Risks in Mutual Funds

Be a wise investor by understanding various risks associated with mutual fund investments.
Risks in Mutual Funds
4 mins read
15-May-2024

It is well-known that mutual funds are subject to various types of risks that can affect their performance and returns. Mutual funds can be broadly classified into equity mutual funds and debt mutual funds, depending on the asset class they invest in. Each type of mutual fund has its own set of risks, as explained in the article below.

What makes mutual funds risky?

The inherent risk in mutual fund investments stems from their allocation across various investment instruments such as debt, equity, and corporate bonds. Given that the prices of these instruments fluctuate due to various factors, investors may experience losses.

This risk often manifests through a decline in the NAV of these investments. Nonetheless, mutual fund investors can optimise the risk-reward balance of this investment tool by recognising the associated risks in mutual funds beforehand.

Types of risk in mutual funds

Before investing in mutual funds, it is essential to understand the various risks involved. These risks can be broadly categorised into risks involved with equity mutual funds and risks involved with debt mutual funds.

1. Risks involved with equity mutual funds

  • Volatility risk: This is the risk of fluctuations in the value of the mutual fund due to changes in the market conditions. Equity mutual funds invest in stocks, which are affected by factors such as economic cycles, corporate earnings, political events, etc. These factors can cause the stock prices to rise or fall, which in turn affects the net asset value (NAV) of the mutual fund.
  • Liquidity risk: This is the risk of not being able to sell or redeem the mutual fund units at the desired time or price. Equity mutual funds, especially those that have a lock-in period such as ELSS, are subject to liquidity risk. Sometimes, there may not be enough buyers or sellers in the secondary market, or the fund house may impose exit loads or restrictions on redemptions.

2. Risks involved with debt mutual funds

  • Interest rate risk: This is the risk of changes in the value of the mutual fund due to changes in the interest rates. Debt mutual funds invest in fixed-income securities such as bonds, debentures, government securities, etc. These securities have a fixed coupon rate and maturity date. When the interest rates in the market change, the prices of these securities also change inversely. For example, when the interest rates increase, the prices of bonds decrease, and vice versa.
  • Credit risk: This is the risk of default or delay in payment of interest or principal by the issuer of the security. Debt mutual funds are exposed to credit risk when they invest in low-rated or unrated securities that have a higher chance of default. Credit risk can result in loss of capital or income for the mutual fund investors.
  • Inflation risk: This is the risk of erosion in the purchasing power of the money due to inflation. Debt mutual funds offer fixed returns that may not be able to beat the inflation rate over time. This can reduce the real value of the investment and affect the long-term goals of the investors.
  • Concentration risk: This is the risk of overexposure to a particular security, sector, or issuer. Debt mutual funds that invest in a limited number of securities or focus on a specific theme or sector are subject to concentration risk. This can increase the volatility and vulnerability of the mutual fund to adverse events affecting that security, sector, or issuer.
  • Currency risk: This may apply to equity mutual funds also which invest in overseas securities. This is the risk of changes in the value of the mutual fund due to changes in the exchange rates. Debt mutual funds that invest in foreign currency-denominated securities are exposed to currency risk. The appreciation or depreciation of the domestic currency against the foreign currency can affect the returns of the mutual fund.
  • Rebalancing risk: This is the risk of deviation from the original asset allocation of the mutual fund due to market movements. Debt mutual funds that follow a dynamic asset allocation strategy are subject to rebalancing risk. The fund manager may change the proportion of debt and equity in the portfolio based on the market conditions. This can alter the risk-return profile of the mutual fund and affect the investors’ expectations.

Tips to combat risks associated with mutual funds

While it is not possible to eliminate the risks in mutual funds completely, here are some ways to mitigate them and enhance the returns:

  • Build a portfolio that matches your risk appetite: Before investing in mutual funds, you should assess your risk tolerance and investment horizon. Based on that, you should choose the mutual funds that suit your risk profile and goals. For example, if you are a conservative investor with a short-term horizon, you should opt for low-risk debt mutual funds. If you are an aggressive investor with a long-term horizon, you should opt for high-risk equity mutual funds.
  • Invest through systematic investment plan (SIP): SIP is a method of investing a fixed amount at regular intervals in a mutual fund. SIP helps you to reduce the volatility risk and average out the cost of purchase. SIP also helps you to benefit from the power of compounding and achieve your long-term goals.
  • Invest through systematic transfer plan (STP): STP is a method of transferring a fixed amount from one mutual fund to another at regular intervals. STP helps you to rebalance your portfolio and switch from one asset class to another based on the market conditions. STP may help you to book profits and reduce the concentration risk.
  • Diversify your portfolio: Diversification is a strategy of spreading your investments across various mutual funds with different asset classes, sectors, themes, and geographies. Diversification helps you to reduce the impact of poor performance of one mutual fund on your overall portfolio. Diversification also helps you to capture the opportunities in different segments of the market.

Risks in mutual funds and suitable solutions

Investing in mutual funds involves various risks. Understanding these risks and choosing suitable investment strategies can help you make informed investment decisions.

