Market regulator SEBI announced certain amendments to mutual funds regulations during its Board meeting held recently. SEBI undertook a detailed exercise on review of mutual fund regulations in consultation with various stakeholders to examine certain policy proposals, remove redundant provisions, to align with the existing applicable Acts and other SEBI Regulations, and to address certain operational difficulties.

SEBI Board has, inter-alia, approved the following changes to MF regulations:

1) Eligibility criteria for sponsoring a mutual fund

The current regulations require a company intending to sponsor a mutual fund to have earned profits in at least 3 out of the preceding 5 years, along with a positive net worth in all preceding 5 years. Further, the sponsor must have at least 40% share in the net worth of the asset management company.

To facilitate innovation and enhanced reach to more investors at a faster pace, including tech-enabled solutions, SEBI has allowed companies who do not fulfil profitability criteria to be sponsors of a mutual fund.

Such companies will need to have a net worth of not less than Rs 100 crore for the purpose of contribution towards the net-worth of the Asset Management Company (AMC). This net worth of the AMC has to be maintained till the time AMC makes profit for 5 consecutive years.

The move will allow better participation of high net-worth companies as sponsors of mutual fund who do not meet the profitability criteria but can enable wider reach to investors (for instance fintech companies).

2) Ring-fencing of assets and liabilities

SEBI has stated that all assets and liabilities of a scheme will have to be segregated and ring-fenced from other schemes of the mutual fund. This will be in addition to the existing requirement of segregating bank accounts and securities account.

This is expected to bring transparency and better accountability on the fund manager’s part which can help in preventing unnecessary inter-scheme transfer of assets.

3) Reducing maximum permissible exit load

Most schemes currently charge an exit load of 1% if the units are redeemed within one year of the date of allotment. However, certain schemes, such as credit risk funds charge an exit load of 3%. This is done to prevent premature withdrawals from the fund. Notably, the maximum permissible exit load that a fund house can charge is 7%.

Thus, SEBI has proposed reduction in maximum permissible exit load that a fund house can charge.

4) Other key regulations

SEBI has proposed dispensing with the requirement of physical unit certificates.

In addition, SEBI will reduce the timeline for payment of dividends, permit other modes for payment of dividends, provide clarity with respect to payment of interest and penalty in case of delay in dividend payment, etc.

The changes have been constituted based on the suggestions of Mutual Fund Advisory Committee (MFAC) and are expected to bring more sponsorship for mutual funds, enable better transparency, and do away with certain redundant provisions.

This article first appeared on PersonalFN here

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