August 17, 2012

Finally regulations are coming! Now let’s get ready without wasting time…

Sadique Neelgund

SEBI has issued a circular yesterday with respect to measures its taking to revive mutual fund industry and introducing regulations for investment advisors. You must have already gone through it, if not click this link to read.

Here is the gist of what SEBI is trying to say and how we as financial planners should get ready for the new regulatory environment. I would like to thank Lovaii Navlakhi, MD, International Money Matter, Bangalore for offering his insights on the circular.

This move is quite historic, considering that for the first time regulators are legally recognizing a different set of professional who will be called “Investment Advisors”. Although what SEBI is proposing is not upto the expectations of Financial Planners (read our letter to SEBI) , but it is at least showing a clear direction for evolution of professionalism in financial advisory business.

Some of the Highlights & Observations from SEBI’s circular which impacts advisors directly;

  1. Fungibility allowed in total expense ratio (TER) which is good for the AMCs to manage those expenses smartly.
  2. Exit Load to be credited back to the mutual fund scheme which is good for investors.
  3. Service Tax to be charged to the end users i.e. investors, so it will charged to the fund. Fair considering how service taxes are usually charged.
  4. Emphasis and measures to mobilize funds from smaller cities and towns. We will have wait and watch if some real action is going to happen due to these measures.
  5. Many other measures to increase operational efficiency, increase penetration and bring transparency.

Two Most Important Measures

These are going to be the actual game changers. The two most important announcements for financial planners would be;

  1. Introduction of Direct Investor MF class with lower expense ratio which is expected to be around 1% lower than Distributor MF Class. Investors can invest directly to save cost or fee-only planners can recommend these and charge a fee.
  2. Recognition, Registration and Regulation of Investment Advisors. Financial Planners will fall under these regulations. There is more clarification yet to be issued on experience, certifications, networth requirement etc.

So what does this mean to advisory community?

So the distributors will continue to earn a trail commission of around .50% plus on Assets under Management. As per industry feelers AMCs want to cut down on upfront commissions and increase the trail commissions. So the distributor may remain to choose an agent in the new environment. But there is a danger if he or she chooses to do so.

With introduction of “Direct Investor MF Class with Lower Expense Ratio”, the investor sooner or later might switch to MF Class with Lower TER. And how difficult is it to invest in mutual funds online these days and with so many mutual fund scheme suggestions happening in the public domain. And in future there would be much more sophisticated technology and systems to facilitate online investments. And many bloggers and media offering free advice in public domain.

So think twice before deciding to just remain an agent and earn commissions. And anyways being only a commission based distributor raises to many conflicts of interest and recommendations which are not client-centric.

SEBI’s other announcement clearly says that “anyone who is charging a fee for financial advisory will be recognized, will have to register with SRO and it will regulate the investment advisory activities”.

It says the investment advisors will not receive any other remuneration apart from fees from clients. Please note that the introduction of “Direct Investors MF Class” will help you in collecting fees for Assets under Management in MFs. Although not explicitly put up, but it looks like SEBI is okay with IFAs and Institutions operating under 2 entities – one for fee-based advisory and another for commission-based distribution.

There is also a danger to being only an “Investment Advisor” and earning fees because of 2 reasons. Many might wish to be only advisors but might have trail income coming in from existing assets under management from MFs. And second… some of the uninformed investors might still not be open to paying fees, for them it would be better to offer Distributor MF Class and earn through trail commissions.


So the Conclusion based on whatever information is available as of now is follows;

  1. In the long term it is practically difficult to be only “fee-only advisor” or be only “commission –only distributor”. In the presence to decent trail commissions and uninformed investors, it may be advisable to offer both to your clients.
  2. For this advisor/planner will need to have 2 entities to undertake both these roles of “advisory” and “distribution”. And there would be enough solutions to do so in India. So not to worry… but of course the paperwork and compliance are going to take up a lot of time/efforts. The solutions will emerge in the coming days.

Net on net… this is welcome move for those are prepared to offer fee-based financial planning, investment advisory and wealth management services. I re-iterate what I have been telling at various forums, KNOWLEDGE UPGRADATION and TECHNOLOGY ADOPTION are going to hold the key to not only survival but also a thriving professional career! So start getting ready without wasting much time.

