Mutual Funds over the years have gained immensely in their popularity. Apart from the many advantages that investing in mutual funds provide like diversification, professional management, the ease of investment process has proved to be a major enabling factor. However, with the introduction of innovative products, the world of mutual funds nowadays has a lot to offer to its investors. With the introduction of diverse options, investors needs to choose a mutual fund that meets his risk acceptance and his risk capacity levels and has similar investment objectives as the investor.
With the plethora of schemes available in the Indian markets, an investors needs to evaluate and consider various factors before making an investment decision. Since not everyone has the time or inclination to invest and do the analysis himself, the job is best left to a professional. Since Indian economy is no more a closed market, and has started integrating with the world markets, external factors which are complex in nature affect us too. Factors such as an increase in short-term US interest rates, the hike in crude prices, or any major happening in Asian market have a deep impact on the Indian stock market. Although it is not possible for an individual investor to understand Indian companies and investing in such an environment, the process can become fairly time consuming. Mutual funds (whose fund managers are paid to understand these issues and whose Asset Management Company invests in research) provide an option of investing without getting lost in the complexities.
Most importantly, mutual funds provide risk diversification: diversification of a portfolio is amongst the primary tenets of portfolio structuring, and a necessary one to reduce the level of risk assumed by the portfolio holder. Most of us are not necessarily well qualified to apply the theories of portfolio structuring to our holdings and hence would be better off leaving that to a professional. Mutual funds represent one such option.
Lastly, Evaluate past performance, look for stability and although past performance is no guarantee of future performance, it is a useful way to assess how well or badly a fund has performed in comparison to its stated objectives and peer group. A good way to do this would be to identify the five best performing funds (within your selected investment objectives) over various periods, say 3 months, 6 months, one year, two years and three years. Shortlist funds that appear in the top 5 in each of these time horizons as they would have thus demonstrated their ability to be not only good but also, consistent performers.
An investor can choose the fund on various criteria according to his investment objective, to name a few:
Thorough analysis of fund performance of schemes over the last few years managed by the fund house and its consistent return in the volatile market.
The fund house should be professional, with efficient management and administration.
The corpus the fund is holding in its scheme over the period of time.
Proper adequacies of disclosures have to seen and also make a note of any hidden charges carried by them.
The price at which you can enter/exit (i.e. entry load / exit load) the scheme and its impact on overall return.