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The ABC of exchange traded funds
Sanjay Matai, Moneycontrol.com | March 01, 2007 08:54 IST
Exchange traded funds (ETFs) have been in existence in India for quite some time now. Apart from Benchmark AMC, which specializes in ETFs, there have been a couple of ETFs from Prudential ICICI AMC and UTI AMC.
But so far ETFs have not enjoyed the kind of popularity that the conventional Mutual Funds enjoy.
One reason could be the lack of understanding of the concept of ETF amongst the general investor.
Second, and probably the more important reason, is that ETFs by nature track a certain index (e.g. Nifty or the Bankex). Hence, the returns one can expect from ETFs will be equal to the rise in the index. Whereas, India is a growing market and hence offers huge opportunities in the non-index shares too. Therefore, it is not difficult for an active fund manager to beat the index and offer better returns. As such ETFs (and index-funds too, by that logic) have comparatively negligible AUMs.
Two things could, however, make ETFs popular in India
Here's an interesting live example. About 1-2 years ago the banking sector was not very popular. But with the rise in interest rates and the general economic growth, bank stocks were becoming quite popular.
As a result the only banking index fund viz. Benchmark AMC's the Banking BeES (there are few banking sector funds but not bank-index funds) saw a jump of AUM from about Rs 370 crore (Rs 3.70 billion) in June 2005 to almost Rs 7,400 crore (Rs 74 billion) by December 2006. This makes it the largest MF scheme, much higher than about Rs 5,000 crore's (Rs 50 billion) Reliance Equity Fund.
What are ETFs? How are they different for a normal MF? Are they worth investing? We look at the answers to these and some other common queries regarding the ETFs.
What are ETFs?
As the name suggests, ETFs are a mix of a stock and a mutual fund, in the sense that:
How does an ETF work?
In a normal fund we buy/sell units directly from/to the AMC. First the money is collected from the investors to form the corpus. The fund manager then uses this corpus to build and manage the appropriate portfolio. When you want to redeem your units, a part of the portfolio is sold and you get paid for your units. The units in a conventional MF are, therefore, called 'in-cash' units.
But in ETF, we have something called the 'authorized participants' (appointed by the AMC). They will first deposit all the shares that comprise the index (or the gold in case of Gold ETF) with the AMC and receive what is called the 'creation units' from the AMC. Since these units are created by depositing underlying shares/gold, they are called 'in-kind' units.
These creation units are a large block, which are then split into small units and accordingly bought/sold in the open market on the stock exchange by these 'authorized participants'.
Therefore, technically every buy and sell need not change the corpus of an ETF unlike a conventional MF.
However, as and when there is more demand, these authorized participants deposit more shares with the AMC and get more creation units to satisfy the demand.
Or if there is more redemption, then they give back these creation units to the AMC, take back their shares, sell them in the market and pay the investor.
All this may seem to be a bit complicated and time-consuming. But, in effect, it is all system driven and hence happens on real-time basis with minimal effort & cost.
Comparison with conventional MFs
Let us now look at how similar & dissimilar the ETFs are vis-�-vis the conventional MFs.
Benefits of investing in ETFs
Disadvantages of investing in ETFs
It may, therefore, be concluded that if an investor is looking for a long-term and defensive investment strategy in equities by backing the index rather than looking at active management, ETF offers an alternative to index-based funds. It offers trading convenience & probably lower costs than index funds. A case-to-case comparison is, however, important as some index-funds may be cheaper. Also for SIPs, index-funds may prove better than ETFs.
However, in the absence of conventional MFs like in Gold, ETFs is but a natural and better choice than buying/selling physical gold.
The author is an investment advisor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.