Wish you all the best. Feel free to offer comments and your observations on the scenario. I might be wrong in my observations, correct me if so. I am as good or bad as any one of you reading this. Let us come to some common understanding of how things are going to shape up.


Authored by,

Sadique Neelgund

Network FP Knowledge Solutions Pvt ltd

52 Thoughts to “Finally regulations are coming! Now let’s get ready without wasting time…”

  1. "For this advisor/planner will need to have 2 entities to undertake both these roles of “advisory” and “distribution”. And there would be enough solutions to do so in India." 

    Well Said Mr Lovaii. clearly explained in a nutshell. 



    • So Sridevi… what is your firm planning to to in such a scenario? What legal entity will you operate under?

      • We already have two entities. We need to decide how we can operate under this changed scenario. A lot to discuss about the low cost MF and other issues….  Let us wait and see how this situation is throwing some opportunities for all of us.

         But, It is one step move in the path of recognising Financial planners. In my opinion, Financial planners do not have good staff strength. It would be a challenge initially. As always, regulators try to distract us from our main job. Need to think a lot on these lines…


  2. pratikshah121 says:

    Nice article Sir.

    Good initiative by SEBI for Professionals.

  3. Tarun Birani says:

    Thanks Lovai for your quick take on SEBI regulation.My comments

    a)Regarding  below comment of Lovai(see after this para) of your's I am not sure whether IFA's can also have two entities one for distribution and another for Advisory services as SEBI note say only two entities Corporate and Banks can offer both services of distribution and advisory.

    For this advisor/planner will need to have 2 entities to undertake both these roles of “advisory” and “distribution”. And there would be enough solutions to do so in India. So not to worry… but of course the paperwork and compliance are going to take up a lot of time/efforts. The solutions will emerge in the coming days.

    b)Recognizing Investment Advisors profession is the best thing mentioned in this regulation.

    c)Regarding  lower expense ratio I feel it is a welcome move for informed investors as well as investors routing through financial planner in future. I may not be surprised that like the popularity of online term insurance direct MF investment among savvy investor becomes a reality.It again gives financial planner means to show added alpha through lower expenses in long term and justify his fees.It also poses risk for business models focussing on HNI's/corporate advisory services as lower expense will motivate them to move to Direct model.

    • Hi Tarun… very rigthly pointed out. Regarding 2 entities… SEBI is silent on IFAs, so there is clarity to evolve on this. But I feel advisors will find ways to do both under the legal framework.


  4. pratikshah121 says:

    Its better to go for both.

    As of now, Fee based advisory is not much acceptable by Investors.

    so,  distribution will help us to serve client & survive in the industry.

    Once advisory business starts growing, we may shift to it.

    Further, professionals work for Advisory & any family member work for distribution.

    so, create better impression on client.

    Howz my proposal? Reply

    • Sounds good and I guess this is what many advisors and planners will do. Also some of the advisors may come together to form a seperate entity exlcusively for distribution using technology and operational excellence.

  5. pratikshah121 says:

    Hi Tarun,

    What i understand is that Banks/Corporate who already offered this services have to classify them in Advisory & Distribution.

    It is not mentioned anywhere that Individual can't start this service. Only SEBI has bifercated business in two different forms – Advisory & Distribution

    • Yeah looks like. Actually by remaining silent on IFAs, it looks like they are okay with IFAs having 2 entities… its just that they seggregate both the activities which is good for investors.

      • Sukhvinder Sidhu says:

        I think they are moving towards advisor as separate entity, and not OK with IFAs having 2 entities. This is clear from –

        SEBI’s other announcement clearly says that “anyone who is charging a fee for financial advisory will be recognized, will have to register with SRO and it will regulate the investment advisory activities”. It says the investment advisors will not receive any other remuneration apart from fees from clients.

        Previous paper/report by SEBI that came in news spoke of this intention. Now they will see in future how they can go for it practically, as it is not easy to change present set-up altogether.

  6. roongtah says:

    Regulation will be good for all of us in the long term. Off course as Mark Twain famously remarked "in the long term all of us are dead". 🙂 🙂 . But more seriously regulation will initially invariably cause some disruptions but how quickly  its beneficial impact will start showing will depend on how quickly regualtions are adapted for the market by the regulator.

