Sucheta Dalal :Brokers need clarity before dealing in MF products
Sucheta Dalal

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Brokers need clarity before dealing in MF products  

November 18, 2009

Market watchdog Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has enlisted the services of stock exchange brokers for dealing in mutual fund units. SEBI plans to use the existing infrastructure in stock exchanges for facilitating investors to buy and sell units in a mutual fund. Over two lakh exchange terminals are to be used for facilitating transactions in mutual fund schemes, providing a reach to over 1,500 towns and cities. Notwithstanding infrastructure advantages over current distributors, it remains to be seen how brokers actually go about dealing in mutual fund units. Chandrashekhar Layane, senior VP, Fairwealth Securities said that a separate order routing mechanism would be developed for the same in the existing broker terminal. Existing mutual fund holders who are not having demat accounts would need to open demat accounts to allow smooth transactions through the broker terminal.

The fact is, mutual funds represent a broadly different line of business altogether. Brokers’ expertise lies in dealing with equity instruments and for them, switching over to the complexities of mutual fund schemes will involve a huge learning curve. Said Jagannathan Thunuguntla, equity head, SMC Capitals, “The various qualification exams can help brokers to gain knowledge. However, to make them completely conversant with the nuances of the mutual fund products can take some time. Over a period of time, the brokers can gain the relevant expertise and knowledge. However, the large brokers who have the in-house research arms, databases and the network can have an edge in terms of the research.”

While fund investors will benefit from the convenience of getting access to their neighbourhood broker, clarity is yet awaited on the costs involved for transacting through brokers. Presently, distributors are required to charge commissions directly from investors through negotiation, after SEBI banned funds from levying entry loads or initial fees for participation in their schemes. This has deprived distributors of large commissions and they have lost their incentive to sell mutual funds.

Brokers’ charges for transacting in mutual funds would be same as that for equities. This means commissions could range somewhere between 0.25%-0.50% per transaction. However, it is not clear how additional costs such as securities transaction tax and stamp duty would be levied. Mr Layane confirmed, “
The commission structure will be roughly equal to a delivery-based brokerage i.e., from 0.25 to 0.50 of the transaction value. Roughly it will be less than the existing entry load—around 1.25% charged by MF houses, which has been abolished by SEBI recently. But still some things will be unclear, like what will be the commission charges for SIP units.” Mr Thunuguntla said, “The commissions that brokers are going to charge will evolve over a period of time, once this new system gets operational and once all the market participants become familiar with this.”

Further, brokers would be wary of the poor volumes that mutual funds normally attract, especially from retail investors. For brokers, trading in equities is a bigger game, where the volumes are far better and hence the total commissions are also larger. Mr Thunuguntla added, “The volumes are better in equities. However, selling mutual funds can give brokers one more revenue stream and over a period of time, even the volumes in mutual funds can pick up.”
Sanket Dhanorkar with Ravi Samalad [email protected]


-- Sucheta Dalal



 



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