Exchanges are planning MF trading platforms

With distributors still trying to come to terms with the new regulations banning entry load in mutual fund schemes, fund houses are feeling the heat, as distributors have lost incentive to push their products. This has meant a 60% drop in mobilisation by mutual funds.

Amidst all this, one of the options being considered to sell mutual funds is to have independent trading platforms for mutual funds, led by the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and the National Stock Exchange (NSE). This follows the permission given by the regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India to sell funds via the stockbroker-demat route as in stocks. According to sources within the industry, the first one would be set up by NSE and National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL) while the second one may be set up by BSE, and two registrar and transfer agents (R&TAs), CAMS and Karvy.

Interestingly, the Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI), which represents the interests of the Indian mutual fund industry, is considering having a 30% stake in both the trading platforms. However, some members of AMFI have raised a valid concern on this proposed move, pointing to a potential conflict of interest in taking large stakes in two rival platforms. Especially so since some of the leading fund houses like Templeton and Fidelity are planning to introduce their own platforms, which would rival those of BSE and NSE. Again, these are prominent members of AMFI and a stake in BSE, NSE platforms would lead to another round of conflict of interest. “Also, if there are investor grievances with regard to a particular fund, what would be the spill-over effect on the whole platform and wouldn’t other members get dragged into the issue as members of the AMFI-promoted platform?,” asked the CEO of a large asset management company (AMC), requesting anonymity.

When some members raised all these issues in a meeting last week, it was apparent from AMFI’s half-hearted answers that the proposed move hadn’t been thought through in great detail. Also, AMFI had apparently assumed that it would have access to the entire database of R&TAs as a promoter of this platform. But this assumption seems too naïve. “While the AMFI office bearers are now rethinking the entire issue, the whole idea looks like a non-starter,” according to the CEO of another top AMC. 
— Debashis Basu & Sanket Dhanorkar

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