    The lower TER direct investor fund looks very promising and combined with regulator recognition should give a boost to financial planning. Off course this assumes there is no killer provision in the actual regulations.

    Has anybody seen the actual regualtions as yet. could not find it on SEBI's website. Please send a link if you know where it is available

    • Sir… actual regulations are not yet published altough the circular claims they are ready with it. We all waiting. Thanks for your remarks and participation.

    • Suhas Lele says:

      I fully agree with Mr Harsh,

      I remember in the FPA conference 2011 every body was eager to participate in the discussion on the concept paper ,but very few had gone through it.

      here no body has seen actual let the sebi publish them,then the expert from our industry will scrutinise them and then discuss the pros and cons.

  7. Tarun Birani says:

    HI Pratik

        I liked your proposal of having family member in distribution firm and professionals in advisory firm.Again need to go in detail of regulations to take any call on this.But reality is nobody can go for 100% distribution or 100% Advisory option due to nascent Indian market and growth prospect in both the segment.Sadique-you can vet on that.  How many advisors have 100% revenue coming from FP business. For establised professional revenue mix would be 50-50 from both distribution and advisory.



    • People earning purely from fee are very few…maybe in 20-40 types. Just a guess. As of now everyone is dependent on commissions… but there is an effort to shift to pure fee model. But this will happen with further regulations.

  8. Very well explained Mr. Lovaii. Any idea about the clarity on experience, qualifications, certifications & networth requirements to be registered as an Investment Advisors ? I hope it will not be very complex and stringent requirements. Otherwise, it will discourage new CFP's who are serious about making career in this industry. When it is expected to be clarified ? Had SEBI given any time frame ?

    • pratikshah121 says:

      As per Concept Paper of SEBI (IA)Regulations,2012 ,

      The Individuals who wish to get registered under these regulations would need to satisfy
      the following criteria:
      a. Individuals should acquire a Professional Qualification from a recognized institute for
      e.g. Chartered Accountancy form ICAI, MBA in Finance or similar qualification from a
      recognized university or should have at least 10 years of relevant experience; and
      b. Certification from NISM or such other organization approved by SEBI for this

      c. The individuals should conform to the Fit and Proper Criteria s laid down in Schedule
      II of SEBI (Intermediaries) Regulations, 2008.

       Entities who wish to get registered under these regulations would need to satisfy the
      following criteria:
      a. Capital Adequacy Requirement: Entities would need to maintain a minimum net
      worth which would be separate from the net worth required for other activities.
      b. Key personnel: Entities should have at least 2 key personnel having the relevant
      experience exclusively for such activity. Such key personnel should also acquire the
      certification from NISM or such other organization as approved by SEBI for this
      purpose and have minimum qualification as prescribed.
      c. The entity should conform to the Fit and Proper Criteria laid down in Schedule II of
      SEBI (Intermediaries) Regulations, 2008.
      d. The applicant must have adequate infrastructure to enable it to discharge its
      functions as an Investment Advisor.


      This is Just concept paper. Final Clarity will be soon

      • Yeah after the concept paper many people have written to SEBI. There is no clarity as yet… wait and watch over next few days when SEBI will publish the regulations. As of now they claim it is ready.

        CFP also has a chance as one of the qualification as many (including Network FP) have written to SEBI to include it.

  9. AnkurCh says:

    This is may be a good step in recognising the Advisors by SEBI but not much exited about it. Being a Financial planners  we actually should have a combinded regulations from a parent body (regulator of regulator) where it will include, Investment, Insurance, pension etc.

    On operating two entity is again with some scope of having conflict of interest. ABC Advisor will somehow tend to make it thru ABC Distributor. Basically I am a strong believer to be an agent of the client and hence completly into fee only advisory. Thats my USP. To make my job easy I am in tie up with an online plateform who is just like back office to be taking care of paperwork and investments. All my clients are investing thru me but I am fine with scrificing those commissions. 🙂 . Remebering Gaurv Sir's statements "We are scared of loosing clients" 

    Doesn't matter much. Will follow the formalities the way regulators ask us to do. Feeling good, prospects are ready to pay the FP fees. Cheers.

