Your Investment Goal :
The beginning point of any investment has to be you and your needs. Having a predefined goal or objective is crucial for shaping your portfolio and if you haven't given it a serious thought, we suggest that you do it as a mandatory exercise. A goal setting exercise can normally be anything from the following list and even beyond...
- Saving for a life goal like retirement, child's
- marriage, purchase of house, etc.
- Creating X amount of wealth in future...
- Arranging for regular income
- Protection of wealth over time
- Parking of funds for brief period of time
- Tax savings coupled with wealth creation
Scheme Category/Style Universe :
After finalizing the investment goal and objective, the next task is to shortlist the mutual fund scheme category/style depending on the investment horizon and your risk appetite. The scheme risk classification, based on uniform standards in the industry, can be used as a reference point to match to your personal risk profile. There are many categories of mutual funds available with primary underlying asset classes of debt and equity and varying mixtures of both.
The allocation between equity and debt should match your risk appetite and time horizon. Investing across different schemes and asset classes is a good idea for diversification of risks as they have their own risk-return trade-offs and advantages /disadvantages. If you are planning for specific investment /financial goals, they are however likely to dictate the type of schemes you will have to invest in. Once the investment objective is defined, it is now important to select the schemes and the investment/ withdrawal options to match the needs.
Fund House Universe :
There are around 40 fund houses in India offering their services. A fund house is at the heart of your mutual fund investing experience and performance of the schemes. When we invest in a scheme, we give a mandate to the fund house to manage the money on our behalf. There are fund houses specializing in different asset classes and also the scheme performance of the top and the bottom fund houses differs significantly. Knowing and selecting the right the fund house universe is thus important.
The fund selection focuses on the parentage, management quality, experience and investment philosophy. The quality of the team, investment processes, risk measures and operational efficiency are also important attributes that ensures good performance. While most of us may find it difficult to assess fund house on all these parameters, we can certainly get an idea of the fund house by visiting their websites, reading basic details in scheme documents or accessing on-line research articles /reports. We should try to shortlist fund houses that have a strong presence in the financial world and provide schemes that have a reasonably long and consistent track records.
Scheme Performance :
The performance of the scheme is benchmarked against comparative indices and most schemes provide performance comparison against these benchmarks. However, they may not be appropriate for us and we should look at performance against similar/peer-set schemes to get a better idea of performance. This exercise will enable us to differentiate the good performing schemes from the laggards in our universe of fund houses.
Within performance, a fund delivering the highest return in a particular period or recently may not necessarily be the best. One has to look for consistency in good performance over different periods of time. By consistency we mean that the returns are not over volatile over different periods while giving good returns steadily. We should also keep in mind that the past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Scheme Objective & other attributes:
At this final stage of selecting a mutual fund scheme, we are now evaluating between few schemes which we shortlisted in the previous step. Among the things we can check are...
Investment objective: which talks about the scheme's goal, investing rationale and asset class composition. We should check that the scheme matches our own financial objectives and needs.
Other attributes: Entry and exit loads, management fees /expenses, fund manager, size of the AUM, portfolio concentration, turnover ratio, are some of the other things can one can give attention to. These may not play as important role as the other factors but some of these attributes may carry significance depending upon one's needs /preferences. To know about the above information one may need to look into the scheme documents and other literature available.
For success of any investment goal, there are many factors that play a crucial role. Most important is that of setting the right goals and having a portfolio with the right asset allocation. This is where most of investors are more likely to go wrong. As we have many times in past reiterated, asset allocation is the primary determinant, almost 94%, of long term performance of a portfolio as opposed to product selection and timing. Though we have talked about scheme selection in this article, investors having good financial advisors can rely on their expertise to recommend and suggest schemes and on which they can further seek clarifications as discussed here. As educated investors though, we should all know what important things should be known before investing under any scheme.