in 2008 was due to market conditions, but subsequent recovery has not been commensurate with overall market improvement. Equity fund sales moved in tandem with SENSEX in the pre-2008 period, but post-2008 the gap has widened. Two points are worth considering here. The crisis of 2008 may have made investors more risk averse. While they were buying heavily during the bull run of 2006-07, post-crisis they have become apprehensive of investing in mutual funds. Another reason for lack of investor participation can be the lower returns generated by the fund managers. A recent study by Standard & Poor’s and CRISIL showed that a majority of actively managed mutual fund schemes in India have underperformed their respective benchmarks over the five-year period ended December 31, 2010. This may have made retail investors shy further away from investing in mutual funds. In summary, it can be said that the recovery of the Indian mutual fund industry since the crisis of 2008 has not been commensurate with the overall market recovery. The abolition of entry load has had an impact on sales from the retail segment, but it is not the only reason. Failure to outperform benchmark indices is another equally important issue afflicting the industry. [caption id="attachment_447" align="aligncenter" width="494" caption="Quarterly Equity Mutual Fund Sales"][/caption]

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The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has undertaken a number of initiatives and brought in new regulations for the mutual fund industry in the last two years, the most important change being the abolition of entry load for selling mutual fund products since August 2009. The effect of this rule change has been widely debated. Some argue the impact of this change has not been significant as fund flows have registered year on year growth in 2009, while others argue that in absence of upfront commission distributors are now less motivated to sell mutual funds. We take a look at quarterly sales data of equity mutual funds to analyze the effect. Sales of euity funds, which constitute a third of industry AuM, is a good proxy to understand retail investor buying behavior, because the retail (including HNI) segment accounts for around 85% of total equity fund assets.

According to data from AMFI, quarterly sales have been steady since the second quarter of 2009, and higher than they were in 2008. However, one needs to decouple the effects of the crisis that hit the markets in 2008. From the figure, one can conclude that though equity fund sales grew after the rule change, they are still far below the trends observed during 2006–2007. The decline in 2008 was due to market conditions, but subsequent recovery has not been commensurate with overall market improvement. Equity fund sales moved in tandem with SENSEX in the pre-2008 period, but post-2008 the gap has widened.

Two points are worth considering here. The crisis of 2008 may have made investors more risk averse. While they were buying heavily during the bull run of 2006-07, post-crisis they have become apprehensive of investing in mutual funds. Another reason for lack of investor participation can be the lower returns generated by the fund managers. A recent study by Standard & Poor’s and CRISIL showed that a majority of actively managed mutual fund schemes in India have underperformed their respective benchmarks over the five-year period ended December 31, 2010. This may have made retail investors shy further away from investing in mutual funds.

In summary, it can be said that the recovery of the Indian mutual fund industry since the crisis of 2008 has not been commensurate with the overall market recovery. The abolition of entry load has had an impact on sales from the retail segment, but it is not the only reason. Failure to outperform benchmark indices is another equally important issue afflicting the industry.

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