Investment

Looking for safe debt funds? Here are 34 schemes for you

Flight to safety – the phrase aptly describes the mood among debt mutual fund investors lately. Faced with a series of setbacks to debt mutual funds in the last two years – starting with IL&FS fiasco, followed by a host of downgrades and defaults, and more recently the shocking decision of Franklin Templeton Mutual Fund to shut six debt schemes – these conservative investors have either sold their debt mutual fund investments or are perpetually worried about the safety of their debt mutual funds.

Most mutual fund advisors have been asking their hassled clients to stick to overnight funds, liquid funds, corporate bond funds, and banking & PSU funds. If the investors are extremely cautious, these advisors have been asking them to stick to overnight funds and liquid funds.

ETMutualFunds.com has put together a list of 35 debt mutual funds, spanning across different categories, to help investors looking around for safe funds. How are these funds safe? They have very high credit quality. According to Morningstar, these schemes have been investing around 98% of their portfolio in the highest-rated or AAA-rated instruments for the last two years. Simply put, the have investments only highest-rated securities.

Does that solve your problem?

According to mutual fund advisors, most mutual funds have turned cautious and started investing very carefully after the Franklin fiasco. On April 23, Franklin Templeton Mutual Fund announced its decision to shut six debt mutual fund schemes, citing adverse conditions in the bond market due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The decision has unnerved debt mutual fund investors, most of whom have a conservative risk profile. It also put many investors, who have parked the money for a short duration, in a fix.

Debt mutual fund space has been facing rough weather since 2018, when IL&FS papers were downgraded. It was followed by a series of downgrades and likely or real defaults involving a host of firms like DHFL, Essel Group, Yes Bank and Vodafone, among others.

“We have been asking investors to stick to schemes which are AAA-heavy in their portfolios. There are some really big safety levels with such schemes. In a falling rate scenario, the schemes with AAA rated bonds will go up more than the AA or A rated ones. Secondly, in a situation like today, AAA is a highly liquid security. These companies are big and can manage redemption well,” says Chokkalingam Palaniappan, founder, Prakala Wealth Management, based in Chennai.

He says this is exactly what went against Franklin Templeton Mutual Fund. Faced with redemption pressure and bad market conditions, the Franklin schemes didn’t have many AAA rated securities that could be sold in the market. Indian bond markets lack depth and it is a task to find takers for low-rated papers even in a good market.

“In the long-term, even AA rated companies would give good returns, but the idea of a debt mutual fund is that you can redeem anytime. If that is what you prioritise, go for schemes that are AAA-heavy,” says Chokkalingam Palaniappan, founder, Prakala Wealth Management, based in Chennai.

Scheme name Inception date Category
Axis Banking & PSU Debt Gr 08-06-2012 Banking & PSU
DSP Bank & PSU Debt Reg Gr 14-09-2013 Banking & PSU
Invesco India Bank & PSU Debt Gr 29-12-2012 Banking & PSU
Sundaram Banking & PSU Debt Gr 30-12-2004 Banking & PSU
IDFC Corporate Bond Reg Gr 12-01-2016 Corporate Bond
Invesco India Corporate Bond B Gr 02-08-2007 Corporate Bond
Sundaram Corp Bond Gr 30-12-2004 Corporate Bond
HSBC Flexi Debt Gr 05-10-2007 Dynamic Bond
IDFC Dynamic Bond Reg Gr 03-12-2008 Dynamic Bond
Mirae Asset Dynamic Bond Reg Gr 24-03-2017 Dynamic Bond
Nippon India Dynamic Bond Gr 15-11-2004 Dynamic Bond
Quantum Dynamic Bond Reg Gr 19-05-2015 Dynamic Bond
SBI Dynamic Bond Reg Gr 09-02-2004 Dynamic Bond
IDFC Bond M/T Reg Gr 08-07-2003 Medium Duration
HSBC Debt Growth 10-12-2002 Medium to Long Duration
IDFC Bond Inc Gr 16-07-2010 Medium to Long Duration
Nippon India Income Gr 01-01-1998 Medium to Long Duration
Aditya BSL Money Mgr Reg Gr 13-10-2005 Money Market
Franklin India Savings Gr 11-02-2002 Money Market
HDFC Money Market Gr 18-11-1999 Money Market
ICICI Pru Money Market Reg Gr 09-03-2006 Money Market
Invesco India Money Market Gr 28-08-2009 Money Market
Kotak Money Market Reg Gr 14-07-2003 Money Market
Nippon India Money Market Gr 16-06-2005 Money Market
Tata Money Market Reg Gr 22-05-2003 Money Market
UTI Money Market Reg Gr 13-07-2009 Money Market
IDFC Bond S/T Reg Gr 14-12-2000 Short Duration
Canara Robeco Ultra S/T Reg Gr 14-07-2008 Ultra Short Duration
Essel Ultra Short Term Reg Gr 19-02-2010 Ultra Short Duration
L&T Ultra Short Term Reg Cum 19-01-1998 Ultra Short Duration
ICICI Pru Corporate Bond Gr 11-08-2009 Corporate Bond
Kotak Bond S/T Reg Gr 02-05-2002 Short Duration
L&T Money Market Gr 10-08-2005 Money Market Fund
SBI Savings Reg Gr 19-07-2004 Money Market Fund

Source: Morningstar

A word of caution, there is no guarantee that a security would remain AAA forever. A company can get hit in adverse market conditions and the ratings of its debt instruments can be downgraded. However, you cannot do anything about it. All you can do is to stick to safe schemes or schemes with most investments in highest-rated instruments.

“Having 98% AAA securities minimises the credit risk, but it doesn’t make the schemes totally safe. For example, the list had dynamic bond funds which might take duration risk. Also, there are two levels of AAA. The higher level of AAA is safer than the lower. However, if a scheme has above 90% exposure to only AAAs, it makes the scheme relatively more liquid and elevate the credit risk to a large extent,” says Himanshu Srivastava, Associate Director – Manager Research, Morningstar India.

Please note, we have excluded liquid funds, overnight funds and government bond funds categories from the list as they generally have a good quality portfolio, We have considered the average credit quality of AAA above 98% for 2 years. Only those schemes which have been around for more than 2 years have made it to the list.

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