My Handpicked Mutual Funds July 2019 (PlumbLine)

Published: July 3, 2019 at 11:37 am

Last Updated on February 12, 2022 at 6:17 pm

PlumbLine is my list of handpicked mutual funds. This was started in Sep 2017 for beginners to accompany the freefincal robo advisory template. This is the July 2019 edition (3rd quarter). I have added a disclosure of which funds I use from this list and what for what purpose. If you are seeing this for the first time, please take a couple of minutes to understand what this list is, how it has been compiled and how you should use it. If you are aware of this list, please do not just look for changes to fund names (and there are a few)

What is plumbline and how should I use it?

My Handpicked Mutual Funds: PlumbLine A plumb line is used to fix the vertical and therefore the horizontal. This list hopes to help new investors do the same. Pic credit: Mr. atm 1: PlumbLine is a boring list of mutual funds. Due to demand from readers, I will be updating PlumbLine every quarter. There are plenty of good mutual funds that are not part of Plumbline. If your funds are different, you are probably better off. Do not worry about it. 2: Do not use PlumbLine for confirmation of your choices! PlumbLine is meant for young earners and first-time investors after they have used the freefincal robo advisory template. 3: If tomorrow the funds in the list change, you will have to take a call on what you need to do, based on the fund performance from the date in which you invested. I cannot help you here, other than talk about how to review. 4: This is a personalized list and will be subject to my biases. I invest with a bias to get things done and analyze without bias to present facts. So please bear that in mind. Don’t waste your time and mine asking “why are you biased towards Quantum and Franklin?”, “Why is X or Y fund not here?”, “Z is a better choice”, “How about or what about ABC fund”. This list is meant for new mutual fund investors to get going.


On its own, this list has no meaning and unless you are able to look at it in the right perspective and context, it will not help you. The hope is that the robo template will try and provide such perspective which still has to be processed and interpreted by you. Finally, I am only human and more than capable of making mistakes. Also, I am a below average investor and fund picker or analyzer. I am not a fan of looking into the fund portfolio. I prefer funds with a narrow investment mandate. I am sure you will agree that most of the picks are lame and obvious.and that this list is a no-brainer and nothing special. If the funds here stop performing in future or have credit defaults issues, all I can do is to modify the list (if required). I WILL NOT BE IN ANY WAY RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR INVESTMENT CHOICES, CAPITAL GAINS OR LOSSES. If a PlumbLIne fund is present in your portfolio, it means nothing. If none of your funds is present in the PlumbLine list, it means nothing. MUTUAL FUNDS ARE SUBJECT TO IGNORANCE RISKS AND MARKET RISKS. PLEASE READ AND UNDERSTAND ALL SCHEME RELATED DOCUMENTS BEFORE INVESTING.

FAQ on Plumbline

1. Why are X, Y or Z funds not part of plumbline —> Plumbline is my list. Don’t expect me to make a list that matches your expectations. 2. The funds you have listed are not even 4-star funds —> I don’t care. Star ratings are injurious to your mental and fiscal health. Comparisons are injurious to peace of mind and plumbline is just plain bad. 3 Plumbline does not feature the top funds from your monthly screener —> Yeah because I do not always consult it. Plumbline is a qualitative + quantitative assessment of a funds investment strategy, mandate and performance.  4: I find your list biased and partial to certain funds and certain AMCs –> Okay then, thank you for not using it.

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Category 1: Overnight mutual funds

To understand the basics, read Worried about risk in debt mutual funds? Park your money in overnight mutual funds

  • Investment Duration one day and above!
  • Fund name L&T Cash Fund-Direct Plan Growth Option (you can pretty much pick any fund in this category)
  • Nature ultra-conservative!
  • interest rate risk: practically nil
  • Credit risk non-zero but quite small
  • Why? When I first recommended a fund in this category this had the highest AUM. However, things changed rapidly and many other funds have much more AUM. Clearly either the big investors have already moved from liquid funds to overnight funds months before the SEBI’s New Liquid Fund Rules or the AMCs suggested that they move. For example, End-Aug 2018 HDFC Overnight Fund has just 146 Crores. End-Sep 2018 it became 3186.61Crores!! (Source MotilalOswal)
  • Suitable for the super scared who want to park money for a short while
  • Returns You invest in this for safety, not for returns

