Your fund house entered into a partnership with Robeco in 2007. How has been the journey so far and how are you leveraging your association with Robeco?
The joint venture brings together Canara Bank's strong experience & wide distribution footprint in the Indian market and Robeco's 85 years’ global experience & expertise as an asset management firm.
The joint venture has successfully built long term profitable assets leveraging the strong shareholder support & unique strengths of Canara Bank and Robeco. A very robust research, risk management & investment processes framework provided by Robeco has resulted in building a strong long term performance track record for our products in India. Our connect & regular inter-action with Robeco head office on sales, marketing, investments & risk management ensures that we incorporate global best practises in our India business on a continuous basis. To ensure a deeper involvement & continual knowledge transfer in areas of new products, investment processes & risk management, Robeco also regularly sends senior management resources on secondment at our India office. We are keen to introduce some of the internationally successful product ideas of Robeco in the Indian markets especially in areas of retirement & pension solutions as well as quantitative constructs.
Tell us more about your 'smarTomorrows' initiative
smarTomorrows is an investor awareness campaign that was started by us around two years back. The first phase of this campaign had focused on basic fundamentals of investing like focus on long term, importance of defining financial goals before choosing MF products, the need for periodic portfolio review and benefits of having an advisor. Human relationships that were used as analogies and examples of close relationships such as husband/wife, mother/child, friends, coach/pupil in our creatives provided simple understandable perspective for these powerful investment thoughts.
In the second phase of our creative campaign, that is running currently, we are focusing on highlighting the key benefits of long term fund categories like equity, debt, hybrid and re-emphasizing the positive role played by an advisor in ensuring an optimal asset allocation for investors.
Besides 'smarTomorrows', what new initiatives are you taking for investor awareness programs?
We have been regularly conducting IAPs in our adopted districts in Kerala for financial literacy as also investor seminars across the country through in-house as well as external trainers. We plan to use our digital investor education initiatives to address larger audience of potential investors in the country. A unique investor education initiative recently launched with support from a state government is a customised class-room cum online training module, to conduct financial literacy program for children in government schools. We have seen a very good participation by children of these schools and the equally positive & enthusiastic feedback on the program from parents of these participants.
SEBI has been pushing fund houses to increase B15 penetration. What percentage of assets do you get from B15 cities? What are your plans to grow your B15 market share?
One of our key strengths has been the wide distribution footprint of Canara Bank. The bank has helped us build our retail business through SIPs and long term focused retail investments. The wide branch network of Canara Bank in B-15 locations and our traditional association with IFAs in these locations has helped us achieve an AUM of over 25% in B-15 locations, much higher than aggregate break-up of the industry for B15 vs T15 assets.
We feel that SEBI’s focus on deepening the reach of MF industry in B-15 locations in the last few years has certainly been very helpful. We have stepped up our efforts in reaching out to existing and potential investors through seminars, focused group meets and our communications campaign. We are increasing our existing distribution reach in B-15 locations through higher empanelments, quality trainings and optimal pricing strategy. Focus is also on ensuring availability & access for our products to intermediaries and investors through various scalable opportunities like exchange traded/online platforms, providing online transaction servicing facilities for distributors and investors through our digital assets and also stepping up presence in the overall digital eco-system through our online/social media campaigns.
The industry is adopting digital technology to reach out to masses. In fact, some AMCs have launched transaction apps for their distributors. What are your plans on the digital side?
We believe that technology offers a great opportunity for manufacturers and as well as distributors to increase penetration & scale up business. Today this is also helped by the relatively strong aggregate performance track record of MFs and increasing appeal for market linked products amongst investors. We are continually scaling up our digital eco-system & online presence to ensure that information, transaction & servicing for our product deck & company are available to distributors in their preferred formats - AMC website, distributor promoted transaction sites, third party portals, stock exchange platforms, etc.
A dedicated mobile app is certainly a good concept and we are evaluating introducing this in our range of digital assets. However, the adaptation of a specific AMC’s mobile app amongst intermediaries also needs to be seen in light of the fact that many AMC/MF transaction websites today including Canara Robeco are anyways mobile responsive and probably offer higher flexibility & functionality. Also, intuitively it looks a bit difficult to foresee a scenario in future wherein distributors with existing associations with online platforms/or those with customised online presence will like to download too many single AMC dedicated mobile apps.
Besides digital, what are your other key initiatives for distributors?
We firmly believe that distributors will continue to provide a very valuable connect for all AMCs in years ahead due to product evolution driven by changing demographics and growing requirement for financial solutions (not just products). Learning and knowledge enhancement on topics related to key drivers of market linked products and their significant positive impact on asset allocation continue to be the focus area for our training initiatives for our distribution partners.
As part of training and engagement initiatives we have been working on expanding our Canara Robeco Thought Leadership Series (CRTLS) which involves national & regional level training seminars & joint learning initiatives for our distributors. Under the aegis of CRTLS, our aim has been to bring forth some leading thoughts & trends in the area of investing.
Finally, which new products are you planning to launch?
We believe that the changing & varied demographics in India and a good aggregate track record of mutual fund performances over the last 25 years bodes well for the future of the industry & for introduction of new products. Products that offer dynamic asset allocation, geographic diversification and solutions orientation are likely to see increasing traction. Thus, we are keen to launch retirement/goal oriented MF products as well as select quantitative oriented & international investment themes to provide truly utilitarian solutions and diversification for investors.