Practical Implications of Asset Allocation

Asset allocation, despite its importance in portfolio management, is perhaps the last thing on the mind of the novice investor. Before regaling the virtues of asset allocation, a layman’s definition of asset allocation is perhaps warranted, so here goes: asset allocation is a process by which an investor aims to enhance the risk-reward ratio of a portfolio of risky assets. It is important to stress upon two things here: (1) asset allocation is not a one-time exercise, it is an ongoing process; and (2) the use of multiple asset classes to convert a portfolio of risky assets into a benign money-making machine.

Equipped with a basic understanding of the theory behind asset allocation what is stopping the novice investor from going ahead and enhancing portfolio returns? The reason is that the effect of asset of allocation rests largely on finding asset classes whose returns are uncorrelated with one another – the lower the correlation, the better. For instance, it is popular belief that gold is a hedge against inflation i.e. gold prices and inflation rates move in tandem. Therefore, what one loses in purchasing power is compensated by an increase in gold prices. This, however, is a long term phenomenon i.e. one may witness large deviations in the short term.

The key to benefiting from asset allocation, therefore, is to periodically tweak the portfolio for changes in correlations between asset classes and include new ones with the overall objective of enhancing the risk-reward ratio of a given portfolio. Although this may seem like too onerous a task, the novice investor need not worry. A certain level of diversification via asset allocation can be achieved by following the below steps:

  1. Ascertain whether you have surplus money to invest – a simple equation of income less expenses. The figure you ascertain will comprise your overall pie available for asset allocation.
  2. Understand your needs as defined by three key parameters viz. risk appetite, return requirements and time constraints. Your needs are a function of your age, marital status, number of dependants etc.
  3. Identify avenues to invest in the broadest categories of asset classes viz. equity, debt, commodities, real estate and alternative asset classes.
  4. Steps 2 and 3 will require a bit of periodic back and forth because the asset class(es) you choose will depend on your needs. E.g. someone with a higher risk appetite may have a higher percentage of equities in the pie than someone with a lower risk appetite. The latter investor may lean towards debt investments.

In summary, the age-old adage of not putting all of one’s eggs in one’s basket applies here. A systematic approach to asset allocation with disciplined and timely execution can ensure that investors, novice and otherwise, hold well-constructed portfolios and therefore benefit from asset allocation.

Vinay Basavaraj

Vinay boasts of a decade of experience working in both large and small organizations. His roles have ranged from sales to operations and even a stint in academia. He currently manages affairs in capital markets in Capital Float.

More Related Posts

Card image cap
We want to be in 100 cities in the next 12 to 18 months: Gaurav Hinduja & Sashank Rishyasringa – Business Standard

Written by Alnoor Peermohamed

Bengaluru-based startup Capital Float, which lends to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), plans to grow its presence from 40 cities to a 100 cities in the next 12 to 18 months. While sellers on e-commerce platforms make up a large chunk of whom the company lends to, it says it will focus more on tier 2 and tier 3 businesses, which might be solely offline but have the potential to grow massively. Gaurav Hinduja and Sashank Rishyasringa, founders of Capital Floatalk to Alnoor Peermohamed in the company’s plans. Edited excerpts:

The e-commerce segment is fairly new and there’s bound to be volatility. How do you think that might impact your business?

Hinduja: E-commerce merchants are the core to what we do and it’s an important vertical, but we’ve also diversified outside.

We do loans to a lot traditional SMEs — brick and mortar, manufacturing and service type of organisations because that segment is 30-40 million, whereas e-commerce is 100-200 thousand. I think almost all sellers sell on all marketplaces. And when we underwrite the business, we look at a combination of things. Sales across marketplaces, and how does that look across his offline sales as well, because a lot of sell offline. We look at a holistic view of the business before we actually decide to give the person a loan.

Data on sellers is harder to come by in the offline world. How are you tackling that?

Rishyasringa: You’ll be surprised as to how much data is available on any business in India and that’s very much a big part of the IP we’ve built since the early days. I think what we’ve been able to do is build a lot of pipes for data sources such as Aadhaar, NSDL, and a whole host of other government and legal databases.

The borrower is also able to give us access to a lot of data that we can then use in deciding what terms and what kind of loan to give them. For example, social media is a very interesting input that we consider in our underwriting model.

On the online piece, yes there is some additional data which helps with the speed of lending. So today we give real time approvals to e-commerce sellers in 10 to 15 minutes.

What is your primary source of raising capital?

Hinduja: Like most financial institutions we obviously raise equity right, and we have raised a little over Rs 100 crore from some of the best VCs, but also we have raised debt.

What are your sort of default rates? How are you working to keep them low?

Hinduja: Ironically, a lot of the bank’s defaulters are not coming from the SME sector. They’re actually coming from large borrowers. A lot of what we do is the underwriting, through different data, and we do that to keep our credit costs, which are defaults, et cetera, really low.

Today they are very low, I’d say 80-90 per cent better than any NBFC that lends to SMEs out there. That said, it is still early days. This is a lending business at the end of the day, there are going to be defaults.

