If you have looked into direct plans of Indian mutual funds, you have probably heard of the Mutual Funds Utilities (MFU) Portal. I have been using it for the past year and here’s my in-depth hands-on review with comparisons to other popular alternatives.
There are many self-service online platforms and robo-advisors today that allow DIY Indian investors to manage their mutual fund investments without the help of a broker or agent. The popular ones are MFU, Kuvera, Paytm Money, Zerodha Coin, Invezta, FundsIndia, Scripbox, Orowealth, Unovest, Goalwise, Groww etc.
But there are some very important differences between them. We can divide them into three categories:
- Some of them like Scripbox and Funds India offer only regular mutual funds (which is a bad thing).
- Others like Invezta and Unovest charge a fee and offer direct mutual funds only (which is a good thing).
- Yet others like Kuvera offer direct mutual funds only but the basic service is totally free. Advanced services such as tax advice may be charged.
MFU is quite interesting – because they don’t fall into any of the categories above. They offer direct mutual funds only but the platform is totally free. You can’t pay them even if you wanted to.
What is MFU Portal?
MFU is an online platform through which retail investors like you and me can purchase, switch, or redeem mutual funds through the direct route. You are not limited to a single fund house. In fact, you can transact with multiple fund houses in the same order.
The MFU portal was launched in January 2015.
Who owns MFU Portal?
MFU is unique among the various direct mutual fund platforms in that they are not owned or managed by a single corporate entity. In fact, MFU is owned and managed by the Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI).
A private company named MF Utilities India Pvt Ltd (MFUI) was created by the fund houses who are part of AMFI. What’s more, each fund house that provides their services through MFU own an equal share in MFUI.
Who should use MFU Portal?
A lot of us may have started buying direct plans of mutual funds directly from the AMC’s website. But the average investor has funds from over 8 different fund houses! Managing them separately gets old quick.
A smarter way is to manage all your mutual funds in one single interface. This is what MFU will help you do. Check out this nice unified view of all my mutual fund investments when I log in to MFU:
How MFU Portal works
A Common Account Number (CAN) is how MFU executes your transactions on their platform. Once you are issued with a CAN, that’s all you need to quote when placing orders on the MFU platform.
Strangely there are two different websites for MFU Portal:
- MFUIndia.com where you register for the CAN
- MFUOnline.com where you access the portal and transact in mutual funds
Signing up for MFU Portal – My Experience
The first thing I check whenever I use any service is whether I can complete the entire signup process online. I do not want to have to print out forms and post them or worse physically go to an office. Of course being an Non-Resident Indian (NRI), it is a massive inconvenience for me if the process is not 100% online.
The good news is that MFU is that they do offer a 100% online paperless electronic-CAN (eCAN) registration route. But there’s a pre-condition: you must hold at least one mutual fund from one of the AMCs on MFU.
If like me you are a brand new investor, you will not meet this requirement. Fear not, because you can use MFU’s competitors either Invezta or Kuvera to purchase your first mutual fund fully online. Check out my detailed Invezta review to see how you can do this. Another option is to use an AMC’s website directly but sadly none of them offer NRIs a 100% online process.
Once you have purchased your first fund elsewhere, you can sign up on MFU using the fully electronic paperless route and create your CAN. This is a straightforward process and took me 3 days start to finish with no further requests for additional information or documents.
Here’s my actual timeline for the completely paperless e-CAN registration route:
These are the supporting documents required:
- Copy of PAN of all Holder(s)/Guardian
- Proof of Bank Account: A cancelled cheque leaf which has the primary applicant’s name printed on it. You can also submit a copy of the cheque, self-attesting it.
- Document proof related to other information submitted for eCAN
You can select a nominee for your account during the registration process. Also note that NRIs need to complete the FATCA declaration.
Overall it was a very smooth process and I was pleasantly surprised how efficient it was.
What if you don’t have existing mutual funds and don’t want to buy them elsewhere?
