Sucheta Dalal :Fidelity woos smaller intermediaries to expand operations
Sucheta Dalal

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Fidelity woos smaller intermediaries to expand operations  

April 14, 2010

Fidelity Fund Management Private Ltd, the US fund management major which launched its India operations in 2005, was so far following a pan-India distribution model by selling mutual funds through national distributors like banks. It is now trying to woo smaller intermediaries to expand its distribution network and to garner a larger pie of assets under management (AUM).

Earlier, Fidelity was only empanelling national distributors who could funnel Rs100 crore of AUM. A fund house may follow an ‘aggregation model’ wherein it ties up with national distributors who have a large distribution network of their own. This is a more cost-effective model for asset management companies (AMCs), wherein they don’t have to spend on resources like commercial office space, employees, etc. The AMC may cough up a higher commission to the national distributors for their services.

“As an advisor we are supposed to sell all mutual funds which are doing well for our customers. It’s a major business issue for us. We approached Fidelity for an agency several times, but it said that it would not empanel IFAs (independent financial analysts),” said Ramesh Bhatt, a Chennai-based IFA.

“This might be the case because Fidelity doesn’t want to operate with so many distributors across the country. In the UK, an intermediary needs to make a declaration every six months. An intermediary himself needs to follow all those rules. In India if you have an ARN number then you can get empanelled with any AMC,” said a top official from a leading fund house.

According to AMFI (Association of Mutual Funds in India) data, Fidelity had an average AUM of Rs7,683.90 crore as on March 2010, compared to Rs6,172.90 crore for the corresponding month last year. “Earlier I was told that they would not empanel me. I had to contact officials in Delhi. They gave me a special approval,” said Vivek Rege, MD, VR Wealthy Advisors Pvt Ltd.

Why has the company now decided to change its strategy? “They spent crores on advertising and brand building and now they find it difficult to get retail business. Brand recall does not guarantee business from customers,” said a Mumbai-based IFA, preferring anonymity.

According to sources, Suraj Kaeley, director (sales & business development) of Fidelity is trying to expand the company’s India network. Mr Kaeley, was earlier associated with Franklin Templeton Investments and Metlife India Insurance Company Ltd.

Earlier, small intermediaries who were not empanelled with Fidelity were routing their products through other large brokers. According to sources, Fidelity now carries out a stringent check on the intermediary’s bank details & creditworthiness, and investigates involvement in any litigation before empanelment.

Today, a spokesperson from Fidelity told Moneylife: "As part of Fidelity's plans to build a long-term business here, broad-basing our distribution capability has always been a key element. To that end, we have been expanding our distribution footprint by regularly empanelling distributors over the last five years since we started business and continue to do so."
Ravi Samalad


-- Sucheta Dalal