Investors looking to invest in mutual funds must be aware of rules and regulations that govern the Indian mutual fund sector – SEBI guidelines for mutual funds.

In India, the SEBI MF Regulations of 1996 govern the working of mutual funds. These guidelines treat mutual funds like Public Trusts that fall under the Indian Trust Act of 1982. For handling mutual funds and ensuring accountability on the trustees, the guidelines specify a three-tier set up comprising of the fund managers, the investors, and the representatives. We have covered the following in this article:
 

  1. More about SEBI
  2. The structure of mutual funds as per SEBI guidelines
  3. Role of SEBI in Mutual Fund Regulations
  4. Key Highlights of SEBI guidelines for Mutual Funds
  5. SEBI Guidelines to invest in Mutual Funds
  6. How will the new categorization Impact me as an investor

 

1. More about SEBI

The Securities and Exchange Board (SEBI) is the designated regulatory body for securities markets in India. The primary function of the board is to protect the interest of the investors in securities, promote and regulate the securities market. SEBI has laid the ground rules for investors to become aware of the functioning of the mutual funds by providing necessary information. They serve to simplify the broad spectrum of mutual fund schemes that may often seem quite confusing to the investors. The guidelines on the merger and consolidation of mutual fund schemes issued by SEBI are aimed at simplifying the process of comparing various mutual fund schemes that are on offer by fund houses.

2. The structure of mutual funds as per SEBI guidelines

The SEBI guidelines define the guarantor as one who, in his capacity as an individual or in partnership with a different entity or entities, launches a mutual fund. The role of the guarantor is to generate revenues by putting together a mutual fund and handing it to the fund manager.

A sponsor sets up the mutual funds as per the guidelines of the Indian Trust Act, 1882, for Public Trust. They are responsible for listing with the SEBI, having provisions for resource management and ensuring the functioning of the fund takes place as per the SEBI guidelines.

The Trustee or Trust is established through a trust deed that is implemented by the sponsors of the funds and is accountable to all the investors of the mutual fund. The trustee company is regulated by the Indian Companies Act 1956, while the firm and the board members are overseen by the Indian Trust Act 1882. The investment management of the trust is done through an Asset Management Company, which is to be listed as per the regulations of Companies Act of 1956.

3. Role of SEBI in Mutual Fund Regulations

As far as mutual funds are concerned, SEBI is the policymaker and also regulates the industry. It lays guidelines for mutual funds to safeguard the investors’ interest.

Mutual funds are very distinct in terms of their investment strategy and asset allocation activities. This requires bringing about uniformity in the functioning of the mutual funds that may be similar in schemes. This will assist the investors in making investment decisions more clearly.

The mutual funds have been categorised as follows to facilitate this standardisation and bringing about uniformity in similar schemes:

a. Equity Schemes

b. Debt Schemes

c. Hybrid Schemes

d. Solution Oriented Schemes

e. Other Schemes

The categorisation and rationalisation of mutual funds into these five broad categories ensures that the mutual fund houses are only able to have one scheme in each sub-category, with some exceptions. The categorisation helps in simplifying the selection of funds and works in the best interest of the investors by allowing them to evaluate their risk options before making decisions about investing in any scheme. Following this consolidation of schemes, the investors can take a more informed decision without much hassle or confusion. To fulfil this purpose, SEBI has come up with some guidelines to help the retail investors in their mutual funds’ investment decisions.

4. Key Highlights of SEBI guidelines for Mutual Funds

a. The categorisation of schemes into five groups – Equity, Debt, Hybrid, Solution-Oriented, and Others
b. Large, mid and small-cap mutual funds have been defined clearly
c. There is a lock-in period specified for solution-oriented schemes
d. Permission of only one scheme in each category, except for Index Funds/Exchange-Traded Funds (ETF), Sectoral/Thematic Funds and Funds of Funds.

 

Funds

5. SEBI Guidelines to invest in Mutual Funds

SEBI keeps in place the regulatory framework and guidelines that govern and regulate securities markets in the country. The guidelines for investors are listed below.

Mutual funds present the most diversified form of investment options and therefore, may carry a certain amount of risk with it. Investors must be very clear in their assessment of their financial position and the risk-bearing capacity in the event of the poor performance of such schemes. Investors must, therefore, consider the risk appetite of an investment scheme.

b) Before venturing into mutual fund investment, it is imperative for you as an investor to obtain detailed information about the mutual fund scheme option. Having the right information when required to make the necessary decision is the key to making suitable investments. This may help in choosing the right schemes, knowing the guidelines to follow and also be informed of the investors’ rights.

c) Diversify your portfolios

Diversification of portfolios allows investors to spread out their investments over various schemes, thereby increasing chances of maximizing profits or mitigating risk of potentially huge losses. Diversification is crucial to gaining a long-term and sustainable financial advantage.

d) Avoid the clutter of portfolios

Choosing the right portfolio of funds requires managing and monitoring these schemes individually with care. The investor must not clutter the portfolio and decide on the right number of schemes to hold so as to avoid overlap and be able to manage each one of them equally well.

Not sure of the right schemes for your portfolio? ClearTax can help simplify this for you.
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e) Assign a time dimension to the investment schemes

The investors should assign a time frame to each scheme to encourage the financial growth of the plan. It may help in containing the volatility and fluctuations in the market if the plans are maintained stably over a period.

6. How will the new categorization Impact me as an investor

This scheme is fashioned to help investors in the following ways:
a. This may reduce the number of schemes on offer, thereby, making it comparatively easier to choose
b. It may have some schemes get merged with the others
c. It may cause your expense ratio to fall due to the higher AUM per scheme
With the number of funds available and the changes brought about, it can get a little confusing for a new investor to keep up. This is where ClearTax comes to your aid. Contact us for any queries you may have regarding the SEBI guidelines for investing in mutual funds.