My experience with Equity mutual funds

May 1, 2007

As I write this post, I have been investing in mutual funds for over 8-9 years. This is a post to show the experiences I have had with mutual funds and learnings from my mistakes and sucesses. So it is not a showpiece of my brilliance or of my stupidities (of which you will find more of in the narrative). It is just a gist of my experience and learnings

1999-2000: Time of confidence and on top of the world

It is mid 1999. I had already dabbled a bit in mutual funds. I had invested a small amount in UTI-Mplus 91 in 1995 at a discount to NAV (it was a closed ended fund then). The discount had closed and I had made over 20% per annum and was feeling more confident of investing in mutual funds. Also I had moved out of Unit 64 scheme in 1998 after I had read a few adverse reports about it and managed to avoid the losses.

So here I am in 1999, feeling confident and having a little bit of cash in my pocket. Towards the end of 1999 (right a the start of the bull run) I started investing in mutual funds (yes, got the timing right!)

This was my list of mutual funds at that time
Alliance new millennium fund
Alliance buy india fund
DSP meryll lynch opportunities fund
Kotak MNC fund
Kothari pioneer fund balanced and Internet opportunities fund
Prudential ICICI tech fund
Alliance 95 fund
Franklin index fund

So I was heavily invested in IT funds. Considering that I was in mutual funds and spread across several of them, I incorrectly assumed that I had diversified the risk.

2001-2002: What was I thinking ?!!

The tech carnage started in mid 2000 and several of my funds lost 80-90% of the value. The saving grace were the non IT funds. But those funds lost more than the index as they were also heavily wieghted in IT. So the herd mentality affects everyone at the same time.

Although it was easy to blame the mutual funds and their aggressive marketing (they advertised 100% gains for 3 month periods), I realised it was my greed and faulty logic which was the reason for my losses.

I had been reading buffett and other value investors since 1998 and was a firm believer in value investing, but allowed myself to be carried away by euphoria and greed.

By the end of 2002, my mutual fund portfolio was down 25% and I had already exited from several tech funds and moved into diversified funds.

My fund summary by the end of 2002 was as follows
Alliance new millennium fund
Alliance equity fund
DSP meryll lynch opp fund
Zurich equity (now HDFC equity)
Prudential ICICI tech fund
Alliance 95 fund
Franklin index fund
Pioneer ITI index fund

So as you can see, I had started moving out of tech funds and into index funds.

A few learnings

– avoid sector funds. If you want to invest in a sector, find some good stocks in that sector. Sector funds don’t diversify risk, only concentrate them
– A good portion of funds should be kept in low cost index funds. You are garunteed market returns in the case of index funds.
– Diversified equity funds are the best option as these funds allow the mutual fund manager the maximum flexibility, unlike the sector fund where the manager and the investor are stuck in the same sector even when the sector is sinking.

2002-2004: Fixing the portfolio

With the above learnings in mind, I took my losses and moved into diversified equity funds. I chose funds which had demonstrated long term outperformance.

My portfolio looked like this by 2004.

Alliance equity fund
Reliance vision
DSP meryll
Franklin templeton – Blue chip growth and Dividend
Templeton india growth fund
Prudential ICICI growth (switch from tech fund)
HDFC equity
Rest was index funds and Nifty BEES.

My portfolio by this time reflected the following approach

– reduce the number of funds in the portfolio. More funds do not provide diversification, they just reduce the reduce the return without reducing the risk
– Select funds with low expenses and a long term performance history
– Prefer diversified equity funds over sector and promotional funds (like an MNC fund or similar idea based funds).

2004-2007: Doing nothing (and reaping the rewards)

During this period my fundamental approach did not change drastically. I have kind of fine tuned a few aspects of my mutual fund approach, but the broad approach has remained the same and has worked quite well

A few changes during this period have been

– reduction of the number of mutual funds and consolidation into fewer high quality funds
– Regular investing through a Systematic investment plan, barring when I feel the market is extremely high
– Limit the total number of mutual funds to 4-5 at best and re-invest additional money in the same funds.

The net result of the above journey from the year 2000 to 2007 has been a net performance of around 23% per annum , which would be around 5-6% more than the market returns.

Next post : My approach to selecting mutual funds


6 Responses to “My experience with Equity mutual funds”

  1. Prem Sagar Says:

    Would you consider ETFs over index funds ?

    And good to know abt ur approach towards MFs. it was a compelling read.

    Since you seem to have had good track of ur investments, how do u track them?

    Do you use excel sheets to track them?

    I dont see any ELSS funds in ur list. So I guess u had other avenues for tax saving.

    Thx for the interesting posts.

  2. What is in a Name ? Says:

    “Low risk, low gain” is fundamental philosophy found true in every walk of life.

    I am surprised Why people like you, who can take risk after calculated move on the stock market, purchase mutual fund by paying hefty fee to suited gentlemen who musroom on CNBC and other TV channel giving alwyas buy advice in the time of Market going up and up? Find them when the market goes down……They will vanish.

    Its my feeling that Mutual Fund
    is for those gullible masses who wants return on their capital but have no knowledge of stock market .Not like people like you, because why take risk on somebody feeling when you can take for yourself? That too by paying astronomical fee .

    Anyway , you have a very useful blog

  3. Rohit Chauhan Says:

    hi prem

    yes , i definitely prefer ETF’s over index funds due to the liquidity and cost factor. some index funds charge horrible fees. uti used to charge almost 1 % (not seen what it is now. not sure for what ?

    yes, i track my portfolio on monthly basis in a spread sheet

    i have not invested in ELSS till date for no specific reason. did not need them for tax planning and somehow never ended up investing in one of them

  4. Bina Says:

    what is ur opinion on using STP for investing in MF’s rather than SIP

  5. Rohit Chauhan Says:

    hi bina
    can you tell me what you mean by STP ? is it systematic transfer plan ?

  6. Prem Sagar Says:

    I feel in my opinion the only use of a STP in equity investing is to help stagger bulk amounts into gradual monthly investments helping one to average costs.

    I know ppl say it helps to stagger investments over a period to reduce risk.. but predominantly it has to do with the market levels too. In a rising market, STP would not work out as u will be buying at progressively higher costs.. and would help a lot in a falling market.

    But rise or fall cant be predicted..and timing is tough.

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