Asset allocation schemes, which diversify between equity and debt in the same fund, are yet to gain traction among mutual fund (MF) investors. Industry experts and advisors say lack of investor understanding and cases of mis-selling have impacted investor sentiments on asset allocation strategies.
Experts say investors are yet to understand that these funds are not to be compared with equity schemes on performance, given the debt component within an asset allocation strategy.
"Hybrid fund categories are not well understood by investors. Many tend to think they are akin to equity schemes and expect similar returns from them," said Vidya Bala, an independent MF expert.
The balanced advantage category, which dynamically switches between equity and debt allocation, has had over a dozen schemes getting launched since the Securities and Exchange Board of India formalised the category in October 2017. However, several schemes in the category are yet to garner more than Rs 1,000 crore of investor assets.
"It is surprising that the asset allocation space is yet to see wider investor participation. Fixation with equity is one of the hurdles, as investors believe that equities tend to deliver outsized returns than debt. However, that is not always the case," said S Naren, chief investment officer of ICICI Prudential MF.
ICICI MF's balanced advantage fund manages assets of Rs 27,955 crore, which account for close to a third of investor assets in the category. The fund house introduced the fund in 2013, before the category was created.
Barring the balanced advantage category that saw some investor inflow (Rs 3,260 crore) in the current financial year, investor interest has remained lacklustre for other asset-allocation categories. The conservative hybrid category has seen net outflow of Rs 1,665 crore, while balanced schemes (which take higher exposure to equity) have seen Rs 8,647 crore of net outflows in the current financial year.
Industry observers say that positioning of balanced schemes as regular dividend-paying schemes by certain pockets of the market had also contributed to the dampening of investor sentiments on hybrid funds.
"Despite the complex nature of these products, they were made to look simple regular-income products. However, this is not the case anymore and the real nature of the product needs to be understood," Bala added.
In the current financial year, balanced schemes have seen the biggest drawdown among asset-allocation categories.
Experts add that if the investor expectations are set right at the beginning, the category can make a significant contribution to the MF industry's growth.
"We believe the asset allocation category has the potential to be as large in size as the equity mutual fund category," Naren added.
Equity schemes currently manage assets to the tune of Rs 7 trillion, while the overall asset allocation category manages close to Rs 3.5 trillion of assets.