Heads of mutual funds finally find voice; throw brickbats at SEBI for their problems

In a rare outburst, heads of various mutual funds express displeasure with the regulator at an industry summit; also admit that rethinking is required about their own business

Five days after the law ministry and finance ministry took the wind out of the sails of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on the issue of regulating Unit-linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs), the heads of mutual funds have probably started seeing their regulator in a different light and are emboldened to call a spade a spade. While the mutual fund industry has been limping over rocky terrain after the slew of regulatory changes introduced in July last year, fund companies were conspicuous by their silence on the extent of the impact felt by the industry.

However, during a summit discussion on challenges being faced by the industry yesterday, the chiefs of various asset management companies (AMCs) openly admitted to weakness in the industry's functioning and put the blame squarely on market regulator SEBI.

HN Sinor, CEO of AMFI (Association of Mutual Funds in India) set the tone by admitting that the industry has lost momentum post the changes. The newly elected chief of AMFI pointed out that there is a need for policy rework for the industry and that a roadmap should be drawn for the next five years to set things in order.

Speaking about the entry load ban and other initiatives taken by SEBI since last August, Mr Sinor said, "Commission payouts are an integral part of this industry.

A fresh review is needed in this regard. Such attempts (at regulatory change) could disturb the industry." Mr Sinor also suggested setting up of an ombudsman for the industry. The CEO's Interactive Roundtable at the CII Mutual Fund Summit 2010 that followed witnessed an even more frank discussion about the mess that the industry currently finds itself in.

UK Sinha, chairman and managing director of UTI Asset Management Co Ltd, commented that the mutual fund industry is becoming a 'shock absorber', what with all the changes being brought upon it. "The de-growth in assets under management is a worrying issue. The environment is not at all conducive or friendly," admitted Mr Sinha.

Ashu Suyash, managing director and country head, FIL Fund Management Pvt Ltd, pointed out that the industry players should have been given a reasonable time to adjust to the regulatory changes. "It has had a negative medium-term impact on the industry. The focus of AMCs has now changed from growth to survival," she said.

Sandeep Sikka, CEO of Reliance Capital Asset Management Ltd, was also critical of the developments in the industry. Commenting on the regulatory involvement post the financial crisis, he said, "We have now moved from the point of less regulation to over-regulation in the industry."

Vivek Kudva, managing director, Franklin Templeton Asset Management India Pvt Ltd, pointed out that mutual fund products are sold, not bought. "The financial crisis has shown us that there is a role for advisors." Asking customers to cut a separate cheque as commission to the advisor is an inhibitor for this industry, said Mr Kudva. He pointed out that people do not do the same while buying electronic goods-a cheque is not made out to the manufacturer and dealer separately.

Not all brickbats were directed at the regulator, though. There were rare moments of introspection too. Mr Sikka, while addressing the issue of product innovation, made it clear that there is actually a need for the industry to be simple, instead of innovative. "The industry has innovated itself beyond its own understanding," he quipped. This is a rare admission. In the 2005-2008 period, AMCs were manufacturing and hard-selling mutual funds as if these were variants of soaps and shampoos. Distributors were offered lucrative incentives to sell new funds who in turn encouraged gullible investors to switch from existing units to new ones, deceiving them with the argument that the new units were cheaper because these were priced at Rs10. This glaring mis-selling is not talked of anymore but is one of the principal reasons for the poor fund performance and therefore the consequent disillusionment of retail investors with funds. It is quite intriguing to see CEOs of fund companies raising the issue of simplicity after having foisted complexity all these years.




7 years ago

LIC has succeeded in coming out of SEBI's control in the Agnet Commission issue. Mutual Funds through AMFI should tell SEBI to mind its business of controlling share transactions effectively.


7 years ago



7 years ago

I think it was only UTI Chief who was openly speaking about SEBis dicision to ban entry load and stop upfront commission. No other CEos were talking infact People like Fidility was in favour of this action of banning entry load. Now they have realised they cannot do without distributors. Mr. Bhave I suppose is SEBI chief who wanted to save himself from NSDL SCAM now he has done that . So I think He should say good Bye now

Keshav B Bhat

7 years ago

It is nice to know that people started to look in to ground realities. Any product how best it may be and how useful it may be has to be sold and needs distribution network and the people who are involved has to earn their living and wether somebody likes it or not all these charges are born by the end-user (knowingly or unknowingly - but it is the truth).