If you are a domestic investor and are happy to walk into one of the MFU Point of Sales (PoS), you do not need to have existing mutual fund holdings. You don’t even need to have an active Know Your Customer (KYC) done, because MFU will faciliatate the KYC process for you.
This is called the partially electronic CAN registration process.
Navigating the Dashboard
When you login to the portal, you are greeted with a pretty spartan interface and a graphical dashboard:
MFU will automatically identify all the mutual funds you have with participating AMCs and list it in here. I had made my first mutual fund investment through Invezta, and it showed up when I first logged in. So moving from Invezta to MFU was seamless for me. I just stopped using Invezta right away!
You can change the view to a detailed list of all your holdings as seen in the previous section.
If you were hoping for more in the way of analytics, you will be disappointed. It doesn’t even show the average cost basis for each fund. THis is shown in other platforms such as Invezta and Kuvera. But there is a handy export feature if you want to perform your own analytics in Excel or other software.
The menu bar at the top has the following items:
- Wishlist – You can specify a favourites list of mutual funds that you want to purchase regularly
- Account – You can edit your profile and amend the ePayEezz info
- CAN Transaction – This is one way you can purchase, redeem, switch, or manage SIP, STP, or SWP transactions
- Status – You can view your order history and active order status under the normal order book page
- Special Products – Such as SIP with Insurance
- CenCoM – Raise a complaint, provide feedback or make a query to MFU
Purchasing a Mutual Fund
If you want to make a fresh lump-sum purchase of a mutual fund you do not own, the CAN transaction menu item is the way to go.
If you want to purchase additional lump-sum units of a mutual fund you already own, you can simply click the purchase icon next to the desired mutual fund from your dashboard.
Both methods will take you to the same order entry screen where you can confirm the details and proceed to pay via net banking or other means.
You can check the status of your orders in the normal order book:
NRIs will especially like the FIRC upload feature built into MFU. As per Indian law, all non-resident investors have to provide an FIRC proof of funds source screenshot within 3 days of a mutual fund purchase. MFU allows you to do this easily without any hassle by clicking on the image icon next to each order.
How much time does it take for MFU to process an lump-sum order?
I have made well over 20 transactions on MFU so far and that should give you an idea of how much time it takes on average from placing an order through MFU and receiving the fund allocation confirmation email from your AMC.
The answer is that it depends on which AMC you are transacting with and which payment method you are using. Using instant payment using net-banking, these are my experiences with various AMCs:
- UTI: 1-2 days
- SBI: 2-3 days
- Franklin Templeton Investments: 1-2 days
How does the SIP method work?
You can start or cancel Systematic Investment Plan (SIP) investments through MFU. You just need to perform the PayEezz (One-Time Mandate) registration beforehand.
I personally avoid SIPs and so have not tried out this feature on MFU.
What are the CAST and CART features?
Create and Schedule Transaction (CaST) is like managing your own SIP instead of actually creating an SIP. It allows you to Rupee Cost Average at a schedule you define.
Note that you cannot define a trigger price condition or anything of that sort – this is not a trading platform. Its just a way of automating future purchases by specifying exact dates for orders to be placed automatically.
Create and Retain Transaction (CaRT) is a facility where frequently used transactions can be created and retained as a template to be executed later whenever desired with a single click.
I personally do not use these features but they are there if you need them.
Disappointingly, just like Invezta and Kuvera, MFU does not support 2 Factor Authentication (2FA). I don’t know why Indian fintech companies are so callous when it comes to online security. For financial websites, 2FA is a must.
I have not had the chance to test the support system as I have not faced any issues yet.
A good free platform for transacting in mutual funds for both domestic and NRI investors
- Transact MFs in a single portal
- All major AMCs available
- 35 AMCs available
- Free to use
- Fast and reliable
- Supports FIRC funds proof of source upload
- Can future-date MF orders (CaST feature)
- Requires existing mutual fund holdings for 100% electronic signup
- No 2 Factor Authentication (2FA)
- Virtually no analytics features
- Doesn't show even current cost basis of assets
- No capital gains calculation
- No robo-advisory features