Mutual Fund

ICICI Prudential Nasdaq 100 Index Fund: What you should know!

Recently, ICICI Prudential has come up with the NFO for their new Index fund mimicking the US based Nasdaq composite Index. The media has been buzzing and the number of articles about why you should invest in the fund are available in abundance. This is probably the 3rd or 4th fund which enables the Indian investor to take exposure to Nasdaq Index [Other options are via Motilal Oswal & Kotak AMCs]. To save time of mine as well as yours, I’m not going to talk about what this fund is all about & it’s benefits. You can refer to the literature produced by the AMC in their presentation[Link]. We will try to discuss few specific points, that should enable you to decide, if you should add this fund in your portfolio or not. The fund is quite attractive from the perspective of potential ownership of the Big Tech names and next gen Innovative companies. Though as usual, I can not predict the future but I can look for the longer historical track record to make some reasonable expectations. We will try to look through the lenses of Risk & Return and it’s benefit to overall portfolio.

Caveats: Before we jump into the detailed numbers/ charts, Let’s understand that data I used is from the google finance for Nifty 50 Index, Nasdaq 100 index and Currency values. As the market operations differ in both countries, I tried to take the base as Nifty 50 & everything is calculated in the INR terms. The dividends are not included as it’s not the TRI data.

Let’s talk about returns first, I would use the rolling returns data and not the point to point returns as most of the articles and presentations are sharing. I am also going to look thorough the returns for a longer time horizon, Since Jan 2000 to Today a good 20+ years of history. One thing that flags from that analysis is that the last decade has been dominated by Nasdaq vs Nifty 50, though 2000-2010 has Nifty as a winner. Both these returns are in INR terms and do not include impact of Dividends. Overall If we take the Geometric mean of all the 1year rolling returns, Nifty takes the lead with 11% vs 8.6% of Nasdaq. Therefore, If the recent outperformance of Nasdaq is luring you to this fund beware of the lure. Please note that this is based on historic data so we do not know if this would hold true for Future or not.

In terms of risk, The returns of Nifty as well as Nasdaq has been quite volatile. Nifty returns have ranged between +99.4% to -55.5% vs the Nasdaq returns range of +95.5% to -64.3%. In terms of Max drawdown during the analyze period, Nifty had the worst drawdown of -59.4% vs -75.5% for the Nasdaq. Yes, That’s correct the Nasdaq had lost 3/4th of It’s value during the Tech bubble burst in 2000-01 period. In terms of Standard deviation, Nasdaq is slightly better off with 21.9% vs 25.6% of Nifty. Based on these data points, Nasdaq is less volatile but has higher drawdowns & swings to negative.

This does not make a great case for investment in Nasdaq 100 index as the mean returns are lower and risk parameters are comparable if not worse. Though we should not stop here on our decision, As I flagged in my article on Modern Portfolio Theory even if the standalone assets are risky the combination might have the diversification benefits. For e.g. I made the case to have gold in your portfolio for diversification benefit. In 2020, when markets had large drawdowns the rally in gold has cushioned my portfolio a lot and gave me confidence to deploy more money in equities at that opportune time.

Risk (Std Dev) on x-axis & Returns (Mean of RR) on y-axis

I am in awe of the above chart as it’s shape matches with the efficient frontier we have learnt during academic years. replicating something similar with real data & example is a great experience 🙂.

In the above chart, I have plotted 11 portfolio combinations, P1 is 100% Nifty to P11 is 100% Nasdaq. As you move across the Portfolios, you would notice that we would keep on reducing the volatility with increasing mix to Nasdaq and sacrifice some returns in process. This characteristic appears due to lower correlation (approx. 0.5) between these indexes rolling returns over the analyzed period. P4 (70% Nifty : 30% Nasdaq) has a similar volatility to Nasdaq index but adds +180bps on the returns, This means the investors should have higher exposure to Nifty to get a better risk adjusted returns. In real life, the correlations are not constant but dynamic and the realized benefit might be lower than expected as per the above chart.

Based on the above data points, I would say that Nasdaq is a risky proposition as an individual investment with higher drawdowns & lower mean returns for Indian retail investors like me & you . It definitely provides the diversification benefits but that would need an exposure of 20%+, If you plan to invest couple of % points or say 5-10% then you can give it a skip. We might be better off with taking global diversification using other options like S&P 500 or Developed world Index funds, though I have not analyzed so not recommending that yet.

Don’t jump on all the NFOs hitting the market, Follow the broad thoughtful portfolio which needs less changes to be a successful investor over a long term. Happy Investing!

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Investment Objectives & Advice

Nifty, Sensex at all time high – Part II! What should you do?

The thoughts of others were light and fleeting, of lover’s meeting or luck or fame. Mine were of trouble and mine were steady, so I was ready when trouble came.”

– A. E. Housman

Last year in December 2020 about Nifty hitting all time high, since then we have seen ~200 days of trading and in more than 60 occasions Nifty have been hitting a new high. If I was asked to write about the same topic and advise on action to be taken for your portfolio each time, I would be required to write every-week and probably twice in certain weeks. Thankfully, I have no such obligations. Though in 10 months old blog, I tried to leave you with the message that To protect your downside, you need to let go some upsideas well as To win the race, you need to run/ participate.

