Money Saved is Money Earned

The above adage gains significance especially in the last quarter of the financial year, as individuals/retail investors plan their investments under section 80 (C) of income tax act, 1961 to avail tax benefits. There are various investment options available to individuals to garner tax benefits under 80 (C) such as:

The investment under ELSS (Equity-Linked Saving Scheme) has the lowest lock-in period and if managed well can be the most lucrative form of investment. The capital gains above INR 1 lakh are taxable under LTCG. Despite this, the exposure to equities gives the investors an opportunity to significantly outperform the returns generated by debt instruments. However, goes with saying, the opportunity also comes with risk of a downside. Therefore, it is prudent from the parts of investors to conduct their due research before finalizing on their decision to park their funds.

Unfortunately, what we have generally observed is that individuals follow herd mentality and generally invest in the fund which is most well-known and has generated good returns in the past, which is never the true reflection of future in capital markets. And this leads to downfall of many investors. Therefore, it is very important for individuals to understand the risks of underlying stocks constituting the fund, rather than only look at past returns of the fund.

Let us look at the broad parameters which an investor should follow while selecting the fund to be invested

AUM of the fund:

Large AUM does not guarantee superior performance and small AUM does not indicate negative prospects as well. However, a large fund’s ability to participate (buy stocks) in the markets during downturn is significantly higher as fund manager may have larger fund at his disposal (as % of overall AUM). On the other hand, there are also many small funds which have performed well in the past. To be safe, do not opt for the fund which form the bottom 25-30% in terms of AUM unless you have the ability to conduct in-depth study of the fund

AUM of Top 15 ELSS Funds

Note: AUM mentioned is for Regular Plan as of December 2018

  1. Axis: Axis Long Term Equity Fund
  2. Reliance: Reliance Tax Saver
  3. ABSL: Aditya Birla Sun Life Tax Relief 96
  4. HDFC (1): HDFC Tax Saver
  5. SBI: SBI Magnum Tax Gain
  6. ICICI Prudential: ICICI Prudential Long Term Equity
  7. L&T: L&T Tax Advantage
  8. DSP: DSP Tax Saver Fund
  9. Franklin India: Franklin India Tax Shield
  10. HDFC (2): HDFC Long Term Advantage
  11. Canara Rebeco: Canara Rebeco Equity Tax Saver
  12. IDBI: IDBI Equity Advantage
  13. BNP Paribas: BNP Paribas Long Term Equity
  14. BOI AXA: BOI AXA Tax Advantage
  15. HSBC: HSBC Tax Saver

Profile of the Fund Manager

It is prudent from investor’s perspective to know the fund manager who will be managing their money. Therefore, always check the background of the fund manager (Leverage LinkedIn) by looking at factors such as : Overall experience, Tenure with current fund and Asset Management Company and other funds managed by the company. More time spent by a fund manager with a particular fund and AMC is certainly a positive from individual’s perspective as it suggests strong performance of manager and consistency in fund’s philosophy over your investment horizon

Study of underlying stocks and Valuations of atleast 60% of portfolio

The funds’ performance is driven by the performance of individual stocks. Therefore, it is important for an individual to check portfolio constitution and current valuations of the stocks. For example, ABC fund might have generated handsome returns over the last three years due to outperformance of certain chemical companies. However, with such stocks already being well valued the same stocks may not result in similar returns over next three years. Also, some funds  as a philosophy might have high exposure to PSUs and may have benefited in the short-run due to Government’s move such as recapitalization of PSU banks, therefore aiding their performance. But, the stocks may not be able to create value over 3-year and 5-year run.

The individual therefore should not assume the past returns as the sole parameter for investment

Expense Ratio

Expense Ratio indicates how much the fund is charging you to manage your funds annually. Lower the expense ratio, more will be money deployed in equities thereby enhancing probability of higher returns.

Also, if an individual is carrying out his own research, then he should invest through “Direct Plan” rather than “Regular Plan” as the expense ratio is lower in the former. All mutual funds have their own online platform through which investments can be done through “Direct Plan” without the requirement of broker/ distributor

If you are consulting your broker/distributor, do not put your blind trust on him/her while taking the final call. Your distributor may have to achieve his own goals in selling a certain fund leading to him/her pushing a certain fund. Therefore, always do your own study and shortlist 2-3 funds for investment before consultation.

Fund size and Returns

Axis Long Term Equity fund has been the best performing fund over the last 5-years and also has the largest fund size by AUM

On the other hand, even a smaller fund like IDBI Equity Advantage has significantly outperformed its larger peers during the last five years

Further, SBI Magnum Tax Gain has under-performed despite enjoying a substantial fund size

Size of the bubble indicates the fund AUM Only AMC name managing the ELSS fund mentioned in the chart

Therefore, large size fund does not guarantee higher returns and lower fund also does not suggest inability of the fund to outperform the market. Further, over the 3-year period, the performance ranking of funds also vary substantially as compared to 5-year returns

HDFC Long-term Equity Fund and L&T Tax Advantage Fund which have been the best performing ELSS funds over last 3-years does not rank among the top 5 during 5-year period

Therefore, to sum up, just like a stock/company, no mutual fund will continue to outperform its peers till perpetuity. Therefore, it is important to study factors such as valuation of underlying stocks and profile of fund manager as mentioned above in the article. We will provide fund specific insights in our future posts


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