Objective

Capital Protection

Liquidity

Volatility risk

Invest in low-volatility funds or index funds

Invest in liquid funds or ultra-short duration funds

Liquidity risk

Invest in open-ended funds or funds without exit loads

Invest in funds with high liquidity or low redemption time

Interest rate risk

Invest in short-duration funds or floating rate funds

Invest in funds with low interest rate sensitivity or low duration

Credit risk

Invest in high credit-rated funds or gilt funds

Invest in funds with low credit risk or high-quality securities

Inflation risk

Invest in inflation-indexed funds or dynamic bond funds

Invest in funds with high real returns or inflation-adjusted returns

Concentration risk

Invest in diversified funds or multi-cap funds

Invest in funds with low exposure to a particular security, sector, or issuer

Currency risk

Invest in domestic currency-denominated funds or hedged funds

Invest in funds with low exposure to foreign currency-denominated securities

Rebalancing risk

Invest in balanced funds or hybrid funds

Invest in funds with a fixed asset allocation or low turnover ratio


Did you know? You can also get an estimate of the future value of your mutual fund’s investments by using the Bajaj Finserv SIP Calculator, eventually helping you to make informed decisions.

Risky funds that you can avoid

While diversification can help mitigate risk, certain types of mutual funds are inherently riskier than others. Understanding these funds can help you make informed investment decisions and avoid unnecessary risks.

Balanced Hybrid Mutual Funds

Balanced Hybrid Mutual Funds are investment vehicles that combine both equity and debt investments within a single fund. These funds are structured to cater to the diverse needs and risk appetites of investors by offering different combinations of equity and debt. The allocation of assets within the portfolio determines the level of investment risk, with varying degrees of exposure to market fluctuations. However, despite the potential benefits of diversification, taxation can present complexities due to the fund's investment mandate. For instance, Balanced Hybrid Funds investing predominantly in debt may be taxed differently from those with higher equity exposure, adding a layer of consideration for investors.

Read more about: What are balance funds?

Fund of Funds

A Fund of Funds (FoF) operates by investing in a portfolio of other Mutual Funds rather than individual securities. This approach allows investors to gain exposure to a diverse range of asset classes and investment strategies without directly managing multiple funds themselves. However, this convenience comes at a cost, as FoFs typically incur higher expense ratios to cover management expenses associated with selecting and monitoring underlying funds. From a taxation standpoint, investors are subject to tax upon redemption, with capital gains deductions applicable. It's worth noting that dividends received from FoFs are exempt from taxation, offering a potential advantage for investors seeking tax-efficient investment vehicles.

Sector Mutual Funds

Sector Mutual Funds are specialized funds that focus on specific sectors of the economy, such as utilities, energy, or infrastructure. By concentrating their investments in a particular industry or theme, Sector Funds aim to capitalise on opportunities within that sector. However, this focused approach comes with inherent risks, as the fund's performance is heavily influenced by the performance of the chosen sector. Additionally, the lack of diversification inherent in Sector Funds amplifies the risk profile, making them more susceptible to market volatility and sector-specific challenges.

Small Cap Funds

Small Cap Funds are Mutual Funds that primarily invest in equity or equity-related instruments of small-cap companies. These companies are defined by SEBI as those ranked below the 250th position in terms of market capitalisation. Small Cap Funds offer investors the potential for aggressive growth, as smaller companies often have greater room for expansion. However, this growth potential comes with increased risk, as small-cap stocks tend to be more volatile and sensitive to market fluctuations. Furthermore, the performance of Small Cap Funds is closely tied to the movements of their underlying benchmark, making them susceptible to market conditions.

Read more about: What is a small-cap mutual fund?

Credit-Risk Mutual Funds

Credit-Risk Mutual Funds are debt funds that invest in low-credit quality debt securities, offering potentially higher returns but with increased risk. These funds typically target bonds or other fixed-income instruments issued by entities with lower credit ratings. While Credit-Risk Funds may provide attractive yields, they also carry a heightened risk of default or credit downgrade. Investors with a medium-to-high risk tolerance in debt investments may find these funds suitable for their portfolio, but it i essential to carefully assess and monitor the credit quality of the underlying securities to mitigate potential losses.

Conclusion

By understanding the risks and following the tips mentioned above, you may combat the risks and aim to enhance your returns. You should also monitor your portfolio regularly and make changes as per your risk appetite and goals.

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Frequently asked questions

Is it risky to invest in mutual funds now?

Investing in mutual funds entails risks, which can vary depending on market conditions and fund types. Conduct thorough research and consider consulting a financial advisor to assess risk levels before investing.

Are mutual funds riskier than stocks?

Mutual funds pool money from multiple investors to invest in various assets, spreading risk. While individual stocks can be riskier due to their concentrated nature, mutual funds offer diversification, potentially reducing overall risk.

Are mutual funds safe for long term?

Mutual funds can be suitable for long-term investment goals due to their diversified portfolios and professional management. However, it is essential to choose funds aligned with your risk tolerance and investment objectives.

Can mutual funds go to zero?

While mutual funds aim to mitigate risk through diversification, there is no guarantee against losses. However, the likelihood of a mutual fund's value reaching zero is extremely low, especially when invested in well-managed and diversified funds.

Is mutual fund risky in the long term?

While mutual funds can be volatile in the short term, they historically offer higher potential returns over the long term, especially when invested in diversified funds aligned with one's risk tolerance and financial goals.

Who should not invest in mutual funds?

Those with short-term financial goals or a low tolerance for market fluctuations, as well as individuals seeking guaranteed returns, may find mutual funds unsuitable for their investment needs.

What is the safest type of mutual fund?

Generally, diversified equity mutual funds with a large-cap bias, or debt funds with high credit quality and short maturity periods, are considered safer options depending on the investor's risk appetite and investment horizon.

Should I sell my mutual funds before the market crashes?

Timing the market is difficult, and attempting to sell mutual funds before a market crash may result in missing out on potential recoveries. A better approach is to maintain a diversified portfolio aligned with long-term financial goals and stay invested through market cycles.

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