Investors, typically, take advice from friends, relatives or brokers to buy stocks or mutual fund plans—often, out of sheer laziness. Even informed investors commit this mistake. But those who do their homework and conduct due diligence before putting in their money could stand to gain significantly.
In the case of companies, it is their balance sheet which contains the relevant details. But, for mutual fund investors, it is the fact sheet of the fund. This is a booklet containing vital information about each of the schemes of that particular mutual fund. "One should read it not only before investing, but also after investing. People should ask for fact sheets from their advisors and respective fund houses on a regular basis. It updates the investor on the fund's performance and any changes that take place. For instance, any change in the scheme's expense ratio is something the investor would want to know about," says Murthy Nagarajan, head of fixed income, Tata Mutual Fund.
After the circular sent by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to fund houses in this regard, mutual fund firms have been issuing new fact sheets since September 2011.
Performance scorecard: The fact sheet walks investors through the performance of the scheme through boom and bust periods. Currently, fund houses provide data on performance over four one-year periods, compared to a single one-year performance data earlier. Second, the returns have to be shown in percentage form, and the manner in which an investment of Rs 10,000 grew during the one-year periods. Earlier, most equity funds showed their past one-, three- and five-year returns only.
"The new fact sheets help compare like with like in a time period. Earlier, fund houses gave returns earned since inception, which was misleading, as every scheme had started at a different stage. Investors, instead of blindly investing, should know what fact sheets indicate. More, the portfolio turnover ratio that only the fact sheets show is an important matrix to compare schemes," says Jayant Pai, VP, Parag Parikh Financial Advisory Services.
Track the fund manager: The fact sheet announces its fund managers and chief investment officers — another important indicator globally. However, in India investors are yet to begin the practice of actively keeping track of their fund manager.
The portfolio: This is an extremely important part, as it tells you the exposure of the fund to different sectors. "The objective and ratings for equity and debt funds are stated separately. Although ratings are important, these cannot be the sole deciding factor. But with this, one is sure of not being mis-sold," says Suresh Sadagopan, who runs Ladder 7, a financial advisory services firm.
Standard deviation and Sharpe ratio: Standard deviation indicates the manner in which returns have deviated from the average, whereas the Sharpe ratio shows how well the portfolio has performed in relation to the risk borne. This is again very useful. Reason: Although one portfolio can reap higher returns than its peers, it is a good investment only if those returns do not come with too much additional risk.