Mutual Fund Types – Types Based on Asset Class, Structure & Risk

Types of Mutual Funds: Considering investing in Mutual Funds? Then it is of utmost importance to understand the various mutual fund types and the benefits they offer. Mutual fund types can be classified based on the following characteristics.

1. Based on Asset Class

a. Equity Funds

Equity funds primarily invest in stocks, and hence go by the name of stock funds as well. They invest the money pooled from various investors from diverse backgrounds into shares/stocks of different companies. The gains and losses associated with these funds depend solely on how the invested shares perform (price-hikes or price-drops) in the stock market. Also, equity funds have the potential to generate significant returns over a period. Hence, the risk associated with these funds also tends to be comparatively higher.

b. Debt Funds

Debt funds invest primarily in fixed-income securities such as bonds, securities and treasury bills. They invest in various fixed income instruments such as Fixed Maturity Plans (FMPs), Gilt Funds, Liquid Funds, Short-Term Plans, Long-Term Bonds, and Monthly Income Plans, among others. Since the investments come with a fixed interest rate and maturity date, it can be a great option for passive investors looking for regular income (interest and capital appreciation) with minimal risks.

c. Money Market Funds

Investors trade stocks in the stock market. In the same way, investors also invest in the money market, also known as the capital market or cash market. The government runs it in association with banks, financial institutions, and other corporations by issuing money market securities like bonds, T-bills, dated securities, and certificates of deposits, among others. The fund manager invests your money and disburses regular dividends in return. Opting for a short-term plan (not more than 13 months) can lower the risk of investment considerably on such funds.

d. Hybrid Funds

As the name suggests, hybrid funds (Balanced Funds) are an optimum mix of bonds and stocks, thereby bridging the gap between equity funds and debt funds. The ratio can either be variable or fixed. In short, it takes the best of two mutual funds by distributing, say, 60% of assets in stocks and the rest in bonds or vice versa. Hybrid funds are suitable for investors looking to take more risks for ‘debt plus returns’ benefit rather than sticking to lower but steady income schemes.

2. Based on Structure

Mutual funds are also categorized based on different attributes (like risk profile, asset class, etc.). The structural classification – open-ended funds, close-ended funds, and interval funds – is quite broad, and the differentiation primarily depends on the flexibility to purchase and sell the individual mutual fund units.

a. Open-Ended Funds

Open-ended funds do not have any particular constraint such as a specific period or the number of units that can be traded. These funds allow investors to trade funds at their convenience and exit when required at the prevailing NAV (Net Asset Value). This is the sole reason why the unit capital continually changes with new entries and exits. An open-ended fund can also decide to stop taking in new investors if they do not want to (or cannot manage significant funds).

b. Closed-Ended Funds

In closed-ended funds, the unit capital to invest is pre-defined. Meaning the fund company cannot sell more than the pre-agreed number of units. Some funds also come with a New Fund Offer (NFO) period; wherein there is a deadline to buy units. NFOs come with a pre-defined maturity tenure with fund managers open to any fund size. Hence, SEBI has mandated that investors be given the option to either repurchase option or list the funds on stock exchanges to exit the schemes.

c. Interval Funds

Interval funds have traits of both open-ended and closed-ended funds. These funds are open for purchase or redemption only during specific intervals (decided by the fund house) and closed the rest of the time. Also, no transactions will be permitted for at least two years. These funds are suitable for investors looking to save a lump sum amount for a short-term financial goal, say, in 3-12 months.

