Mutual fund sector largely untapped for poor publicity

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Mutual fund is an underrated sector as it gets very little publicity despite offering higher dividends, according to various experts.

“The mutual fund industry in Bangladesh is currently worth about Tk 15,000 crore, which is insignificant compared to the country’s gross domestic product and overall stock market value,” said Prof Shibli Rubayat Ul Islam, chairman of Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC).

These comments came during a webinar on the “Institutional role in sustainable financing”, organised by the Association of Asset Management Companies and Mutual Funds (AAMCMF) as a part of World Investor Week-2021.

Mutual funds pool money from investors to channel it into securities  such as stocks, bonds, and other assets. Depending on the profits  earned, investors are paid a share as dividends.

Mutual funds in Bangladesh have been unable to reach their full potential as many people do not know about the high-performing sector due to a lack of publicity by local asset management companies, Islam said.

However, the BSEC chairman went on to say that they are pleased by the industry’s recent performance, which resulted in fund managers providing better dividends for fiscal 2020-21.

People are looking for options to invest in as bank deposit rates are mostly lower than the country’s inflation rate.

“But many people don’t know about the mutual fund sector, which provided good dividends this year. The main problem is a lack of publicity of the industry’s performance,” he said.

If fund managers cannot bear the cost of publicity measures, then the association could help in this regard.

“We want to provide anything they want for the sake of the growth of the sector,” the BSEC chairman added.

The mutual fund industry provided dividends worth around Tk 600 crore last fiscal year, according to Hasan Imam, president of the AAMCMF.

“Apart from the dividend gain, capital gain of mutual funds was also attractive,” he said, adding that units of listed mutual funds grew by 57 per cent in the last fiscal year while bank stocks rose by 54 per cent. As such, the benchmark index of the stock market advanced by 50 per cent at the same time.

The industry is still lucrative as most of the funds’ net asset values are higher than their unit prices.

As mutual funds mostly invest in A-category shares, where there are around 50 to 60 companies, general investors get the chance to ensure safe investment.

Mutual funds are already investing in big and medium paid-up capital-based companies, most of which are following environmental and social governance.

“So, the sector can contribute to sustainable financing,” Imam added.

Prof Mizanur Rahman, a commissioner of the BSEC, said the regulator is working to launch performance-based fees on mutual fund management instead of a common percentage.

“Those whose performance is better and who ensure higher return deserve higher fees over the low performing managers,” he added.

“About half of Bangladesh’s population are women so our sustainable development needs their contribution too,” said Moniza Choudhury, managing director of CWT Asset Management Company.

“For sustainable financing, women entrepreneurs need funds from us,” she added.

Arfan Ali, president and managing director of Bank Asia; Arunangshu Dutta, CEO and managing director of ACACIA SRIM; Azad Chowdhury, managing partner of AIM STEPs; and Kh Asadul Islam, managing director of Alliance Capital Asset Management, also spoke at the event.