    • Yes Ankur… that is a idealistic scenario… but unlikely to happen for sometime due of complexity involved. Governement has the intention but may not act due to operational issues and conflict of interest within various industry bodies.

      best is as you righly said… accept what is happening and shiftly make changes to respective practices.

    • Sukhvinder Sidhu says:

      @ Ankur, Good to see you as such. I had been feeling lonely in various discussions online around "Advisors". Because I have also started pure fee-only way. I will seek your guidance.

      Although it is wise to adjust with what is happening around, but I feel as CFPs we are morally bound to propagate Fee-only Financial Planning. Our collective practice/approach as such can play its part to bring more of our idealism into reality when our good work will have its impression on public and regulators. We should be ready to sacrifice something as we CFPs are here for a change. Those who want to make Financial Planning a true profession cannot afford to sail in two boats. How can we convince people to pay fee that way. See in the long term, the Regulator is with us in its intent. 

      This is my view, with all respect to my colleagues and experienced seniors.

      • AnkurCh says:

        @Sukhvinder, don't feel lonely. Be happy what you are doing. Today read in news that there are 76% shortage of doctor in villages. Do you think there are any shortage of doctors passing out from institutes. Just think. I think these issues are in most of the profession prevails. This is INDIA. Jai Ho. 🙂

        @Sadique, very true.

  10. Rahul Agrawal says:

    This is certainly a good move which will bring sanity to the way advisory services are offered.

  11. Hi,

    The regulation cannot be so simple that one can have an advisory and distribution business both.It will kill spirit of regulation. If we go through the concept paper then there SEBI talks of advisor and an agent and i guess SEBI will have same thing in detailed draft.My personal view is that you cannot be  apart of an entity whch is in distribution if you are registering as IA.


    And what about legalities an drecord keeping for five year.I am not sure whether it will be going to be easy in our country.Ho wmany planner will eb able to keep recorded conversation,do risk profiling (one will ahve to insur cost in getting a god risk profiler if it is to be done on detail) and above all you will be answerable to every advise you give.For someone new to th ebusiness it will be hell lot of cost and huge responsibility which time will tell.We do not have even a indemnity insurance to insure us.

    When you consider all this then the regulation surely  look tough and SEBI cannot make it so easy.

    Rest will have to wait for detail notes.

    • Yes Jitendra… there are lot of things yet to be clarified. We will have to wait and watch. regarding 2 identities… technical it would be possible but practical maintainence of 2 entities might be a concern.

      • Rahul Agrawal says:

        I guess investment advisory is a serious business and one should comply to all the regulatory norms.  If a shop keeper or any other professional can keep records for years, why a learned IA not able do it. 

        I completely agree with Jitendra, Financial Planner & Investment Advisors should be organised enough to earn legitimate respect in the society.  Mis-selling has already damaged investor's confidence and trust in any advisor.

  12. shilpawagh says:

    Hi, Thanks for an informed article and subsequent thought provoking comments..  It is indeed great to see a clear acceptance of our profession as 'Financial Planner/Advisors' getting created.

    Hope to get some positive direction in accepting CFP as a valid professional qualification  for Advisors.

  13. I am Doing both, as per my firm I am always charging one time fees or 2% of Equity AUM.

  14. I run my firm with help from a CFP who regularly helps me. I am not a CFP. But doing practice of financial planning and regularly write on my blog for my clients.

  15. Vivek Rege says:

    I second what Lovaii Says , these regulations will be a change which i see as beginning of a golden era and we are not saying this is going to be a cake walk and it holds for me as well , but those who do it will certainly have the cake for years to come , so lets open up our mind , bring innovation to the table , there is no dearth of that in India , we need to be ahead of the regulations in what we do in the sense of being doing more than expected by the regulator in the right spirit and direction , and what we are seeing is nothing new and expected logically looking at how the entire space is moving  unregulated .Entire Globe is talking on these lines so nothing to be surprised or be upset about . 

    • Excellent Vivek! This is the spirit that every advisor/planner should have… I am sure with the right attitude and skillsets.. this will actually be a challenge which they will enjoy overcoming.

      • Nayan Shah says:

        Dear All,

        It is right. Hope is everything. One should not loose it.  

        We are trained to see comprehensive Picture of a client. But we for our own practice, do not see (rather do not want to see for the sake of hope) the whole picture. No one will be willing to pay except some form of compulsion.

