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International funds add an element of geographical diversification to the manifold mutual fund types currently exist in the Indian mutual fund sector. In this article, we have covered everything you need to know about foreign funds.

  1. What are international mutual funds?
  2. Who should invest in international funds?
  3. Features & benefits of international funds
  4. Past performance of international funds
  5. What are the advantages of overseas funds?
  6. How are international funds categorized?
  7. Things to remember when investing in international funds


1. International Mutual Funds

An international mutual fund invests in firms in countries other than the ones they reside. It is also called overseas or foreign funds. Investing in them may mean more risk exposure, but also chances of higher returns. People usually prefer it as an alternative and/or long-term investment.

With people getting increasingly aware of investment options around the world, the need for portfolio diversification is more significant than ever. A diverse plan not only spread the risks but also tap earning potential of different markets. The fund houses are coming up with innovative schemes across market types, sectors, and risk classes, with more experimental investors entering the playground.


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2. Who should Invest in Foreign Funds?

Smart investors have always been lured towards international funds for umpteen reasons.

– One, as you know, is diversification.
– Two, economic cycle varies for different countries, and simultaneous investment in different economies ensures minimal loss and possibly, smoother returns.
– Three, exposure to international markets can only broaden your experience and expertise.

In simple words, international funds invest in the global market (equities and/or debt funds). However, they are not for lazy or passive investors as they need careful and continual market research. The investor should be sure of his investment goals, both short-term and long-term, before venturing in. Check vintage and track records – they will help you zero in on a fund that suits your sensibilities.


3. Features of International Funds

International funds offer an excellent opportunity for diversifying and earning returns by being a part of the growth of companies around the world. Like any other type of investment, investing abroad has its own set of risks and benefits. Understand them to invest judiciously.

a. Risk Factor

Currency exchange rates go through highs and lows all the time. For instance, in a US-centric international fund if the rupee falls against the dollar, then you get more rupees per dollar invested – the NAV shoots up. On the other hand, if the rupee rises, then you get lesser rupees per dollar, and the NAV falls.

b. Requires Constant Vigilance

Political, social and economic aspects in different countries can impact mutual fund performances differently. So, the investor needs an exceptional interest in investments to keep track of the market movement regularly.

c. Scope for better Market Returns

By capitalising on many economies simultaneously, your portfolio can fetch higher returns. Aside from mitigating risks by diversifying, overseas investing also boost your portfolio quality.

d. Dual Market Risk

The other country’s current market fluctuation and the sectoral market (real estate, IT, etc.) can impact fund performance. Hence, it needs a lot of research and contemplation to make an informed choice.

e. Tax-Efficiency

There is also the issue of taxation that could prove to be a potential minefield. For instance, hybrid global funds invest 65%-70% of their corpus in domestic companies and the remaining in overseas markets. Therefore, it makes the returns subject to long term capital gains tax.

International funds

4. International Funds – Past Performance 

The following table shows how international funds have performed over different periods.

Average returns of the international funds category

1-year returns (%) 3-year returns (%) 5-year returns (%) 10-year returns (%)
14.47 6.47 6.48 2.37

As on 27 October 2017


5. Advantages of Foreign funds

a. Geographic Diversification

One country can never top the charts consistently – so even if you don’t have a chance this year, there is one, the next year. At a macroeconomic level, most countries have their economic cycle. Hence, by investing in different countries, you can experience smaller crests and troughs in your returns.

b. Can contribute to a Cost-Effective Portfolio

You can utilise this exposure to foreign money to meet bigger financial goals (like your child’s wedding or college education). When it comes to overall value Indian equities do not come cheap. Market experts say we might have already hit the market high. So, a wisely-picked International Fund can balance this out.

c. Portfolio Diversification

An investment portfolio has a combination of high, medium and low-risk investments. Hence, when there is a market low in the home country, the one abroad can compensate for it.

d. International Exposure under Expert Management

You may not have adequate knowledge about the foreign country’s economy and the industry there. Here, a qualified intermediary can assist. Therefore, you can gain exposure to the global market, even if you are not familiar with it.


6. Types of International Funds

a. Global Funds

Even though they sound synonymous, global funds and international funds are not the same. Funds available across the world, including the home country, are global funds. On the other hand, foreign funds are those available only in other countries.

b. Regional Funds

If you invest abroad, focusing on a particular geographic region, then it becomes a local fund. Sometimes investors even buy multiple regional funds rather than investing in global funds with presence across nations.

c. Country Funds

When you invest in a fund only available in one foreign nation, it’s called a country fund. Hence, it becomes easier for you to study their market and decide accordingly.

d. Global Sector Funds

Giving close attention to a specific sector of the economy in overseas countries, global sector suits investors interested in that sector. Therefore, they mainly aim for exposure to a particular industry.


7. Things to keep in mind when Investing in International Funds

If you wish to foray into international funds, research thoroughly before investing as well as during the term of holding the investment.

Here are the top 5 mantras for beginners.

a. Follow the basic principles of investing in a mutual fund

b. Read the offer document carefully

c. Understand the investment objective of the fund and the risks it intends to take

d. Analyse if these aspects coincide with your individual investment strategy

e. For region-specific funds, do some research and assess the feasibility of investing in those regions for the next few years. Similarly, for country-specific or commodity-specific funds.

If you’re a pro-investor with a good understanding of domestic and global markets, then go for a 10% to 15% allocation to foreign funds. For instance, the United States is deemed less risky when it comes to risk, returns, and rewards. However, Chinese Funds, notwithstanding their high one-year returns, has already become riskier. So, it is best to use overseas funds to supplement your main domestic fund portfolio.

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