FMPs will still offer a slightly higher return than fix deposits: Arvind Sethi

Written by Saikat Neogi | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 25 2014, 17:23pm hrs
The Budget doubled the tax on debt funds and raised the holding period from one to three for getting long-term capital gains benefits. As a result, post-tax return on fixed-maturity plans (FMPs) for more than one year, but less than three years, will be less attractive to those in a higher tax bracket. Arvind Sethi, managing director and CEO of Tata Asset Management, in an interview to Saikat Neogi, says, FMPs will offer a slightly higher return than fixed deposits and investors must go in for FMPs with a maturity of more than three years.

If the Budget tax proposals on non-equity funds are finally notified without any changes, how should retail investors look at FMPs

If the tax proposals are notified without any changes, then the post-tax return on FMPs for more than one year, but less than three years, will obviously be less attractive to those in the higher tax bracket but we still think that FMPs will offer a slightly higher return than fixed deposits. However, since FMPs are closed-ended, they will not be as liquid as bank deposits, and investors will have to weigh the liquidity versus return factor. The other option is to go in for FMPs with a maturity of more than three years and this may suit many investors for the core portion of their debt portfolio.

How will fund houses position FMPs vis-a-vis bank deposits of one or two years given that there wont be any tax arbitrage between the two products At your AMC, are you junking one- or two-year FMPs or deferring them

The return on 1-2 year FMPs will probably still be higher than bank deposits and we will gauge the demand from investors before taking any decision. However, unless investor demand changes dramatically in response to the tax change, it is expected that the FMPs in the 1-2-year bucket will decline.

Are you approaching Sebi for permission to convert FMPs into open-ended debt MFs on maturity, as this may allow investors to extend their holding period beyond 36 months and the returns can be treated as long-term capital gains

For a closed-ended FMP to be converted into an open-ended debt is a little more difficult, but we will be considering the option of extending the maturity period of existing FMPs to beyond three years, to give investors the option of either exiting at the original maturity or staying invested for more than three years.

For those looking for regular income from debt MF schemes, should they start a Systematic Withdrawal Plan And tax-wise, will that be better than a bank deposit

Systematic withdrawals are a good way of creating monthly cash flows. However, if the Finance Bill does not exclude income funds from the three-year holding period for LTGC, then we expect investors will have to go in for three-year investments for tax efficiency. MIPs and balanced funds may also become more interesting, although investors will have to balance the post-tax return with the risk.

While the new tax rule, if notified, will affect investors looking for lower tax on short-term debt investments, it wont have much effect on long-term investors in debt funds. How will you position long-term funds and what is the appetite for long-term funds currently

Investors tend not to remain invested in debt funds for the long term more than three years. So, they will have to adapt. We also expect to see more flows into the short-term debt fund category, and longer holding periods, because they have less duration risk and may be preferred by those investors who tend to compare MF alternatives with the comfort of a fixed return from bank deposits.

Equity inflows are gradually picking up. How are retail investors looking at equity funds and do you expect to see a sustained growth in retail folios in the near term

In May and June, net flows into equity funds were about R8,000 crore versus an outflow of more than R17,000 crore in April 2013-14. This is a huge turnaround and shows that investors will return to the equity market. Let us not forget that equities do eventually provide a very decent long-term return, albeit with volatility. We also hope that they will understand how good MFs are for investing in equity transparent, you can invest relatively small amounts, most funds are now beating the benchmark and, finally, an investor also has a very liquid asset in his hand.