What do you think will happen when guys like Alibaba increase their focus in India? Where do you fit in?

Rishyasringa: B2B e-commerce has the potential to be far larger than B2C e-commerce in India. And we think what Alibaba has been able to achieve in China and in India with its SME base for exporters and importers is tremendous.

We are partners with Alibaba. You can infer from that, that we’re already active in the space and its part of our strategy.

How is this partnership going to work?

Hinduja: They’re going to look at us to help get more SMEs to become active Alibaba users. But at the same time a lot of their SME merchant base will require financing, whether it’s for domestic transactions, or cross border transactions. They will look at a financer that really has the speed and the agility to meet the SMEs requirements in that sense.

What are your growth plans?

Hinduja: We want to be in 100 cities in the next 12 to 18 months and obviously a lot of that growth is going to come from tier 2 and tier 3 towns. Because banks really don’t have a presence there.

While people and SMEs in the top 8-10 cities can still access a bank branch, bank branch penetration in those tier 2 tier 3 towns is almost negligible. I think that’s where we’ll see a lot of growth and through the make in India and e-commerce stuff you’ll see a lot of business growth in those cities as well.

What sort of regulatory hurdles do you see yourselves having to cross?

Rishyasringa: Actually in the financial services space I think we’ve got a very proactive regulator and what you’re seeing in these payment banks, small finance banks, e-KYC, I think these are all steps in the right direction and we obviously hope that we continue to see these steps.

News piece sourced from Business Standard. Read the full piece here.

Oct 24, 2018

Card image cap
Can Fintech companies partner with Traditional Banks?

India’s growth as an economic power in Asia has been consistent in the past one decade. In addition to the contribution of larger corporations and the multinational companies that have forayed here, this economic growth is significantly supported by the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) – a highly resilient and innovative sector that employees more than half of the Indian population.

The SME sector of India holds a huge potential for growth. However, the only challenge that could thwart their evolution is the lack of timely and adequate capital. A majority of the organisations in this sector operate as small entities that may lack the detailed documents or collateral required to procure loans from banks. Some of them are simply reluctant to offer their financial assets as security for the fear of losing them.

Given this lack of funds, small businesses face problems in meeting their operating expenses and are constrained from expanding their operations. Other problems include making payments on debt (owed to any other source of finance) and buying supplies to fulfil their contracts.

Financial Challagenes Faced by SMEs

A solution against such inadequacies has emerged in the form of FinTech companies that focus on financing small and medium enterprises.

The FinTech revolution has been facilitated by digital technology wherein funds are instantly provided to eligible SMEs after the evaluation of certain documents submitted online by them. As a pioneer in Fintech lending, Capital Float has a 10-minute online application processing system, followed by a three-day disbursal TAT.

The ease of borrowing from online lenders has also raised a question – are these companies a threat to the conventional lending setup established by banks?

Contrary to what is usually perceived, FinTech companies have proved to be active partners for banks and are helping them disburse more loans. They have assisted banks in identifying good customers faster and in disbursing quick credit.

Thanks to the robust growth of the economy in the last few years and the positive outlook for the manufacturing and services sectors, there is sufficient room for growth for both traditional and new age lending institutions.

Although their functioning may differ, lending decisions for both have to be guided by a good knowledge of the customer’s ability to repay the loan. Banks typically lend to individuals or businesses that have high regular income and/or the willingness to offer collateral as security. The collateral must be a financial asset that can be liquidated in case the borrower is unable to pay back. Banks refer to income tax returns, credit bureau scores and operational history of the concerned applicant.

In comparison, and driven by their intent to know their customers better, peer-to-peer lending companies employ non-conventional data sources for underwriting loans to individuals. As these companies are in the private sector, they are not fraught by a levy of formal regulations in evaluating clients for funds. They use multiple data points, including information extracted from new age technology such as big data analytics, to assess creditworthiness. In addition, they offer unsecured loans that do not require applicants to pledge any of their assets. These companies use a streamlined underwriting process along with risk management. Their work is characterised by extensive use of sophisticated technology and lower operating costs.

As the business of FinTech lending grows, banks also acknowledge that their customers today are technology savvy, and they are looking at ways where collaborations with online lenders can help them serve their own customers better. Because of their success in the credit market, FinTech companies have proved that this can be done without operational or regulatory risk to the lender.

Since 2015, the digital lending industry has undergone significant changes, and chief among these is the shift towards a cashless system. The promotion of cashless technologies – digital wallets, Internet banking and mobile-based point of sale – has reshaped the financial sector. Later, demonetisation became a major factor that popularized the concept of online lending.

As a positive development, banks are now looking at online lenders as partners instead of as competitors in the market. Some banks have made arrangements where they, in return for a small fee, refer customers to p2p lending platforms that provide unsecured loans that not offered by banks. Through such a program, they facilitate loans for businesses that deserve to get funds but cannot procure them from banks due to long-established, inflexible rules.

