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Should you invest in mutual funds directly?

Last week I wrote an Opinion piece in Mint newspaper on the capital market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India's (Sebi) plans to mandate mutual funds to come out with a separate plan for those investors who invest directly, without any agent's advice. Called the Direct plan, this plan will have a slightly lower total expense ratio (TER), without the distributor commission element. The net asset value (NAV) will be different for the Direct Plan. As things would go, Sebi introduced the Direct Option in its board meeting last week. What this means is that in addition to the 'retail' and 'institutional' plans, there will now be a Direct Plan. Only those investors who invest directly will be able to avail of the Direct Plan that comes with a lower expense ratio. Will investors transfer to the Direct Plan in droves?

My estimate is though initially there might be a rush, in the long run many such investors will suffer. Investing in mutual funds (MF) in not as easy as it sounds. There are operational hurdles. Numerous forms to be filled up (for Know-Your-Customer norms, application and Systematic Investment Plan), forms getting rejected because of the tiniest of reasons, change of bank account mandates; these hassles can sometimes drive investors to the wall. A good distributor can be of great help here. But if you go 'Direct', then distributors can't  help you as they can only access your record if their stamp has gone on your form.

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