        We need CA. It is legal compulsion for Audit. ( You your self think, have you gone to your CA except for Audit).

        We need DOCTORS. It is physical compulsion. 

        We do not mind paying above entities due to compulsion. 

        We do not mind doing expense which give us instant gratification. 

        Financial Planning has nothing like compulsion or instant gratification. Do not you think a long way to go?


        All chartered members of FPSB are saying " we need you".

        Oh my God. No one is taking even though they need them.

        Who is stopping them to hire CFP. I think they can do so even if there is no legal requirement to hire CFP. But they do not. 


        Students (young age) are tought that there will be scope of job after becoming CFP. 

        I sware this is actually happening by Education Providers.


        Good entities are removing their name from the list of Edcation Provider. H L COLLEGE, AHMEDABAD. I M S PROSCHOOL. (OVER ALL). I do not see their names in the list of Education Provider. 


        Can any one write further as much negative as the sky? I am really fed up with positivity.


        I am still a positive even after writing above. I just want to increase my Qualification. I am CFP. Now I want to clear Fellowhip (Insurance Institute of India). It is nothing but increasing horizon of knowledge. 


        I am not against CFP. But I am telling you that all CFP have to draw their own path. No one is going to give you supporting hand at least in near future. 



        • Nayan Shah says:

          Dear All, 

          Increasing knowledge is always helpful. it is old age saying.

          But please, do not hear all hulla gulla. Just do your work. One day you will have success. 

          No one is going to help you.


          One more suggestion. FPSB should find some ways to educate CFP student regarding Excel. it should try to weave in the certification itself. I have seen many ppl who do not know basic Excel and have become CFP. Some advance features are really useful. 

          M.S.Office is really necessary, rather make it compulsory to become CFP. Without Excel, PPT, CFP is nothing but mental application, not a practical productl.


        • Sukhvinder Sidhu says:

          Nayan… whatever position we all as CFPs may be placed, whether already practicing, or new enterpreneurs, or looking for jobs, or any segregations within these categories, the hard fact is that Financial Planning has come into being in this world as a need for clients like the profession of medicine as a need for patients, and unlike chartered accountancy which is more as a requirement under law. And CFPs will have to go with its natural growth, they need not worry about anything else which will fall in place with time, with difficulties always there, as these remain till today in medical profession.


  16. VASUOPTIMA says:

    My view on the SEBI's recommendation, particularly on introduction of another class of Do It Yourself with lower expense ratio is, good move but wrong timing. We as a nation are not yet prepared for Fee-only planning.

    Also it will be against the spirit and not an easy task to operate dual entities. Not all planners are geared up for fulfilling the compliance mandate requied by an Investment Advisor.

    Further there are certain operational difficulties involved in Fee-only planning.

    1) Who will track the implementation.

    2) Who will track the portfolio.

    3) What happens to mistakes, if any that creeps in if the investor does the investment himself, say for x fund he punches y or instead of growth he punches dividend.

    4) What happens if the investor travels abroad on official assignment and the SIPs stops, the planner would not even know that the SIP has stopped until the review. How often Investors are available for half yearly reviews.

    5) Without the availability of the portfolio, how would a planner do balancing.

    6) If you have recommended SIP investments as a strategy, and as a planner every year you ask the investor to continue with the same investments, what is the guarantee that he might turn up for next year review and still agree to pay you a fee?

    7) If it is fee only planning, the business is profitable only if the planner's average retainer fee is at least Rs 20,000 p.a per client and if he services 100 such families. How often would you adjust your fee for inflation, what would be the client's response to an 8% increase (assuming inflation at 8%). such annual increase might wipe away the benefit the investor derives out of low expense ratio.


    Please friends don't get prematuredly excited about fee-only option by collecting fee from some hadful of clients today. You should think about the sustainability and the above mentioned factors.

    I've shared my experience as a Fee-based Financial Planner running practice for the past 5 years. Views from experienced planners are welcome.



    • Vasudevan… thanks for your views. There are definitely pros and cons of everyingthing. We have to think of long term and what is in th client's interest. Even 10 years back… the IFAs where questioning "who will invest in a product like mutual funds"… I think things will fall in place with client education and use of technology for operational efficiency. 