Unfortunately some people with the the idea of advisory service (but donot want to take the responsibility and pain of giving service to the client, which is the most needed to any investor who wants to save, invest and get a better returns) to make an easy money as any misselling agent (may be by changing to a more fancy name till their black deeds come to light) made these hue and cry and brought this mess and unfortunately the SEBI is responsible for all these.
All these people who make all these noice about commissions received by the intermediatories and talk about the FMC and frount end loads, why cant the come out with a product which dont have any charges and as they say just the advisor just suggests that product to investors and gets his advisory fee and the investor just buys it directly or does what he likes and if they are sucessfull all existing products will automatically vanish as they wish
Keshav B Bhat


7 years ago

dont worry ifa. take lic agecy . and sell SIP of LICs jeevan saral and earn commission up to 35%. bhad mai jai sebi aur bhave.


7 years ago

Thank God they are realizing now that MF are sold and not bought. If situation continues there will be no problem as there will be no MF. MF industry has become a experimental Lab of Sebi who is trying its non working experiments on it. which MF industry also agreed but they will soon realise that it will be end of road for them


Deepak K Rao

7 years ago

There are a set of reasons that ULIP apologists usually trot out to promote ULIPs.

Here's why they are wrong.
ULIP Excuses, and Why They Are Wrong

The so-called turf-war on ULIPs that SEBI and IRDA have been fighting has now taken on a life of its own. In reality, just about the least important thing is who regulates ULIPs, while the most important thing-or rather, the only important thing-is that investors understand what they are getting into and make the choices that are best for them. I find that there's a great deal of misinformation floating around about ULIPs and why exactly are so many investment advisors so critical of them. ULIP proponents generally give a set of reasons which in their opinion invalidate criticism of ULIPs.
In this article, I'd like to briefly describe why I think these arguments are not valid.

Argument: ULIP expenses have been lowered by IRDA. ULIP expenses are now down to just 3 per cent for ULIPs of up to 10 years and 2.25 per cent for longer ones. Mutual funds, by comparison, have a higher fund management charges.

Reality: The way IRDA has framed the rules, 2.25 or 3 per cent is effectively the average over the entire lifetime of a ULIP. However, these charges are heavily front-loaded, something that allows insurance companies to circumvent them easily. During the first year, these charges are as high as 40 to 70 per cent. If the customer cannot continue with a policy for any reason, then his real expenses are far higher. And as it happens, a huge proportion of policies lapse during the earlier years. The front-loading has no logic, except to enrich insurers and agents. And fund management charges being lower than mutual funds is a not a full comparison. In mutual funds, total expenses are capped at 2.25 per cent for equity funds and less for other funds. These are not comparable to the fund management charges of ULIPs because ULIP customers also pay premium allocation charges, policy administration charges, mortality charges, and for guaranteed ULIPs, guarantee charge s. Comparing fund management cha ges alone is a joke.

Argument: ULIPs have led to a massive rise in insurance penetration in India.

Reality: Insurance means insurance, in the sense when the insured person dies, his family gets money to pay for food, rent and education. In a country with as little social security as ours, the growth of insurance has to mean the growth in the reach and quantum of risk cover for lives. To call ULIPs, a market risk-bearing product (with a tiny dose of insurance) by the name of insurance and then present it as evidence of the growth of insurance is simply dishonest, and to find a regulator appointed by the Government of India participating in this subterfuge is shameful.
Argument: The insurance industry provides a huge amount of employment. 30 lakh people have found work through insurance.
Reality: If ULIPs were a sound financial product than this would be wonderful news. Since they are not (see above reasons), this issue is a complete red herring. It is not the responsibility of ULIP customers to provide agents employment by giving away vast proportion of their premiums as commission. If crores of people's money has to be mis-invested to provide employment for lakhs of people, then it's better for those lakhs to find some other, more productive employment.

Argument: ULIP fund flows are important for the stock market and for infrastructure development.

Reality: The same as the employment argument. It is not the responsibility of ULIP customers to buy expensive and non-transparent investment products so that the stock markets can be boosted. Wouldn't it be possible to create infrastructure if ULIPs could be made more investor friendly.
I find the last two points to be particularly dishonest. They somehow imply that if ULIPs were made more investor-friendly, then lakhs of people would immediately become unemployed and money would stop flowing into development. However, ULIP critics like me have nothing against the concept of ULIPs. If ULIP cost is brought down and made non-front-loaded; and if transparency is enhanced to the level of other asset classes, then they would be a very good product. The fact that the ULIP's enforce gradual SIP-style investments could actually make them a superior product.

ULIPs should be converted into a product that has an investment component that has similar rules and regulations to mutual funds, in combination with an life-cover component that has the same pricing as term insurance. If this happens, then I'm sure that every opponent of ULIPs, including Value Research, will start recommending them above mutual funds.

