When this Bengaluru-based content creator bought mutual funds in 2019, he did everything online, some of it through the Paytm* Money platform. Research, filling up forms, payments—you name it. And yet, when he wanted to change the bank account that would receive money redeemed from his mutual funds, he had to physically line up at the office of a Registrar and Transfer Agent (RTA) and submit the necessary forms.

RTAs are the entities that track, process, and record all mutual fund transactions and investor information. Platforms, on the other hand, are connectors and enablers. They help investors buy and sell a variety of mutual funds online, and also offer allied services such as routing of requests to the fund houses.

And while there are only two RTAs in India currently—Computer Age Management Systems (CAMS) and KFin Technologies (KFintech)—platforms are dime a dozen. Investors have the option to buy mutual funds directly from the fund companies or through platforms such as the one the Bengaluru-based content creator used—Paytm Money—or the likes of MF Utilities (MFU), set up in 2015 by a cohort of mutual fund companies themselves.

Even the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and the National Stock Exchange (NSE) operate their own platforms, the BSE StAR MF and NMF II, respectively. The RTAs also have platforms. Then there are mutual fund distributors, asset management companies (AMCs), and depositories depositories depositories Depositories are institutions that holds shares/securities/mutual fund units in electronic form , that are also part of this complex ecosystem.

So when India’s market regulator Sebi Sebi Sebi Securities & Exchange Board of India decided, in July 2021, that the system needed yet another platform, it set the cat among the mutual fund pigeons. CAMS, KFintech, and Sebi did not respond to queries sent by The Ken.

Dwindling numbers

From four RTAs a couple of years ago, there are now only two. Fund houses have exited the business as it is not core to their business of managing funds.

In its circular circular Sebi Circular on RTA interoperable platform Read more , Sebi directed that the two RTAs set up this new platform for mutual fund transaction and service requests, including the ability to track complaints, queries, and reports. It had to be interoperable between the two RTAs and had to offer an integrated experience for everyone involved, from investors to distributors to fund companies. And more importantly, Sebi wants the new platform to have “robust cyber security protocols and [be] supported through an API API API API is short for Application Programming Interface, a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other.

AUTHOR

Anand Kalyanaraman

A certified Chartered Accountant, Anand chose to pack the power of numbers with words when he left a career of seven years in accounting, putting together MIS reports, and investment research to enter journalism. Before joining The Ken, Anand was Deputy Editor at The Hindu BusinessLine, a newspaper he worked at for 11 years.

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