The ministry of finance is meeting representatives of the mutual fund industry today. This is the second such meeting within a fortnight, and apparently some imminent changes are on the cards.
We are not going to be present in the meeting because, well, we were not invited. However, this meeting gives me occasion to think about what this meeting should talk about and what we would have said if we were there in the meeting.
We would have said, firstly, that we represent the interests of the non-investors. That is, the millions of people whose interests would be best served by investing in mutual funds, but are not since they don’t invest in them (In a country with upwards of 6-7 crores in middle class, barely 1 crore invest in mutual funds (estimates)). A significant percentage of these people are young professionals in their twenties and thirties, who have just arrived at the dilemma of what to do with their savings. Almost all of them are online enabled – they rely on online banking, rarely visit the teller at the branch, shop at FlipKart and Yebhi, and have more friends in Facebook than in real life. Getting them into the fold of mutual fund investing should be a priority for the industry, and that’s what we would focus on.
With this market in mind, we would have proposed the following:
1. Please do not bring back entry loads – that would be a regressive step, and will diminish the value of mutual fund investing in the eyes of the retail investor.
2. Please relax KYC – if a person has completed a full-scale KYC with their bank and they are required to quote their PAN and bank details while investing mutual funds, there is no need for a separate KYC to invest in MF.
3. Please accept online enrollments for mutual fund accounts – that would make it as easy and seamless to invest in MFs as buying a book in FlipKart.
Removing the entry barriers and hassles for mutual fund investors would go a long way in increasing retail participation among the young, upcoming, aspirational population that India is going to count on going forward for its economic growth. Making it easy for them to enter into the capital markets using the prudent investment vehicle that mutual funds are would be a win (for the investor) – win (for the industry) – win (for the economy) situation.
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