Fixed Maturity Plans /FMPS are also known as ‘Fixed Term Plans‘. These are ‘Close Ended Schemes’ floated by various Mutual Funds. The maturity period ranges from 1 month to three/five years. The tenure is fixed. Even though, almost all the FMPs are predominantly debt oriented, some of them may have small equity component. The objective behind this is to protect the investor’s investments from market fluctuations and to ensure the guaranteed returns over a predetermined fixed tenure /maturity period.

How Do The Fund Managers Manage The FMPs

Fixed Maturity Plans are passively managed by the Fund Managers in the favor of investors to generate a fixed income over the fixed investment tenure. Fund Managers lock the investments in the debt securities, whose maturity period coincides with the maturity period of the plan.

As said before, FMPS are the closed ended debt mutual fund schemes with fixed tenure. So, these closed end schemes typically invest the major portion of about 80% in risk free debt instruments like AAA rated bonds, and the remaining 20% is routed towards the riskier avenues like equity.

It is the very structure of FMPs, that ensures the protection of capital as well as the expected return. By the end the stipulated period, the debt portion of the total investment grows to give back the principal along with its interest return. The return on the equity portion is related to the existed market situation. And the return fluctuates as per the fluctuations in the market. In the up market condition the return is good and the equity portion brings the potential upside. Similarly unfortunate market crashes may bring back the minimum, but the corresponding unfortunate loss.

Where Do The FMPs Make Their Investments

The debt portion of FMPs usually invests in commercial papers (CPs), money market instruments, certificate of deposits (CDs), corporate bonds and sometimes even in bank fixed deposits. Depending on the tenure of the FMP, the fund manager invests in a combination of the above mentioned instruments of similar maturity. Say, if the tenure of the FMP is about a year, then the fund manager invests in paper maturing in one year. The expense ratio, usually varies from 0.25 to 1 per cent.

Why FMPs Are Not ‘Guaranteed Return Schemes’

It’s true that FMPs offer many advantages over other fixed income products. But, at the same time, there are several risk factors that need to be concerned. These risk factors, sometimes may adversely affect the returns. That’s why FMPs are ‘Not Guaranteed Return Schemes’. In other words, the returns that the plan promises at the time of investment is only indicative.

To get back the indicative returns, we need to avoid those risk factors anyhow. Few risk factors that we need to be concerned are mentioned below.

Default Risk

Bank Certificates Of Deposits are the safest debt instruments with zero default risk. Whereas Commercial Papers offer higher interest rates with more risk. So, indicative portfolios with the major portion 0f corpus in less /zero risk instruments like Bank CDs is best to choose to avoid the default risk. If, one has the capacity to bear the default risk, then indicative portfolios with predominantly invested in Commercial Papers are best to invest. One can expect more returns.

Credit Risk

You should also check the scheme’s offer document for the minimum credit rating of the securities the fund intends to invest into. The investors should also note that the higher the credit ratings of their securities, the lower the returns would be for the FMPs and vise versa. However lower credit rating securities have higher credit risks; hence investor should keep in mind the same.

Expense Ratio

The higher the expense ratio the lesser are the returns. The high costs will eat up the total returns, reducing the overall return benefit.

So, FMPs with lower expense ratios are preferable over the FMPs with higher expense ratios.

Growth Or Dividend Option

There are two options to choose between while investing in FMPs. They are the growth and dividend options. Investment tenure is the main criteria to choose between these two options.

Growth option is good for long-term investment, that’s most probably more than a year. Because, the capital gains taxed @SST, if the tenure is under 1 year. For more than 1 year tenure period, the investor can be benefited from the long-term capital gains tax rate. Which is @10% without Indexation benefit, and @20% with Indexation benefits.

Dividend option is best for, under one year investment tenure. Under this option returns are in the form of dividends. These dividends are charged by the dividend distribution tax, which is @12. 5% for retail investors.  This, along with education cess and applicable surcharges are paid by the fund. And are tax-free in the hands of individual investors.

Maturity Of  The Scheme And Indexation Benefit

Some of the FMPs launched between January and March every year, offer double-indexation benefit. As the scheme is purchased in one financial year and the matured after two financial years, these schemes are benefited by the double indexation.

Under double indexation, the overall tax liability gets reduced, as the long-term capital gains are adjusted for inflation. That means, for two years the capital gains are adjusted @rate inflation and only the pure capital gains are taxed. Thus, the overall tax liability is reduced.

For example, a scheme is launched in March 2011 i.e. FY10-11, it will mature in April 2013 i.e. FY12-13. While the investment is made in FY10-11, the redemption takes place in FY12-13. Thus, by investing in FMPs with the maturity of a little over a year, the purchase and sale years are spread over two financial years, called double indexation, which effectively reduces one’s tax liability.


Hameeda Ghori

Certified Financial Planner And Stock Analyst

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