Illustration by Pratik Bhide for 1 Finance Magazine

In India, financial products aren’t always sold to you in your best interests. Mis-selling is rampant, primarily because these products have heavy commissions attached to them. This is a fact most investors are unaware of, which makes it easy to fall for schemes that may not be suitable. This is especially true for mutual fund schemes, where agents earn a sizeable commission on the total investment value of your fund, over the course of time that you hold the investment for.

While it certainly is fair, and not unusual, to pay a part of your investment as commission, it is easy to lose track of just how significant this chunk is — which is why we built our Commission Analyser.

The Commission Analyser is a tool that is essentially a calculator, but we believe that it is unparalleled — we haven’t yet come across anything that performs the same function. It’s simple to use, and available for all on the 1 Finance website. 

Here’s how it works: We ask you to share some general information about your mutual fund scheme, the type and amount of investment you’ve made, and how long you’ve been invested in the scheme. Based on this, we arrive at the approximate commission component of the value of your mutual fund scheme, till date. The purpose is to help you be more vigilant about how much of your money is actually being invested, and how much goes to intermediaries along the way.

Once you know this, there are two likely outcomes. Either you will be happy with how your mutual fund agent or distributor is aiding your wealth creation, if your schemes consistently meet or exceed the benchmark returns — in which case, you continue as is. Or you may realise that your investment returns don’t justify the commission you’re paying. In that case, you could consider switching to a direct mutual fund scheme, which simply means removing the intermediary from this equation in order to avoid paying commission. In either case, the Commission Analyser makes it easy to regularly review the commission component of your scheme, take actions to rectify the situation (if need be), and seek professional assistance where required.

Of course, in India, commission rates of mutual fund schemes are not unregulated — the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) sets upper limits for these rates, and our calculations at 1 Finance are based on this regulatory framework, as well as the month-end Net Asset Value (or NAV, which reflects the day-to-day performance of a mutual fund) published by the respective mutual fund companies. We’ve covered a very long period — going back over three decades — to monitor the performance of the mutual fund, and considered a vast gamut of schemes (over 8,000).

The reason we believe this tool is of value to the industry at large is because of how hard it can be to find out commission components of mutual funds. Normally, you would only find out roughly how much of the amount you invested has gone to the distributor, fund manager and agent after your investment has already been made. Agents do not typically disclose commission rates up front, and investors tend to think that the commission component is miniscule, neglecting the fact that it compounds over time based on the valuation and growth of the investment. According to data by the Association of Mutual Funds in India, the mutual fund houses in India paid distribution commissions amounting to around ₹10,000 crore in FY 2021–22, which grew close to 40% compared to FY 2020-21; whereas the investors’ Assets Under Management eroded was around ₹1 lakh crore. Sometimes, agents may also offer to rebalance your portfolio by proposing that you switch to certain schemes that earn them a higher commission. So the need to be aware and ask the right questions is crucial.

The commission component of mutual funds has a direct impact on your returns, more so because investors commit to long periods of time with these schemes. While the Commission Analyser does not tell you exactly how much commission you’ve paid on your scheme, it gives you an estimation of this — and so, it’s informative enough to prompt you to consult an expert and make a choice that is in your best interest. We believe that our Commission Analyser is the perfect vehicle for our mission of making the ecosystem of personal finance more transparent, and to make sure that you are satisfied with where you put your money — by giving you better visibility into your path to financial success. We hope you’ll take the time to try it out, and that you find value in it.

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