Mutual Fund (MF) investments are quickly becoming very popular in India, with total investments growing an incredible 155.66% in the Financial Year 2017 (FY 2017). Even comparing this to the pre-recession period of 2005-2006, inflows are up 92%. Net Assets Under Management (AUM) are up 42% as well.
This is not all driven by Foreign Institutional Investors either – the retail investor has realised that for reliable long-term wealth-creation, equities are the most attractive asset class. Since most are not stock-pickers, they entrust that job to mutual fund advisors and fund managers. Also Systematic Investment Plans (SIP) are the main route that most people take while investing in mutual funds and this ensures discipline – when you have an automated payment going out every month there’s very little friction.
So it couldn’t have been long before NRIs like me started thinking about investing in mutual funds. But just as I was, many NRIs are ignorant about equities and mutual funds. Most are only interested in fixed deposits because that’s all they have ever known. The tide may be shifting though, as enamoured by the strong showing of the Indian economy and stock market, NRIs are investing in MFs in huge numbers.
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The trials and tribulations of aspiring NRI MF investors
When I started learning about financial independence and about using equities to get there faster, I first looked at passive index funds. Not knwoing anything about picking stocks also rules out that option. However active mutual funds in India comfortably beat passive index funds in every category except large-cap. So I would be a fool to ignore the double digit growth performance that active mutual funds achieve in the mid-cap and small-cap categories.
Now for a domestic investor, investing in MFs is relatively straight forward. But for NRIs things are much more complicated. With many fund houses having rather difficult applications processes and not being a 100% paperless I started realising that getting started with MFs as an NRI is tough unless I happen to be visiting India. Wanting to go the direct plan route to minimise costs such as fund management fees also made it more complicated.
Until recently there were only 3 ways a person could invest in the direct plans of mutual funds (without paying an advisor):
- a fund house’s website,
- myCAMS (the online investment portal of Computer Age Management Services or Cams), and
- Mutual Funds Utility (MFU) portal, sponsored by the Association of Mutual Funds of India (Amfi)
None of the fund houses I was interested in supported 100% paperless online MF purchases. The myCams and MFU portals make it easy to manage mutual fund investments in one central location. But NRIs cannot invest using myCAMS and as an NRI who did not have a single MF investment yet, I was not welcome at MF Utilities.
Then I came across the 4th way that we can now invest in direct plan mutual funds online – new-gen fintech startups such as Invezta, Oro Wealth, Kuvera and Unovest which provide only direct plans of mutual funds. These platforms promised 100% paperless MF investments with additional services such as robo-advisors for fund selection.
Most have a free basic service package, so I gave some of them a quick whirl. I have settled on using Invezta and I will be explaining why in the rest of this review.back to menu ↑
Invezta – who are they?
Valuefy, the company behind the Invezta platform was founded by Sharad Singh and Vivek Singal in 2010. Incidentally this is not their first startup together, that honour going to BrainMatics in 2006.
Unlike other platforms which are dependent on MF Utilities, Invezta is a SEBI Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) and has their own agreements with various Asset Management Companies (AMC) such as ICICI, Birla or SBI.back to menu ↑
Features of Invezta
Invezta boasts many innovative features, the main ones being:
- Invezta lets you invest only in direct plans of mutual funds. This means they cannot receive any commission from the MF fund house or AMC. So you always benefit from higher returns that would have otherwise gone towards the distributor commission. The term distributor refers to all the middlemen between you and the fund house – it could be an agent, your advisor, or a regular plan platform such as FundsIndia.
- You can start investing in mutual funds immediately if you are KYC compliant (you will be if you have an Indian bank account), without having to deal with anybody else and 100% online and paper-less. While most other platforms such as Oro Wealth, Bharosa Club, and Unovest rely on the MFU infrastructure to function and so need a CAN from MFU, NRIs can open an account directly with Invezta.
- Goal-based investment is the recommended method for using the platform but you can also invest without creating any goals – this is what I have done.
- The premium robo-advisory service assesses your risk profile based on a questionnaire and then recommends a mutual fund portfolio based on its understanding of your risk tolerance.
- If you accept the robo-recommendations, Invezta offers a “Pay if it works” guarantee. At the end of every quarter, Invezta will check the performance of its recommendations and if it underperformed the category average, the subscription fee for that particular quarter will be reimbursed.