Imagine, if you have completely moved out of the equity market and invested in debt funds at that time. In last 10 months equity have returned ~35%, while debt investments would have accrued <5% in the same period, the difference is of 7x. In other words you would need to wait for at least 6 more years to match the portfolio value you could have achieved in equity portfolio already. Now, Obviously it is easy for me to point this out in hindsight but in no way I could have predicted the same 10 months back.

If we can not predict the future accurately, what should we be doing? As John C. Bogle said in his April 2000 speech that “When reward is at its pinnacle, risk is near at hand“. If I use that as a guideline, The recent rally should prompt us for prudent risk management. Since the number of successful rides on motor bike should not determine the need of helmet because it might take just one accident to change the life of yours and your family forever. Similarly in portfolio management, returns should not be the only factor in designing your portfolio. Alas! 99% of the general investors follow return based approach. I rarely find people being aware of the risk measurements of their portfolio. People are aware that equity is risky, debt is safe in general but I am yet to find the person with answer for “How risky is their portfolio?“. There are various ways of measuring the risk, we can always debate about the limitations of each method, though volatility (standard deviation) and max draw down continues to be the relevant and efficient way to manage risk of the portfolio.

Volatility is the measure of the dispersion of your returns, higher volatility would mean that the returns can swing a lot in either directions. In our Indian Mutual Fund landscape, Overnight funds have the volatility of ~0.2% and typically termed as least risky while the Equity small caps have the volatility ~20%+. The decision of having certain volatility in your portfolio should be based on factors like time horizon for your investments, your saving capacity and your own risk profile. I personally put myself in risk averse category so I hate having volatility of >4% in my portfolio. Before you go for the tune “high risk means high returns & low risks mean low returns”, let me flag that even with <4% volatility my portfolio has been clocking double digit returns for more than a decade. Similarly, the portfolio of my parents in retirement has <2% volatility and clocking 8.5%+ returns in current low return environment for last 5years. Therefore, be mindful of the volatility in your portfolio and ask if that is justified.

{The volatility would keep on changing as per various market conditions for different time frames and There could be high volatility clusters during any large risk off events.}

Max Draw Down measures the maximum observed loss from the peak portfolio value. Higher max draw down values mean the potential loss based on historic trend. In our Indian Mutual Fund landscape, Overnight funds have shorter history with negligible drawdowns of ~0% and Equity smallcap funds have witnessed the draw downs of 60% or more. Though the %draw down factor is less relevant to manage the risk, I personally use the term I call as drawdown delay.

Drawdown delay = Portfolio Value x Historical Draw down estimate / Monthly saving rate

for e.g. If the portfolio size is INR 6mm built by monthly savings of 20k and historical max draw down comes to be 20%, then the Drawdown delay would be 60 months as below. This basically means you have lost your 5 years worth of savings in this scenario.

(6,000,000 x 20%) / 20,000 = 60 months or 5 years

Typically when you start savings, you would have the lower drawdown delay as your savings/ principal would be small in your 1st phase of wealth cycle. As you progress in your investment journey, your monthly savings would be a smaller part of the growth in your overall portfolio and the drawdown delays would range in years. Specially people in retirement would have almost zero new savings, therefore they are advised to keep most investments in the least risky options while managing for longevity risk. In Mar 2020, during the market corrections the max drawdown for the Nifty 50 was ~38% and it was accompanied by the turbulence in the debt markets. Even in that scenario, the MDD for my parents’ portfolio was <3%. For myself, it is bit higher but still in single digit so that drawdown delay is <1yr in general.

I have not found any tool in my experience to give us these metrics for overall mutual fund portfolio. Those few tools which give the portfolio volatility, does that by providing simple weighted volatility and completely ignores the correlation impact between asset classes. Therefore, I had build it for myself in our favorite tool MS excel which can be tailor made to one’s portfolio. write to us if you are interested to check these parameters for your overall portfolio.

Now, The important part is not to just know these parameters but understand their impact to your portfolio health and align them to your risk profile. In current scenario, if the rise in market gives you the sleepless nights than below are the few remedies to improve the resilience of your portfolio.

  • You can reduce the volatility of portfolio, without reducing the exposure to the broad asset class like debt/ gold/ equity etc. by moving the portfolio from high risk products like Small/ Mid cap to Large or Multi cap scenario. Look for stocks with consistent and stable dividends with low beta
  • You can diversify the portfolio for better geographical diversification, Not all countries market will fail at the same time. In short run they might but money would move from risky locations to safer locations and global diversification would help you protect from the country specific risks
  • Light up the exposure from risky assets, for e.g. move money from pure equity funds to hybrid or Balanced advantage funds or to debt funds

Most of these remedies can be used and are used by investors in general, though problem lies in shooting blindly in hope of hitting the enemy vs making targeted changes. If you can measure the risk, you can also measure the impact of your action on the risk mitigation. let me leave you with the quote arguably attributed to Peter Drucker: “If you can’t measure it, you can not manage it.

Happy Investing!