As a fund house, what plans do you have for the year ahead? Do you have an AUM target?
Our goal is to reach Rs 15,000 crore in AUM by the end of the current fiscal. We have just concluded our first Capital Protection Oriented Plan (CpoF), which has collected Rs 50 crore from about 5,000 retail investors. We want to announce one more CPoF soon. We have two more FMPs lined up with double indexation benefit. We have also filed a G-sec product and a mid-cap equity product with Sebi for approval.
Many of your equity funds were merged this year. What is the rationale behind these mergers?
We had 11 equity schemes of which four were performing below par ó their AUM was small and it was difficult for fund managers to churn the portfolio. We, therefore, decided to merge these schemes. Now, all our equity schemes are outperforming the benchmark.
How did you fare in FY13 in terms of profitability?
As against losses in the last two years, we saw a turnaround in 2013. We generated a profit of about R1 crore in FY13.
With the market regulator giving incentives for inclusion, how are you expanding your reach beyond the top 15 cities?
We have adopted three districts where we are focusing on investor education. A sizeable portion of our mutual fund business comes from B15 cities. A lot of senior LIC agents are taking up MF agencies from these places and we are promoting our business in B15 cities through our LIC outlets.
How are you ramping up your distribution network? Do you have plans to tap into LICís network?
Prospective agents (independent financial advisors) above 53 years have to undertake only a dayís training for getting a licence (to sell MFs). We are promoting it to senior LIC agents and plan to engage at least 1,000 such agents. We have also started the process of recruiting offline sales executives. We believe that like insurance, the MF business also needs solicitation, and growth of the industry is possible only though personal contact and advice.
What is your advice to MF investors at this point in time?
Never keep all your eggs in one basket. Invest in different asset classes, and mutual funds should be one of them. If your risk appetite is high, invest in equities; if it is low, invest in fixed income schemes of mutual funds or in bank fixed deposits.
Could you share some highlights of your stint as CEO?
I have been CEO at LIC Nomura MF for over 18 months now. Although we entered into a joint venture with Nomura a year before I joined, we had not made much headway in forging the alliance. Forging the alliance was my first priority and I think I have succeeded in that.
As per our agreement, equity schemes were to be managed by a team from Nomura while debt and balanced schemes were to be managed by officers on deputation from LIC of India. Our AUM (assets under management) had touched a low of R5,400 crore before I took charge. We observed that investors were shying away from us due to the low rate of return, which was because of our conservative approach. Risk and returns go hand in hand. So, we slightly tweaked our investment policy to help us generate better returns. When returns are better, new investors always join in and the old ones stay. We have also recruited fund managers, research analysts and marketing heads from the open market and become more result-oriented.