Opening an account
There are 5 steps in the account opening process but if you are KYC registered, the entire process can be completed in less than 5 minutes. There is an NRI option you can choose in the 2nd step (Investor Info). Strangely enough, the telephone number field doesn’t accept international country codes but the OTP is sent to your email address also. So you can still complete the signup process.back to menu ↑
Since Invezta does not receive any commission from fund houses, they charge investors an annual fee instead. There are basically 3 tiers:
- Starter – All the features of the Invezta platform for free up to a total investment value of INR 50,000.
- Basic – Rs. 79 / month removes the Rs. 50,000 investment limit and gives you the analytics and portfolio reporting feature.
- Premium – Rs. 109 / month adds all the features of the plarform such as mutual fund recommendations, health checks, automated alerts and much more.
Investing in mutual funds
Invezta’s primary investment philosophy is goal-based. But you can also make investments without creating a goal. Further you can invest via Systematic Investment Plan (SIPs) or in lumpsum.
The platform will ask you to complete a risk assessment questionnaire which it will then use to recommend a mutual fund portfolio. You are free to go with the recommended portfolio or choose your own funds.
Not happy to leave your life’s investments in the hands of a computer algorithm? You can choose your own funds and make Invezta do all the hard work of dealing with the AMC.
Once you have selected the funds you want to invest it, you can pay using your bank debit card.
After making your first investment, the dashboard will show you a very cool breakdown of all your MF investments by sector and asset class.
While the graphical dashboard is visually impressive, some of the sections are of limited use unless you click on a sub-section first. What I would have ideally liked to see is not present without clicking a lot – a simple asset allocation % split between equity, debt, etc.back to menu ↑
How is the quality of support?
Very good in my experience. My basic email queries such as not being able to enter the international country code in the mobile number field were answered within a couple of hours.
The only other time I had to contact support was when the AMC of one of my funds incorrectly generated two folio numbers for me. Even before I contacted them, Invezta had proactively reached out to them to correct the error. This was resolved within 3 days without me having to follow up.back to menu ↑
What about existing mutual fund investments?
If you have existing direct plan mutual fund folios with any of the supported AMCs, you can raise a ticket to get them added to your Invezta account. This will let you buy or sell units in those funds through Invezta.
If your funds are in regular plans, you will have to redeem them first and then reinvest through Invezta.back to menu ↑
Are there any alternatives?
The closest I have come across is Clearfunds which has a similar direct plan only philosophy but has a very different pricing model which doesn’t work for me.
Unovest currently has a free basic service which is better than Invezta’s limited starter plan, but requires you to obtain a CAN through MF Utilities. But unless you are already holding a folio in one of the AMCs supported by MFU, this can be a slightly drawn-out process.back to menu ↑
Initially I was quite pleased with my Invezta experience. But I soon reached the free transaction limit and had to decide whether its worth paying for. There is a totally free option in the form of MF Utility, so it was very difficult for me to justify paying for Invezta. Another reason is that INvezta has hardly rolled out any new features for the last year or so. Some features are still stuck in ‘coming soon’ mode.
I briefly used Unovest because of its excellent analytics but they scrapped the free plan and so I ditched them.
So after using Invezta for over 2 years, I have now switched to MF Utility and couldn’t be happier.
Meanwhile Kuvera came along disrupting the market with their fully free basic service. So now I use Kuvera for analytics and MF Utility for MF transactions.
You can still use Invezta if you are a first-time NRI investor in Indian mutual funds, and want a hassle-free experience in buying that super-important first mutual fund 100% online. But Kuvera can also do that and I would argue is now superior to Invezta in every way.
If you still prefer Invezta, use the coupon code below to raise the free investment allowance.
It is very difficult for first-time NRI investors to invest in mutual funds in a 100% online and paperless manner. This is the only reason to use Invezta as it falls further behind competitors like Kuvera. Not recommended.
- Smart and user-friendly interface
- Great support with very quick response time
- 32 AMCs available
- Robo-advisory feature
- Automatic portfolio rebalancing alerts
- Not reliant on MF Utilities or CAN
- Migrating existing direct plan folios is manual
- Not much development happening
- Some features like "Health Check" stuck in development for some time now