Types of mutual funds
Categorisation by maturity period
A mutual fund scheme can be classified into open-ended scheme or close-ended scheme depending on its maturity period.
- Open-ended fund/scheme
An open-ended fund or scheme is one that is available for subscription and repurchase on a continuous basis. These schemes do not have a fixed maturity period. Investors can conveniently buy and sell units at Net Asset Value (NAV) related prices which are declared on a daily basis. The key feature of open-end schemes is liquidity.
- Close-ended fund/scheme
A close-ended fund or scheme has a stipulated maturity period eg five and seven years. The fund is open for subscription only during a specified period at the time of launch of the scheme. Investors can invest in the scheme at the time of the initial public issue and thereafter they can buy or sell the units of the scheme on the stock exchanges where the units are listed. In order to provide an exit route to the investors, some close-ended funds give an option of selling back the units to the mutual fund through periodic repurchase at NAV related prices. SEBI Regulations stipulate that at least one of the two exit routes is provided to the investor ie either repurchase facility or through listing on stock exchanges. These mutual funds schemes disclose NAV generally on weekly basis.
Categorisation by investment objective
A scheme can also be classified as growth scheme, income scheme, or balanced scheme considering its investment objective. Such schemes may be open-ended or close-ended schemes as described earlier. Such schemes may be classified mainly as follows:
- Growth/Equity oriented schemes
The aim of growth funds is to provide capital appreciation over the medium to long- term. Such schemes normally invest a major part of their corpus in equities. Such funds have comparatively high risks. These schemes provide different options to the investors like dividend option, capital appreciation, etc and the investors may choose an option depending on their preferences. The investors must indicate the option in the application form. The mutual funds also allow the investors to change the options at a later date. Growth schemes are good for investors having a long-term outlook seeking appreciation over a period of time.
- Income/Debt oriented scheme
The aim of income funds is to provide regular and steady income to investors. Such schemes generally invest in fixed income securities such as bonds, corporate debentures, Government securities and money market instruments. Such funds are less risky compared to equity schemes. These funds are not affected because of fluctuations in equity markets. However, opportunities of capital appreciation are also limited in such funds. The NAVs of such funds are affected because of change in interest rates in the country. If the interest rates fall, NAVs of such funds are likely to increase in the short run and vice versa. However, long term investors may not bother about these fluctuations.
- Balanced fund
The aim of balanced funds is to provide both growth and regular income as such schemes invest both in equities and fixed income securities in the proportion indicated in their offer documents. These are appropriate for investors looking for moderate growth. They generally invest 40-60 per cent in equity and debt instruments. These funds are also affected because of fluctuations in share prices in the stock markets. However, NAVs of such funds are likely to be less volatile compared to pure equity funds.
- Money Market or Liquid fund
These funds are also income funds and their aim is to provide easy liquidity, preservation of capital and moderate income. These schemes invest exclusively in safer short-term instruments such as treasury bills, certificates of deposit, commercial paper and inter-bank call money, government securities, etc Returns on these schemes fluctuate much less compared to other funds. These funds are appropriate for corporate and individual investors as a means to park their surplus funds for short periods.
- Gilt fund
These funds invest exclusively in government securities. Government securities have no default risk. NAVs of these schemes also fluctuate due to change in interest rates and other economic factors as is the case with income or debt oriented schemes.
- Index funds
Index funds replicate the portfolio of a particular index such as the BSE Sensitive index, S&P NSE 50 index (Nifty), etc These schemes invest in the securities in the same weightage comprising of an index. NAVs of such schemes would rise or fall in accordance with the rise or fall in the index, though not exactly by the same percentage due to some factors known as "tracking error" in technical terms. Necessary disclosures in this regard are made in the offer document of the mutual fund scheme.
There are also exchange traded index funds launched by the mutual funds which are traded on the stock exchanges.
- Sector specific funds/schemes
These are the funds/schemes which invest in the securities of only those sectors or industries as specified in the offer documents. Eg Pharmaceuticals, Software, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), Petroleum stocks, etc The returns in these funds are dependent on the performance of the respective sectors/industries. While these funds may give higher returns, they are more risky compared to diversified funds. Investors need to keep a watch on the performance of those sectors/industries and must exit at an appropriate time. They may also seek advice of an expert.
- Tax saving schemes
These schemes offer tax rebates to the investors under specific provisions of the Income Tax Act, 1961 as the Government offers tax incentives for investment in specified avenues. Eg Equity Linked Savings Schemes (ELSS). Pension schemes launched by the mutual funds also offer tax benefits. These schemes are growth oriented and invest pre-dominantly in equities. Their growth opportunities and risks associated are like any equity-oriented scheme.
- Load or no-load fund
A load fund is one that charges a percentage of NAV for exit. That is, each time one sells units in the fund, a charge will be payable. This charge is used by the mutual fund for marketing and distribution expenses.
A no-load fund is one that does not charge for exit. It means the investors can exit the fund/scheme at no additional charges are payable on sale of units.
In accordance with the SEBI circular no. SEBI/IMD/CIR No.4/168230/09 dated June 30, 2009, no entry load will be charged for purchase / additional purchase / switch-in accepted by the Fund with effect from August 1, 2009. Similarly, no entry load will be charged with respect to applications for registrations under Systematic Investment Plan/ Systematic Transfer Plan / Systematic Investment Plan Plus accepted by the Fund with effect from August 1, 2009.
- Assured return scheme
Assured return schemes are those schemes that assure a specific return to the unitholders irrespective of performance of the scheme.
A scheme cannot promise returns unless such returns are fully guaranteed by the sponsor or AMC and this is required to be disclosed in the offer document.
Investors should carefully read the offer document whether return is assured for the entire period of the scheme or only for a certain period. Some schemes assure returns one year at a time and they review and change it at the beginning of the next year.