The newly-entered fund house Pramerica Mutual Fund’s new fund offer comes with an option of a ‘dynamic plan’ that adjusts the fund’s exposure in tune with market valuation. It is a marketing gimmick—as the examples of three other funds show
Pramerica Mutual Fund, sponsored by the US-based Prudential Financial firm which received the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) approval to enter the mutual fund business in India last month, has filed a draft offer document to launch the 'Pramerica Growth Fund'. Pramerica has also filed its draft offer document with the regulator for its 'Pramerica Liquid Fund' and Pramerica 'Ultra Short Term Bond Fund' on 16 June 2010.
The 'Pramerica Growth Fund' scheme comes with two plans. The first one is an equity plan and the second is dynamic. The Equity Plan will invest 35% of its portfolio in debt and 65% in equity. Around 60% of this portfolio will be mainly invested in large-cap companies which comprise the top 75% of the total market capitalisation of the National Stock Exchange (NSE).
Under the dynamic plan, 30% of the portfolio will have exposure to equity and up to 70% in debt. The debt portion of the dynamic plan will be actively managed while the equity portfolio of the plan will closely replicate the equity investments of the 'Equity Plan'.
The fund house will use Pramerica Dynamic Asset Rebalancing Tool ('Pramerica DART' tool) which will determine the allocation between equity and debt.
According to the prospectus, Pramerica DART works on the philosophy of mean reversion. The theory of mean revision suggests that prices and returns eventually move back towards the long-term average. Such an average can be the historical average of price or return.
The model factors in three elements like fundamentals, liquidity and volatility. DART assigns a score which indicates whether the stocks are undervalued or over-valued. Based on these scores, the model then calculates the optimum equity-debt mix.
Will DART hit the bull's eye? Ideas of moving between equity and debt are old and usually add no value to investors. Tata Mutual Fund had launched a similar fund called 'Tata Equity Management Fund' in June 2006 which came up with a novel method of pre-deciding the exact quantum of hedging under different market conditions. TEMF, like anybody else, banked on historical data of high and low P/Es to determine degrees of overvaluation. Moneylife had previously reported about the scheme when it was first launched. (Read here: http://www.moneylife.in/article/81/5319.html). This was too simplistic and the scheme has not lived up to its promise. The fund has posted 9.14% return since inception while its benchmark S&P CNX Nifty has posted 18.96% since the fund's inception.
How have the other funds with similar strategies done? HSBC had launched its 'HSBC Dynamic Fund' in August 2007. This fund is benchmarked against the BSE 200. The fund has posted -1.79% returns since inception while its benchmark has yielded 7.53% returns since the fund's inception.
Similarly, ICICI Prudential launched 'ICICI Dynamic Fund' in October 2002. The scheme is benchmarked against the S&P CNX Nifty. The fund has yielded 34.98% since inception while its benchmark has yielded a whopping 58.07% return in the same period.
The ability of fund managers to time the market is a myth, as these three examples show. But fund companies never tire of marketing them, as the Pramerica example shows.