For those testing waters in equities
Have you traditionally been a debt investor but now wish to test waters in equities? Then, debt-oriented funds such as Birla Sun Life MIP II Savings 5 (Birla Savings 5), which have limited exposure to equities, may fit your requirement.
With a five year return of 10.5 per cent compounded annually, the fund managed a good 3-3.5 percentage points more than its benchmark Crisil MIP Blended Index, as well as its category average.
The fund appears well poised to capitalise on a falling interest rate scenario and has increased the average portfolio duration of its debt instruments in recent times.
Birla Savings 5 is suitable only for conservative investors. If you want to make a beginning in equities and cannot take any short-term declines in your stride, then this fund will suit you. If you are already an equity investor and want to use a debt-oriented fund merely as a diversifier, then you may prefer peers from the HDFC and Reliance stable over this fund.
The latter funds hold a record of delivering superior returns in the long term, buttressed by a higher equity exposure of 20-25 per cent. Birla Savings 5, on the other hand, has restricted equity exposure to less than 10 per cent in volatile markets and at best goes to 15 per cent in rallying equity markets.
Use the fund as a launch pad into equities and hold a 2-3 year time frame while investing through SIPs. If you have a longer time frame of say five years or over, then lump sum investments can also be considered.
Birla Savings 5 has been a conservative fund as far as its equity calls go. It kept its equity exposure very low or nil during equity market routs. In the last few years of volatile markets too, it restricted equity holdings to about 10 per cent and focused well on the more lucrative debt segment.
As a result, its five year record is actually even better than top peers. But that also meant losing out on equity opportunities in years such as 2012. Hence, over a three-year period, the fund is next only to peers from HDFC and Reliance fund houses. In fact it marginally lagged its benchmark over a period of one year as a result of lower equities in 2012.
Still, in the last 3 years, on a rolling one-year return basis, it did not see any declines at all, even as its peers did, suggesting that it is suitable for investors wanting to contain falls.
While the fund has bucked the category trend in earlier years too, it did so by taking some risks in the debt component. In 2008 for instance, when most other MIPs and debt-oriented funds fell into negative territory, the fund managed a whopping 28 per cent return.
This return was possible not merely by avoiding equities, but by taking aggressive debt calls when rates fell (and long dated gilt instruments rallied). This did entail some risk. But since then, the fund has not been too bold with its debt exposure.
In the month ending March, quite a few debt-oriented funds have increased the average maturity of their portfolio and Birla Savings 5 too did so. This suggests that it is anticipating an interest rate fall and price rally in ensuing months.
The fund has a majority of its assets in AAA-rated bonds. About 12 per cent of its assets are in government bonds and about 9.7 per cent of them in equities. Its equity portfolio has an eclectic mix of large-cap stocks such as ITC, Reliance Industries and NTPC, as well as mid- and small-cap stocks such as V-Mart Retail, City Union Bank and Jyothy Laboratories.
The fund has a track record since 2004 and is managed by Satyabrata Mohanty and Kaustabh Gupta from June 2009.
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