3. Based on Investment Goals

a. Growth Funds

Growth funds usually allocate a considerable portion in shares and growth sectors, suitable for investors (mostly Millennials) who have a surplus of idle money to be distributed in riskier plans (albeit with possibly high returns) or are positive about the scheme.

b. Income Funds

Income funds belong to the family of debt mutual funds that distribute their money in a mix of bonds, certificates of deposits, and securities among others. Helmed by skilled fund managers who keep the portfolio in tandem with the rate fluctuations without compromising on the portfolio’s creditworthiness, income funds have historically earned investors better returns than deposits. They are best suited for risk-averse investors with a 2-3 years perspective.

c. Liquid Funds

Like income funds, liquid funds also belong to the debt fund category as they invest in debt instruments and money markets with a tenure of up to 91 days. The maximum sum allowed to invest is Rs 10 lakh. A highlighting feature that differentiates liquid funds from other debt funds is the way the Net Asset Value is calculated. The NAV of liquid funds is calculated for 365 days (including Sundays) while for others, only business days are considered.

d. Tax-Saving Funds

ELSS or Equity Linked Saving Scheme, over the years, has climbed up the ranks among all categories of investors. Not only do they offer the benefit of wealth maximization while allowing you to save on taxes, but they also come with the lowest lock-in period of only three years. Investing predominantly in equity (and related products), they are known to generate non-taxed returns in the range of 14-16%. These funds are best-suited for salaried investors with a long-term investment horizon.

e. Aggressive Growth Funds

Slightly on the riskier side when choosing where to invest, the Aggressive Growth Fund is designed to make steep monetary gains. Though susceptible to market volatility, one can decide on the fund as per the beta (the tool to gauge the fund’s movement in comparison with the market). For example, if the market shows a beta of 1, an aggressive growth fund will reflect a higher beta, say, 1.10 or above.

f. Capital Protection Funds

If protecting the principal is the priority, Capital Protection Funds serves the purpose while earning relatively smaller returns (12% at best). The fund manager invests a portion of the money in bonds or Certificates of Deposits and the rest towards equities. Though the probability of incurring any loss is quite low, it is advised to stay invested for at least three years (closed-ended) to safeguard your money, and also the returns are taxable.

g. Fixed Maturity Funds

Many investors choose to invest towards the FY ends to take advantage of triple indexation, thereby bringing down the tax burden. If uncomfortable with the debt market trends and related risks, Fixed Maturity Funds – which invest in bonds, securities, money market, etc. – present a great opportunity. As a close-ended plan, FMP functions on a fixed maturity period, which could range from one month to five years (like FDs). The fund manager ensures that the money is allocated to an investment with the same tenure, to reap accrual interest at the time of FMP maturity.

h. Pension Funds

Putting away a portion of your income in a chosen pension fund to accrue over a long period to secure you and your family’s financial future after retiring from regular employment can take care of most contingencies (like a medical emergency or children’s wedding). Relying solely on savings to get through your golden years is not recommended as savings (no matter how big) get used up. EPF is an example, but there are many lucrative schemes offered by banks, insurance firms etc.

4. Based on Risk

a. Very Low-Risk Funds

Liquid funds and ultra-short-term funds (one month to one year) are known for its low risk, and understandably their returns are also low (6% at best). Investors choose this to fulfil their short-term financial goals and to keep their money safe through these funds.

b. Low-Risk Funds

In the event of rupee depreciation or unexpected national crisis, investors are unsure about investing in riskier funds. In such cases, fund managers recommend putting money in either one or a combination of liquid, ultra short-term or arbitrage funds. Returns could be 6-8%, but the investors are free to switch when valuations become more stable.

c. Medium-risk Funds

Here, the risk factor is of medium level as the fund manager invests a portion in debt and the rest in equity funds. The NAV is not that volatile, and the average returns could be 9-12%.

d. High-Risk Funds

Suitable for investors with no risk aversion and aiming for huge returns in the form of interest and dividends, high-risk mutual funds need active fund management. Regular performance reviews are mandatory as they are susceptible to market volatility. You can expect 15% returns, though most high-risk funds generally provide up to 20% returns.