Some banks are part of programs that let them use a FinTech organisation’s technology to provide small business loans. These loans are retained on the bank’s own books, but the FinTech company’s platform is used to approve and service them. The banks see this as an opportunity to offer a product they generally do not have on their portfolio but (by seeking the support of a peer-to-peer lender), it helps them retain precious client relationships.

Banks have large balance sheets that they can use to provide loans and cater to promising start-ups and SMEs with a consistent growth rate. However, their conventional underwriting practices have deterred them from promoting some SME segments. Conversely, the government has now highlighted SME as a priority sector in the economic development of India. Therefore, the banks have to meet their new business lending targets without incurring huge costs.

The credit gap in the market can be closed with a fruitful relationship between banks and peer-to-peer lending companies. Capital Float has custom-made loan products and fine-tuned technology to help banks achieve their goals. It can help them reach out to businesses in need, and banks can then use their financial strength to service them.

New age financial technology has transformed the way consumers, and businesses, borrow and spend money. The aim of FinTech lending is to enhance the convenience of financial services and bridge the gap between demand and supply of small business loans. To help their customers, banks can effectively work alongside peer-to-peer lenders instead of competing with them.

Oct 24, 2018

Card image cap
Impact on Retailers in India after 2018 Union Budget

The Union Budget for FY18-19 was much anticipated, owing to reasons more than one. The first full-fledged financial plan after the introduction of GST and the last one by the Narendra Modi-led government, the most significant event of the Indian financial year is over. With the national polls looming in, the Union Budget rolled out by finance minister Arun Jaitely was favourable towards agriculture, rural development, social infrastructure and digital transformation. However, international mobile phone companies, bond investors, equity servicing institutions and the defence sector are at the not-so-advantageous end of the spectrum. In general, this year’s Union Budget has been a shift from the typical stance of the government that all segments need equal attention.

An industry segment that sees clear growth opportunities is retail. Amidst public opinion that the budget had not mentioned the retail segment, the various provisions have subtle repercussions that will help widen the scope of consumption. Consequently, this will have a long-term impact on retailers, where they can reap benefits from consumers with a higher expendable income.

Here are the key provisions of the Union Budget for FY 18-19 that have relevant implications for retailers.

  • Reduction in Corporate Tax
    With regards to taxation, the budget has declared a reduction in corporate tax to 25% for companies with an annual turnover of up to Rs 250 crore. This accounts for almost 99% of the companies in India and would have an impact of Rs 7000 crore on government finances. As only 250 companies have a turnover above the threshold value, this is a significant reduction in terms of the business turnover cutoff of Rs 50 crore that had been announced in last year’s budget for the same tax bracket.
    This move has resulted in a decrease in the tax burden for small and medium businesses, who can now use these additional funds to purchase inventory or machinery, expand their premises, hire new employees or for marketing activities. In case it does not cover your entire expenses, retailers can also avail easy business finance from digitally-enabled FinTech lenders who provide customized credit products like Merchant Cash Advance.
  • Increased Investments in Digital India
    Lack of investment in digital infrastructure by the government has always been a pain point that has deterred the productivity and development of startups and small businesses. This is especially true for the e-commerce sector, as rural India is the driving force behind its growth. This year alone, e-tailers recorded a three-fold increase in the number of shoppers in small towns compared to metro cities.
    Under the massive Rs 3,073 crore Digital India Program, over 5 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots will be set up to provide broadband access to 20 crore rural citizens in over 2,50,000 villages. This opens up an avenue for individuals in rural India to harness the Internet for trade, banking, logistics and even to avail formal finance from digital lenders. E-commerce retailers can use this opportunity to its fullest, as 55% of the 185 million active consumers are predicted to be from rural India by 2020.
  • Changes in Personal Taxation
    A welcome move for the salaried middle class, this budget proposed a standard deduction of Rs 40,000 for transport allowance and medical reimbursement. While this may seem irrelevant to retailers, the impact of this allowance does indeed affect them. As personal income increases, so does the disposable component. Consumer behavioral studies ascertain that the disposable income is equitable to spends on retail. Thus, the re-introduction of medical and travel benefits is a favourable budget impact on retailers.
  • Refinancing for MSMEs
    The micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector plays a major role as India progresses towards becoming one of the biggest economies in the world. Despite contributing a staggering 15% to the country’s GDP with a high market share of 40% towards employment, these businesses have an unmet credit demand of $ 400 billion.
    Acknowledging the fact, the budget declared an allocation of Rs 3794 crore to the MSME sector for credit support, capital and interest subsidy on innovation. With this reform in play, the refinancing policy and eligibility criteria under Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) program will be reviewed to encourage easier financing of MSMEs by NBFCs. This impact of the budget on retailers opens plenty of avenues avail formal source of finance in a timely manner.
    A unique Aadhaar-like identity for each enterprise will also be implemented for streamlining business identity. This measure can further enable Fintech lenders like Capital Float to process eKYC of enterprises swiftly and offer working capital finance in a matter of seconds.

Oct 24, 2018