L&T enters ‘turbulent’ mutual fund business without an edge

With its foray into the asset management space, L&T has taken a bold step even as the mutual fund industry is undergoing one of its most challenging transformations ever

When global engineering and construction giant Larsen & Toubro Ltd’s (L&T) financial services arm L&T Finance had acquired the assets of DBS Cholamandalam Mutual Fund in early February of last year, it was at a time when the stock markets were in a freefall. DBS Cholamandalam, along with others, was limping along, unable to sustain business operations.

L&T Finance has now officially launched its mutual fund operations, in an environment that is not exactly the most welcoming for a mutual fund business. Regulatory changes in the last year have left the industry licking its wounds, with distributors getting cold feet over selling mutual funds and retail investors simply shying away from the volatile stock markets.

Responding to Moneylife’s question on how L&T justifies putting money into this business at this juncture, YM Deosthalee, whole-time director and chief financial officer, L&T said, “It is not that we are entering into the mutual fund business. We are in the financial services business and therefore we need to offer services to customers in order to be able to retain the customer. This is very critical. From that perspective, it is important to take care of their investments. That is the philosophy behind acquiring this entity. Yes, there are challenges. But ultimately if the products and services are innovative enough to make their presence felt in the market and deliver returns to the customer, then these challenges can be overcome.”

Asked about L&T’s strategy to attract retail investors, Sanjay Sinha, chief executive officer, L&T Mutual Fund remarked, “We already have an investor base of about 1.1 lakh. We are pleased to tell you that in the exit option, not even 3% of these investors chose to leave. Therefore, we have a lot of confidence that we can expand on this base. Also earlier, we did not have a sizable distribution network. Now, we will be present in about 80 locations together with L&T Finance. We will also be able to connect to a larger number of distributors. Thereby, our ability to attract a larger segment of retail investor population is now stronger.”

L&T plans synergies with its existing financial services businesses to provide a suite of products catering to retail as well as corporate investors. For this, it plans to leverage its existing distribution presence and its customer base across the spectrum of L&T Finance businesses.

However, L&T can easily draw a blank with this strategy, as it lacks the sort of business edge that banks possibly have in marketing and selling mutual funds. Banks derive significant strength from their robust distribution network and are more aggressive when it comes to pushing financial products. As such, mutual funds are products that are sold, not bought.

Although the fund house plans to expand its network and distribution base substantially in the coming months, it will not be an easy task to attract investments. L&T Mutual Fund will mostly rely more on its brand equity and trust to gain a foothold in the industry. It will also take strength from the expertise of Mr Sinha, regarded as a sound fund manager within industry circles.

L&T Finance also plans to launch its general insurance operations soon, subject to regulatory approvals.
 

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    COMMENTS

    Ramniklal S Rana

    1 decade ago

    We have applied for Redemtion of Mutual Fund on 7.9.2010. Details are as under

    L & T Hedged Equity Folio 225545 / 37

    L & T Tax Saver Fund (G) Folio 171132 / 25

    So far we have not recd any information about refund cheque.

    kindly expedite.

    Ramniklal Sunderlal Rana

    stockbets

    1 decade ago

    Thanks MK for the info. L&T has the same confidence (arrogance?) that HUL has about selling foods, ITC has about selling garments and Kumar Birla has about telecom or Microsoft has about net search...Management depth and marketing/distribution expertise in one business does not have much relevance in another

    MK

    1 decade ago

    The erstwhile Dbs Chola now L&T MF has to pull up its socks in order to revamp its existing sales team, as i hear that the sales team remains the same. Me being a distributor who had distributed DBS Chola Mf products never did get any call from the higher ups for the last one and a half year, so if L&T is to continue with the same sales team then????

    stockbets

    1 decade ago

    Mutual fund business is an unnecessary distraction for L&T. It is a thankless job. Assets is not correlated to performance which is correlated to markets. In fact, what has L&T done in a sector, where opportunities for growth was much more solid - software?

    Shantanu

    1 decade ago

    I feel a solid brand name lik L&T known for their excellence in every sphere they are in will lend a lot of credibility to the Fund. This will in the long run (if the performance of the schemes are good) will help in raising assets. Distribution challanges remain for L&T as is for any other fund house.

    R. Balakrishnan

    1 decade ago

    L&T is smart. Using its brand which enjoys a good retail reputation. Build, operate and sell (wholly or partly). Sooner it finds an equity partner, who will make the finance business free of cost to L&T the better.
    It also shows that without ownership, professional management can take a company from shipping to bottle caps to road building to money lending...

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