Most of you who read this column are now investing in the right way, using a systematic investment plan (SIP). But did you know that your dull, boring SIP is the result of more than 10 years of regulatory change? Most of you have also discarded the low-return endowment plans and now purchase a pure term plan to look after your life insurance needs. But did you know that you got to the right solution not because of regulatory change but despite it. I’ve been mapping the Indian personal finance industry for over 15 years and the behaviour of two regulators in industries that both manage household money has been fascinating. We now have the data to show the impact of regulatory change in the mutual fund and the life insurance industries on firms, sellers and households. I will relate the story through four tables.
I cannot forget the conversation with the chief of a newly born asset management company. The year was 2008. The world as the West knew it was collapsing. And this CEO’s US-based parent company, bang in the middle of imploding all across the world, was on life support paid for by the US taxpayers. The CEO, forgetting that we now live in a flat world and that information is no longer the prerogative of the suits, looked me in the eye and said that despite illiterate journalists, he would be able to sell funds in India because of trust. Trust that his company name invoked. While I was still picking up the pieces that fell out laughing, the company quietly went and stood at the bottom of the assets under management line-up. The investors were, and are, not interested in dealing with a company whose parent is so mired in muck.