A mutual fund is a pool of money managed by a professional Fund Manager.
It is a trust that collects money from a number of investors who share a common investment objective and invests the same in equities, bonds, money market instruments and/or other securities. And the income / gains generated from this collective investment is distributed proportionately amongst the investors after deducting applicable expenses and levies, by calculating a scheme’s “Net Asset Value” or NAV. Simply put, the money pooled in by a large number of investors is what makes up a Mutual Fund.
Mutual funds are ideal for investors who either lack large sums for investment, or for those who neither have the inclination nor the time to research the market, yet want to grow their wealth. The money collected in mutual funds is invested by professional fund managers in line with the scheme’s stated objective. In return, the fund house charges a small fee which is deducted from the investment. The fees charged by mutual funds are regulated and are subject to certain limits specified by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
Mutual funds offer an excellent avenue for retail investors to participate and benefit from the uptrends in capital markets. While investing in mutual funds can be beneficial, selecting the right fund can be challenging. Hence, investors should do proper due diligence of the fund and take into consideration the risk-return trade-off and time horizon or consult a professional investment adviser. Further, in order to reap maximum benefit from mutual fund investments, it is important for investors to diversify across different categories of funds such as equity, debt and gold.
Mutual Fund schemes could be ‘open-ended’ or close-ended and actively managed or passively managed.
An open-end fund is a mutual fund scheme that is available for subscription and redemption on every business throughout the year, (akin to a savings bank account, wherein one may deposit and withdraw money every day). An open ended scheme is perpetual and does not have any maturity date.
A closed-end fund is open for subscription only during the initial offer period and has a specified tenor and fixed maturity date (akin to a fixed term deposit). Units of Closed-end funds can be redeemed only on maturity (i.e., pre-mature redemption is not permitted). Hence, the Units of a closed-end fund are compulsorily listed on a stock exchange after the new fund offer, and are traded on the stock exchange just like other stocks, so that investors seeking to exit the scheme before maturity may sell their Units on the exchange.
An actively managed fund is a mutual fund scheme in which the fund manager “actively” manages the portfolio and continuously monitors the fund’s portfolio , deciding on which stocks to buy/sell/hold and when, using his professional judgement, backed by analytical research. In an active fund, the fund manager’s aim is to generate maximum returns and out-perform the scheme’s bench mark.
A passively managed fund, by contrast, simply follows a market index, i.e., in a passive fund , the fund manager remains inactive or passive inasmuch as, she does not use her judgement or discretion to decide as to which stocks to buy/sell/hold , but simply replicates / tracks the scheme’s benchmark index in exactly the same proportion. Examples of Index funds are an Index Fund and all Exchange Traded Funds. In a passive fund, the fund manager’s task is to simply replicate the scheme’s benchmark index i.e., generate the same returns as the index, and not to out-perform the scheme’s bench mark.