-- Dhirendra Kumar

Tushar Choksi

7 years ago

I am a distributor who mobilised a sip of rs. 2000/- my upfront commission was rs.8/-.The investor expects that i am not able to provide any quality service?The investor stares in your eyes if you talk of charges as if some crime has been commited.Under the circumstances do you expect distributor will go to a small investor?
is the reformist MR.BHAVE listening?

Surekha desai

7 years ago

Sebi has effectively killed the MF industry. Unless prompt action is takes, burial is a matter of time.


7 years ago

The problem is with the Industry, thr has to be unity then u can see diversity of MFs, they fight like cats,dogs.... in chasing aum. the market is huge & big we need to create investors within the existing markets and grow, rather pointing fingers at 1 individual. his job is to hammers MFs u like it absorb it or throw it back and see how ulip case. he can't wag his tail. The main problem is with the promoters the stake in MFs is peanuts and they care a damn.... just 10 crs strt business and sleep. Look at the stake involved in insurance 1000... of crs, he will get nightmare for lossess and he will go to any extent to get favor for insurance... lets unite and work for betterment


7 years ago

i think the salaries paid to SEBI sr staff should be regulated. they r playing with the sentiments of the mutual fund industry, particularly with MF advisors.

the yesterday's statement of mr. bhave saying MFs r not doing wel reflects that he is not aware of the returns given. SEBI should better concetrate on the other irregularities in the market. somebody should measure the performance of SEBI over the years

jamseet Singh

7 years ago

Ask Bhave which other Item - Newspaper/Soap/TV/any product he buys/uses/consumes comes at cost less than the 2.25%.
Instead of nailing 35 AMCs for reducing there costs on AC offices and Cushy Salaries and Incentives, he instead Screwed up the happiness of 35000 A r n holders.
And I donot have words for the 3 Crore and 50 lakh people in India, who will buy more of Ulips and other Insurance products now, as products with better commissions will get priority on marketing.
God knows who is going to get benefit out of the so called Initiatives.
Actually Bhave has very well enacted the role of "Warren Anderson, the former Union Carbide head" in what can be termed as the "Indian Mutual Fund Gas Tragedy".

Just would like to say, "bhave get well soon"
And once you do, take retirement and go to honeymoon.


7 years ago

if bhave thinks like distributors brokerage paid by entry load are of no use then uptill now the sebi was sleeping?
asdistributor the revnuewhich they generate has plunged and their cost are as it is
many distributor has started to selling other product, or leaving the industry!

Rahul Sinha

7 years ago

And what is this body called AMFI doing for the distributors?If it doesnt have the guts to fight it out for the distributors ,it should be abolished.Just look how IRDA fought it out with SEBI .

Rahul Sinha

7 years ago

The new rules by SEBI for distributors are
simply absurd.No client has ever complained about the entry load because no one mind paying a small amount of 1-2% as these charges for distributors are fully justifiable for the services they give their clients.

‘Everybody wants power, but nobody wants a power plant in their backyard’

Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) is the nodal body for regulations in the power sector in the State. MERC chairman VP Raja speaks to Moneylife’s Amritha Pillay on the key issues that the State faces on the electricity front

Amritha Pillay (ML): Industries in Maharashtra are currently not allowed to trade on the power exchange. By when can we see a change in this? Wouldn't allowing industries to trade on the exchange help Maharashtra access more power at competitive rates?
VP Raja (VP): What you are saying is true; one can say there is reluctance on the part of MAHADISCOM (Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co Ltd) to allow open access. But the law clearly provides a provision for open access. The reluctance perhaps comes from the fact that MAHADISCOM has a lot of social responsibility and there is a huge amount of cross-subsidy, which is a historical legacy of taking power to agriculture and residential customers at lower rates. The law mandates that we have to progressively bring down subsidies. Historical realities cannot be written off overnight. We are trying to bring down the subsidies.

