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Systematic Transfer Plan: The Smart Way To Cater To Your Goals

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Systematic Transfer Plan

By: Tavaga Research

To really understand a systematic transfer plan (STP), let’s first try and deconstruct a popular way to invest in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds known as Systematic Investment Plan (SIP). SIPs allow investors a disciplined approach to investing, where they can invest a regular amount every month. Also best known for rupee cost averaging, SIPs are probably the best way to handle volatility in investments.

For instance, suppose you intend to make a monthly investment of INR 10000 and decide to take the SIP route, then, every month this amount will be debited from your account and invested in the funds that you have selected at the inception.

SIP calculator facilitates an investor to project the returns on the mutual fund investments made through the SIP route. The SIP Calculator in India offered by Tavaga gives a return estimate on mutual funds and ETFs.

STP, on the other hand, is a variant of SIP that allows investors to gradually transfer assets from one scheme into another scheme within the same asset management company.

If an investor is in possession of a lump sum amount to invest, registering a SIP is difficult. Instead, the investor is left with only one choice – To invest the lump sum amount in a mutual fund or an ETF and wait for them to deliver superior returns.

More importantly, a lump sum investment in equity and debt funds can be highly risky. So, asset management companies allow investors to transfer systematically a fixed sum from one fund to another through an STP.

What is a Systematic Transfer Plan?

Systematic Transfer Plan meaning

STP is a facility that gives the unit holders an opportunity to transfer a fixed sum at regular intervals from one scheme to another. The facility helps investors to rebalance their investment portfolio by switching seamlessly between different asset classes. They can be used to reduce volatility and help realize financial goals.

Suppose an investor earns a lump sum through the sale of a property. The investor can choose to invest the entire amount in a low-risk money market or a liquid fund and then systematically transfer a fixed sum into an equity fund, ensuring that he gains the benefits of rupee cost averaging while earning slightly higher returns than bank deposits. By regularly transferring money into an equity fund, the investor can stop worrying about the market level.

For instance, if the investor earns a lump sum of INR 5,00,000, and invests that in a liquid fund, they can then arrange to transfer, each month an amount of INR 25,000 into an equity fund so that over the next 20 months the investor makes the best of the volatility and manages to reduce the cost of acquisition. Therefore, these plans are suitable for investors who have lump sum money and wish to invest in equity funds but are wary of timing the markets.

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Systematic Transfer Plan in mutual funds

How does STP work in mutual funds?

An STP facilitates the automatic transfer of money from one fund to another. The investor is obligated to initially choose the source fund (outflow) and the target fund (inflow).

Systematic transfer plan example

STP Example
Source: Tavaga Research

How to start STP?

There are three basic steps to do an STP:

  1. On the basis of your risk appetite and financial goals, select the amount to be systematically transferred from the source fund to the target fund
  2. Choose the time frame within which the investor intends to systematically transfer the amount from source fund to target fund
  3. The last step involves setting up an automatic transfer by selecting source mutual fund and target mutual fund

Types of Systematic Transfer Plans

  1. Fixed STP: Under this, investors take out a fixed sum from one investment fund and transfer it to another fund.
  2. Capital Appreciation STP: Under this, the investors take out the profit that they have made on one investment and invests in another investment fund
  3. Flexi STP: In Flexi STP, investors can choose to transfer a variable amount. The fixed amount would be the minimum amount and the variable amount depends on the volatility of the market.

Key features of STPs

STPs can be done from an equity fund to a debt fund or vice versa. When the markets are performing badly, it might be a good idea to use an STP as a tool to gradually switch your investment from debt to equity.

Similarly, when the markets are at a peak and you intend to lock-in the returns to avoid the risk arising from a downward correction, you can use an STP to switch from an equity fund to a sovereign-backed debt scheme.

For an STP, there has to be at least six capital transfers from one fund to another.  The AMCs cannot charge any entry load during any capital transfer; however, SEBI permits them to charge an exit load not exceeding 2 percent.

Systematic transfer plan taxation

Each transfer from one fund to another is considered as redemption and if there are any capital gains, they will be subject to taxes depending on the fund type.