5. Specialized Mutual Funds

a. Sector Funds

Sector funds invest solely in one specific sector, theme-based mutual funds. As these funds invest only in specific sectors with only a few stocks, the risk factor is on the higher side. Investors are advised to keep track of the various sector-related trends. Sector funds also delivers great returns. Some areas of banking, IT, and pharma have witnessed huge and consistent growth in the recent past and are predicted to be promising in the future as well.

b. Index Funds

Suited best for passive investors, index fundsput money in an index. A fund manager does not manage it. An index fund identifies stocks and their corresponding ratio in the market index and puts the money in similar proportion in similar stocks. Even if they cannot outdo the market (which is the reason why they are not popular in India), they play it safe by mimicking the index performance.

c. Funds of Funds

A diversified mutual fund investment portfolio offers a slew of benefits, and ‘Funds of Funds’ also known as multi-manager mutual funds are made to exploit this to the tilt – by putting their money in diverse fund categories. In short, buying one fund that invests in many funds rather than investing in several achieves diversification while keeping the cost down at the same time.

d. Emerging market Funds

To invest in developing markets is considered a risky bet, and it has undergone negative returns too. India, in itself, is a dynamic and emerging market where investors earn high returns from the domestic stock market. Like all markets, they are also prone to market fluctuations. Also, from a longer-term perspective, emerging economies are expected to contribute to the majority of global growth in the following decades.

e. International/ Foreign Funds

Favoured by investors looking to spread their investment to other countries, foreign mutual funds can get investors good returns even when the Indian Stock Markets perform well. An investor can employ a hybrid approach (say, 60% in domestic equities and the rest in overseas funds) or a feeder approach (getting local funds to place them in foreign stocks) or a theme-based allocation (e.g., gold mining).

f. Global Funds

Aside from the same lexical meaning, global funds are quite different from International Funds. While a global fund chiefly invests in markets worldwide, it also includes investment in your home country. The International Funds concentrate solely on foreign markets. Diverse and universal in approach, global funds can be quite risky to owing to different policies, market and currency variations, though it does work as a break against inflation and long-term returns have been historically high.

g. Real Estate Funds

Despite the real estate boom in India, many investors are still hesitant to invest in such projects due to its multiple risks. Real estate fund can be a perfect alternative as the investor will be an indirect participant by putting their money in established real estate companies/trusts rather than projects. A long-term investment negates risks and legal hassles when it comes to purchasing a property as well as provide liquidity to some extent.

h. Commodity-focused Stock Funds

These funds are ideal for investors with sufficient risk-appetite and looking to diversify their portfolio. Commodity-focused stock funds give a chance to dabble in multiple and diverse trades. Returns, however, may not be periodic and are either based on the performance of the stock company or the commodity itself. Gold is the only commodity in which mutual funds can invest directly in India. The rest purchase fund units or shares from commodity businesses.

i. Market Neutral Funds

For investors seeking protection from unfavourable market tendencies while sustaining good returns, market-neutral funds meet the purpose (like a hedge fund). With better risk-adaptability, these funds give high returns where even small investors can outstrip the market without stretching the portfolio limits.

j. Inverse/Leveraged Funds

While a regular index fund moves in tandem with the benchmark index, the returns of an inverse index fund shift in the opposite direction. It is nothing but selling your shares when the stock goes down, only to repurchase them at an even lesser cost (to hold until the price goes up again).

k. Asset Allocation Funds

Combining debt, equity, and even gold in an optimum ratio, this is a greatly flexible fund. Based on a pre-set formula or fund manager’s inferences based on the current market trends, asset allocation funds can regulate the equity-debt distribution. It is almost like hybrid funds but requires great expertise in choosing and allocating the bonds and stocks from the fund manager.

l. Gift Funds

Yes, you can also gift a mutual fund or a SIP to your loved ones to secure their financial future.

m. Exchange-traded Funds

It belongs to the index funds family and is bought and sold on exchanges. Exchange-traded funds  have unlocked a new world of investment prospects, enabling investors to gain extensive exposure to stock markets abroad as well as specialized sectors. An ETF is like a mutual fund that can be traded in real-time at a price that may rise or fall many times in a day.

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