      I am not saying it is easy… but niether will I say its not possible. What I would definitely expect from the regulator is a gradual transition accompanied with education for advisors and general public, which sadly they are not interested in.

    • Mr Vasudevan,


      All your points are valid.  It definitely is not going to be easy.  The biggest pitfall of being in this business is "regulatory constraints".  You cannot plan and act in advance for moves like these.  Because there are always 11th hour suprises. 

      Having said that, fittest will find some way or other to push through this itchy phase.  This inertia will be overcome by many, is my personal opinion. 

      Let us just view this situation through the lens of the prospective client.  He/She will have these questions basically and a lot more . . .

      1.  By engaging a Financial Planner to plan his life, what value do I get by paying a fee ?

      2.  Why should I route investments through the Planner (as at this point of time, fee plus commission is the only mode that promises growth as a business) as I am being provided a low cost entry to financial instruments ?

      3.  Do I have the time and energy to set forward my financial plan in motion, not depending on the Planner ?

      4.  By reviewing the plan once or twice in a stipulated agreed time frame, what benefits I get ?

      5.  What are the consequences of not achieving the expected returns ?  How the Planner is going to handle underperformance of instruments suggested in the plan ?

      I can list out a lot of questions and this forum is not for that.  If a planner can answer these kind of questions (not justify) honestly, there is a way forward.  Ultimately, whatever service we provide unless the buyer sees value, we are not entertained. 

      Let us put value first in whatever we deliver.  We will get the right price for the offering.  

  17. M.S.Shabbir says:

    Some thoughts for discussion.

    1.     My understanding of the new regulation is that a Corporate / Bank can have  a separate Dept / Division within the same entity for Advisory and Distribution. There is no need to register a separate entity. 

    2.     If you have an existing company hire an AMfi Certified employee for Distribution, you sit In a separate cabin as an Advisor and collect the Advisory Fee as an Individual Advisor. That is segregation.

    3.   Requirement of Networth is a challenge for Individual Foinancial Advisors. There is no comment on this aspect in the new regulation.

    Send your comments on this requirement.


  18. Nayan Shah says:

    I hope SEBI comes with clarification ASAP. 

    Really so much difficulty for Individual Financial Advisor/Planner in the term of Requirement of Networth.

    Does any CA or DOCTOR has legal requirement to start practice? It is the market or practical requirement.  If someone from poor family and has got enough financial knowledge, will not be able to enter this segment? He would not be able to practice individually? He will have to contend to do job under Wealth Management Comapnies.

    Do not you think that SEBI should honour knowledge more rather money.



    • Thanks for all your views and comments on this subject Nayan. I have read through them and can understand the factors for your negative attitude towards the developments.

      At the end as you rightly said, no can help us but ourselves. We are entrepreneurs and I think giving up on positive thinking is a very dangerous sign. Forget all the regulations, the board and the industry. Simply think if you have some offering which is valuable to client and makes his life simpler or better. If you have confidence in this, I think everyhting else will fall in place.

      So hang on, become strong and move on. I know you have seen more life than me. But with whatever little wisdom I have gained… I understand that an entrepreneur cannot afford to give up. We have no choice but keep moving by converting adversities into opportunities. Thanks for your participation… Network FP appreciate your views.

  19. Rajesh Bhatia says:

    Dear Sadique


         Belowsaid lines from SEBI 16th meeting gives the directions that SEBI is moving towards FEE-BASED ADVISORY. Please comment if I am thinking on the right lines.

    4.  Financial Planners will be required to be registered as investment advisors.

    5.  Only the act of giving advice will be regulated under this regulation, whereas the regulation of selling of products, if any, would be solely under the purview of the product regulators.

    As I understand that our investing climate is not ripe enough to move directly to FEE-ONLY MODEL. I request you to be in touch with regulatory bodies and get clarity on these issues.



  20. venkytuty says:

    Hindustan Times reported yesterday on Twitter that the Investment Advisors regulations are expected to be released by SEBI today.  Does it happen? 

  21. sonyjosephvt says:

    This is a great move by SEBI.This will set a professional standards for all investment advisors in the country.Now,an SRO is coming and the certification will be essential.So,People can approach with confidence.

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