Last week, when an investor asked mutual fund (MF) honchos, at a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) mutual fund summit, when he could expect the long-awaited common application form (CAF) to invest in various MF schemes, he did not get a satisfactory response.
And rightly so. When fund houses, among themselves, have not yet reached a consensus on the matter, the roll-out of the CAF in the near future does not seem possible.
Investors are however, hopeful of the CAF coming into existence soon, as fund houses have already started issuing consolidated account statements (CAS) and also have a standard common KYC application form. CAF is supposed to be the next step, which would allow investors to fill a single form for making investments in schemes of different fund houses. According to the ideas floated, CAF could be used for fresh purchases, redemptions and even switching between two schemes.
Besides investors, CAF would help distributors too, who could conduct business with a common form and not have to carry around several forms of different asset management companies (AMCs). AMCs also would benefit from lower costs.
“Though there has been talk about CAF, somehow it has not materialised. There are issues in connection with standard disclosures and Amfi is working on the same in building up industry-wide consensus,” says the chief executive officer (CEO) of a mid-sized fund house.
There are practical problems related to this initiative. Foreign fund houses have their own set of standard disclosures, while other fund houses seek additional inputs in their application forms, explains a chief marketing officer. “So, unless a consensus builds up, I do not think CAF will come anytime soon,” he adds.
According to some industry officials, CAF may become bulky as it will contain the information of several fund houses. Another section of fund managers feels it would not be possible to give details of all the industry's schemes in one form. Also, if a fund house adds certain new features in its existing schemes, how could these be reflected in the form, they wonder. According to them there should be a separate supplement from each fund house, along with the CAF.
The lack of an industry-wide common transaction utility platform is another impediment. Amfi is working on it and industry officials say it will be operational sooner than later. “Once this platform comes into operation, CAF would be easy to implement as it will form a sub-set of the transaction utility platform,” adds the national sales head of a bank-sponsored AMC.
According to the chief marketing officer cited earlier, if this platform is developed properly, it will provide a one-point touch for everything related to MF investment.
“Though at present there are some platforms available, none would match the facilities provided at Amfi’s platform,” he adds.
There are some naysayers, too, he adds. “How will Amfi reach a consensus on it and how will Amfi control it,” asks an industry official.
According to sources, Amfi has asked fund houses to pay for the transaction platform. The amount will depend on the number of transactions. “We have been asked to pay around Rs 25 lakh. May be later, they will charge an additional amount for maintenance,” said the CEO.