“We need to”, “We should” and “How to” are the most commonly used phrases in most of the conferences and summits on the Indian mutual fund (MF) industry. Unfortunately, all the discussions and proposed measures could not be executed for various reasons, leaving the industry reeling under pressure.
Ever since the Prime Minister’s Office showed keen interest to revive the industry last week, MF executives are hopeful of some decisions in the immediate future. Would the government’s keenness stop fund managers from wondering about “how to” grow? Almost all industry executives, Business Standard spoke to, were confident about some recovery actions soon.
“Monday’s meeting with the government officials was mainly on macro issues plaguing the industry, but all stakeholders realised the industry's pains,” says one chief executive officer (CEO), privy to the meeting.
“There are clear signals that this time our hopes won’t die, as I can sense assistance for the industry is in the offing,” explains the national sales head of a large-sized fund house. According to Deepak Chatterjee, CEO, SBI Mutual Fund, “The urgency which the government showed has pushed up hopes. I believe, measures will be taken in the immediate time frame.”
Industry body Association of Mutual Funds in India (Amfi) had made its representation to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi). Discussions which followed with finance ministry officials were in line with the same.
“Our prime demand was increasing the expense ratio, compensating distributors in some way, resolving several tax related issues and most importantly a single cheque system, among others,” says a CEO.
With no incentives to distributors, the economics of the entire fund industry has gone haywire. “There is a human psyche attached with all investors and they do not want to pay in addition to the distributors. So, we want to have a single cheque system and out of the total amount, may be 50 basis points or one per cent of that should go to distributors,” explains a chief marketing officer.
But would it not mean return of entry load? “No. It's different. When one talked about entry load, investors took it as if it was going to AMCs, which was not true. It was paid to the distributors. Instead of labelling it as an entry load, it should be clearly explained to the investors and Sebi should cap the limits that it is the commission which distributors are charging ,” he adds.
Amid all these demands for charges and commissions, where does a customer stand? Industry executives said 0.5-1 per cent commission is abysmal, when compared with charges attached with other financial products.
Though, hopes are high for a clear road map, industry officials are cautiously optimistic, as they have kept their fingers crossed while waiting for the measures.
According to them, if the industry’s suggestions are met, it would not dramatically change its fundamentals. “But, at least it will help reduce the pressure to some extent. For that matter, just raising the expense ratio by 25 basis points is not going to solve the issues but certainly it will help fund houses in terms of financial pressure,” says CEO of a foreign fund house.