However, open access has been allowed to certain people, who have pursued the case. There are industries that have appealed and got an approval. If someone comes to us with a petition, we will look into it.
 ML: Given that MERC is aware of this issue, what steps are being taken to solve the problem?
VP: Yes, there is a provision for open access; people are welcome on that front. We agree that there are certain issues; we are looking into it to try to expedite the open access process for people with 1 megawatt (MW) or more power. We have tasked ICRA to find out at the generic level what can be done. The law is clear-it is a question on how to transform the law into reality.
 ML: Isn't a change in the cross-subsidy (which is zero at present) another alternative that can be considered? Aren't certain modifications planned in the policy?
 VP: The cross-subsidy has been kept at zero, because there is a shortage of power, so any additional power that comes in is welcome and we would like to encourage more power coming into the State. There is a good logic supporting the zero surcharges. However, certain representations have been made to us to revisit this matter.
ML: What is your view on the current power shortage situation in the State?
VP: Today, the State is facing a power shortage because the investments that ought to have taken place in the public sector did not take place. These investments went wrong from around ten years back-with the start of the Enron episode. There was hype that with the private sector taking up the power-generation task, public sector investments could be directed towards social issues like rural development, health, education, social welfare, etc. Both the Centre-through the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and MAHAGENCO (Maharashtra State Power Generation Co), failed to undertake investments that were required. The effect of these mistakes is now being experienced ten years down the line. But now having learnt that lesson, investments are taking place in the public sector also, in addition to the private sector.
ML: What changes do you expect in the State's power situation in the next three to five years?
VP: Today we have the national grid. Electricity can flow from one place to the other.  In the 11th Five Year Plan the target is to generate more than 78,000MW ofpower. The country may end up with more than 55,000MW or 60,000MW. In the 12th Five Year Plan, the target is to have around 1 lakh MW of generation, around 60% of this is expected to come from private generation.
In Maharashtra, private sector plants are coming up. There is one by JSW Energy in Ratnagiri, which is on schedule. There are power plants by Adani Power coming up at Gondia district. The company has managed coal linkages for this project. Indiabulls Power Ltd plans to put up facilities at Nashik and Amravati. These are the three major private players. All these will certainly have some power purchase agreements signed with Maharashtra. In the next year, Adani's two power units will be ready (660MW each); the first unit will come up really soon.
ML: What about the public sector power generation plans in Maharashtra?
VP: On the public sector side again, there are a lot of generation capacities planned. NTPC has put up a power plant in Solapur, for instance. MAHAGENCO is putting up new generation units at its existing power plants.
ML: According to you, when is Maharashtra likely to turn self-sufficient in its power requirements?
VP: For the State to become power sufficient, there are enough projects on the table at present, but the original ground-level issues like land acquisitions are a concern. Everybody wants power, but nobody wants a power plant in their backyard. These kinds of contradictions exist. You cannot put up a power plant without land. There are a lot of projects on the shelf, but how many of them fructify (is to be seen).
ML: The Central Electricity Act (2003) favours competition. However, MERC is currently caught in the crossfire between two competitive utilities-RInfra and Tata Power. What seems to be the way forward to encourage competition in the consumer interest? Is there lack of clarity in the process and rules involved?
VP: That (competition) is natural; the sector is turning really dynamic. But there is now a choice given to customers. They can now choose amongst utilities. Competition is good, because it gives choice to customers. With the power to choose, all competing providers will have to look inwards (as to) what is the cheapest method of procuring power.
 ML: Then, don't you think State intervention could be something which is uncalled for?
VP: No, I don't think that (State intervention) is killing competition. The State has certain social responsibilities. It cannot be a silent spectator. A distinction needs to be drawn between electricity as a necessity and as a commodity.
 ML: What is your view on this whole power fight?
 VP: This whole thing is happening because of the following issue-the fact that tariff is dependent on two important factors, the power purchase cost and the consumer mix, both are different for the three utilities in question. At the end it is the consumer's choice. Once somebody starts losing customers, they start looking for cheaper power. There are various options available for procuring cheaper power. The transition from a monopoly to a duopoly is what has taken place. We will be quite happy to have many more (players).
 ML: What kind of thrust has been given for renewable energy sources?

VP: A considerable amount is expected to come up in renewables, where Maharashtra is doing really well. After Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra has the highest investments in renewable energy. We do expect some generation from bagasse from sugar factories. We have given fairly attractive tariffs, so investments have taken place in a number of sugar factories on a co-generation basis. It is a similar case with biomass. On the solar power side, 1MW has already come up. There are a large number of such projects in the pipeline. However, solar energy projects will take some time to stabilise.




7 years ago

Reform Agenda pushed by Raja Sir,will be the milestone in the History of Power Sector.

G G Dalal

7 years ago

How the politicians are clamoring every year that Maharashtra will be self-sufficient in power by 2011-12? To avoid chronic power shortage, why Maharashtra State is lagging in mandating adoption of energy saving measures like Gujarat State which is doing it since 2000 with immense benefits to the economy of that state?


7 years ago

I absolutely agree with Mr. Raja. In order to come out of the power crisis we need more power plants to be set up. We need All types of Power plants depending on the resources available. Just for political reasons many political parties are objecting to the investment for power projects. Objection to Indo US Nuclear Bill, objections to acquisition of land are some of the examples


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