Long-term capital gains (LTCG) for debt funds are taxed at 20 percent with indexation benefits, while the short-term gains are taxed at the slab rate applicable to the investors.

On the other hand, equity funds are tax-exempt from LTCG tax up to INR 1 lakh and are charged at 10 percent above if the profits exceed 1 lakh. STCG on equity funds are taxed at 15 percent. So, these considerations have to be kept in mind while deciding about STPs.

Systematic transfer plan advantages and disadvantages

What is the benefit of STP?

  • Rupee Cost Averaging: STP averages out the cost of investment – more units at a lower price and fewer units at a higher net asset value (NAV). As the money transfers from one fund to another, the fund keeps purchasing additional units systematically, benefiting you from rupee cost averaging i.e., the per-unit cost will reduce gradually.
  • Managing Risks: These can also be used to move from a risky asset class to a less risky asset class. For example, suppose an investor initiates a SIP for 30 years into an equity fund for retirement purposes. As the investor approaches his retirement, he can start the STP to prevent a reduction in the value of the fund.

The investor can simply instruct the fund house to transfer a defined amount from the equity fund to a debt fund.

  • Scope for higher returns: Opting for an STP can translate into higher returns because they allow you to initially invest the lump sum into a debt fund like a liquid fund. These liquid funds are known to yield higher returns in the range of 4-5 percent compared to a meager return of around 2-3 percent on the savings account.
  • Optimal Balance: The best STPs aim to create a portfolio that has an optimal balance between the equity and debt instruments. It also aims to provide an optimal combination of risks and returns.

For risk-averse investors, the transfer of funds is mainly to sovereign backed debt securities, while equity instruments are meant for investors with a willingness to take some risk.

  • Conversion to Direct Funds: Systematic transfer plan can also be used for switching from regular mutual funds to direct mutual funds and thus avoid high expense ratios charged on regular mutual funds.

Disadvantages of STP

  • Exit Load: It is applicable when an investor switches from one scheme to the other. Usually, the exit load is around 1 percent in case of switching within a year of the investment
  • Taxation: Short-term capital gain (STCG) tax is applicable on STP. This happens because units are essentially redeemed from one scheme and are invested in another scheme. The consideration of a switch as redemption prompts this capital gains tax.
  • Limited fund choice: The switch from one scheme to another is allowed only for schemes managed by the same fund house. Suppose you want to switch debt fund of X fund house, you can only transfer to an equity fund of the same fund house, i.e. X.

Comparison with balanced advantage funds

Balanced advantaged funds (BAFs) do what their name suggests- they strive to achieve a balance between equity and debt allocations, depending on the valuation metrics, market conditions, and the fund ideology to achieve the best return at a given risk level. They do this in a dynamic manner as opposed to the static allocation of other hybrid funds. Therefore, these funds are also called dynamic asset allocation funds.

Similar to STPs, balanced advantage funds are perhaps the most suited investment vessel in an uncertain market. These funds dynamically manage the debt and equity part of the corpus-based on the market conditions, things that STPs help do. But the difference between the two lies in the fact that the switching decisions under STPs are taken by the investors themselves, but under balanced advantaged fund managers take that decision for the investors.

How can Tavaga help?

Tavaga, a SEBI Registered Investment Adviser (RIA), provides monthly investment advisory to its clients about the optimal ETF portfolio, keeping in mind their risk appetite and goals.

Similar to balanced advantaged funds (BAFs), Tavaga, considering several factors, shuffles their client’s portfolios for them, relieving them of the hassles associated with STPs where investors have to shuffle their portfolios themselves.

More importantly, ETFs don’t have any exit load and a lower expense ratio as compared to the BAFs and can, therefore, over a period of time, lead to higher returns.

Is STP better than SIP?

While STP and SIP are two different investment methods with various benefits and pitfalls, the concept of STP involves many complications with investor subjected to various charges on redemptions from the source fund, as discussed above.

Robo adviser such as Tavaga allows an investor to ignore the complications involved in STPs of mutual funds, and instead, follows the right asset allocation mix by sticking to the mantra of glide path investing into ETFs.

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