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Bajaj Finserv turns up the heat in broking; BFSL joins zero-brokerage team

Discount brokers such as Zerodha and 5Paisa.com already have ultra-cost pricing models with zero brokerage and flat fees of as low as Rs 10 for intra-day trades in the cash and derivatives space

Sundar Sethuraman  |  Mumbai 

A broker laughs while speaking to a colleague, as they trade on their computer terminals at a stock brokerage firm in Mumbai
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The entry of Bajaj Finserve’s fully owned subsidiary Bajaj Financial Securities (BFSL) into the zero-brokerage bandwagon — for an annual subscription fee of Rs 500 — has intensified competition in the cut-throat broking space.

Besides zero brokerage, it is offering multi-platform trading, call, and trade facility and leverage of up to 20x. While aggressive pricing isn’t a new phenomenon in the Rs 18,000-crore domestic broking space, Bajaj Finserv’s huge success in the consumer finance business and deep pockets has sparked competitive fears among incumbents.

Discount brokers such as Zerodha and 5Paisa.com already have ultra-cost pricing models with zero brokerage, and flat fees of as low as Rs 10 for intra-day trades in the cash and derivatives space.

Market players said BFSL is yet to aggressively market its offerings. “It remains to be seen what additional services they provide, besides zero brokerage. If their offerings gain attraction, other players, especially in the full-service space, will be forced to alter their charges and prevent migration of clients,” said an official with a leading brokerage.

Despite the advent of zero-brokerage, bank-backed brokerages such as ICICI Securities and HDFC Securities have managed to hold their turf without aggressively slashing their fees.

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“Slashing brokerage charges will only make a dent in the customer base of discount brokerages,” said Dhiraj Relli, CEO of HDFC Securities. Relli added that brokerages owned by banks had additional advantages over other players.

“When you deal with standalone brokers, you have to transfer funds to their account, and call back your funds if you do not invest. Otherwise, funds keep lying idle with them. In bank brokerage, you do not need to transfer money to the broker’s accounts. The amount is debited from your account only when the order is executed, whereas in the case of non-bank brokers, you have to essentially park the money in the broker’s account,” said Relli.

Players in the zero-broking space say the technology and quality of offerings will be a differentiator.

“Zerodha is ahead of the competition because it offers a superior product. The market is divided between active traders and passive traders. And active traders look more at the quality of the product, rather than the pricing,” said Nitin Kamath, founder and CEO of Zerodha.

Kamath added that reducing charges may not cut ice with active traders, given that they end up spending more in securities transaction tax (STT) than brokerage.

Competition in the broking space is intensifying at a time when the industry is facing growth challenges on account of volatile market conditions and rising popularity of mutual funds over direct investing.

A year ago, ICRA had forecast muted growth for the broking industry. For the ongoing fiscal year, revenues were forecast to grow 5-10 per cent to Rs 200 billion. In FY18, the industry’s revenues surged 30 per cent to Rs 180 billion.

First Published: Fri, November 08 2019. 10:20 IST
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