Category 2: Liquid Fund

  • Investment Duration Few months and above
  • Fund name Quantum Liquid fund Direct Plan Growth Option
  • Nature Conservative
  • interest rate risk: low (can give losses if RBI rate is suddenly increased by a huge amount, but will recover in days). This was the only fund that was fully marketed to market. Now all liquid funds will have to be. Meaning all funds will suffer a fall if there is a spike in interest rates.
  • Credit risk low
  • Why? Does not chase after returns by taking on credit risk (after SEBI recategorization, the differences among liquid funds could have reduced. Need to check)
  • Suitable for use for parking money
  • Returns a bit more than SB account
  • Con: There are funds with lower expense ratio. You can choose them, but be sure you understand where the fund will invest. See: How to Choose a Liquid Mutual Fund
  • Why is it rated two stars (it was one in April 2019!)? Do not chase after star ratings, especially liquid funds! It will come back and bite you.
  • Disclosure: Invested for emergencies (but only very small amount)

Category 3: Equity Arbitrage

  • Duration 1Y and above
  • Fund name UTI Arbitrage fund direct plan growth ICICI Equity Arbitrage Fund-Direct Plan Growth Option.
  • I have been looking for an excuse to get rid of UTI Arbitrage after how UTI MF handled the DHFL crisis. The UTI Arbitrage fund holds small finance bank FDs and I am not comfortable with this. So out it goes. If you are invested, keep an eye on the full portfolio.
  • Nature Low volatility by construction. Volatile for less than a year. Quarterly returns can be negative
  • interest rate risk: low Applicable to bond part of the portfolio. This is largely an equity fund
  • Credit risk low Applicable to bond part of the portfolio.
  • Warning: After the SEBI recategorization, arbitrage funds only need to hold 65% in derivatives. Rest are in bonds. So these funds can be subject to credit and interest rate risks.
  • Other risks There are small but complex risks involved, but if you choose the investment duration right, the main risk will be fund delivering lower than expected return. So expect less!
  • Suitable for use for parking money and generating income. See: Generating tax-free income from arbitrage mutual funds
  • Returns Expect about 6% ish pre-tax
  • Con: You need to understand how the product work. Try this How Arbitrage Mutual Funds Work: A simple introduction
  • Disclosure: ICICI Equity Arbitrage is part of the debt portfolio for my son’s education goal. My wife also separately uses it as part of our emergency fund.

Category 4: Ultra short term (low risk)

  • Duration 1Y and above
  • Fund name Franklin India Savings Fund-Direct Plan Growth
  • Nature Conservative but expect day to day NAV ups and downs.
  • interest rate risk: low
  • Credit risk low-medium
  • Why? This is will now invest only in money market instruments with low to moderate credit risk
  • Suitable for use for saving money and generating income
  • Returns Expect FD-like returns (lower tax if you want for 3Y)

Category 5: Ultra short-term (high risk)

  • Fund Type Debt: Ultra short-term (medium-high risk)
  • Duration 1Y and above
  • Fund name Franklin India Ultra-Short Bond Fund – Super Institutional Plan – Direct Plan Growth Option
  • Nature: aggressive.
  • Warning: Risky fund! Don’t expect a joy ride!
  • interest rate risk: low
  • Credit risk: high
  • Why? If you must take credit risk chasing after high returns, do it with Franklin. The Macaulay duration will only be about 6-7 months or lower. So low-interest rate risk and medium-high credit risk.  Read more: Why you need to worry about “duration” if your mutual funds invest in bonds
  • Suitable for use for saving money and generating income (but with risks).
  • Returns Expect it to beat FD returns (assuming no major default issue) Cons Min investment is Rs. 10,000

Category 6: Medium duration (high risk)

  • Duration Strictly long term: More than 5Y, preferably much longer
  • Fund name Franklin India Income Opportunities Fund
  • Nature fairly aggressive. Don’t expect a joy ride!
  • interest rate risk: medium-high
  • Credit risk: high
  • Why? This can invest in all types of bonds with Macaulay duration of 3-4 years, with an option to tactically reduce to 1Y depending on rate movement. Will invest in high accrual bonds
  • Suitable for Use as a debt component for long-term goals
  • Returns Expect it to beat FD returns (assuming no major default issue)

Category 7:  Debt: Corporate Bond (high risk)

  • Duration: Strictly long term: More than 5Y, preferably much longer
  • Fund name: Franklin India Corporate Debt Fund-Direct Plan Growth option
  • Nature: Neither conservative nor aggressive
  • interest rate risk: medium-high
  • Credit risk: high
  • Why? This will invest a major portfolio in long-term bonds of corporate and PSUs rated AA+ and above. Other bonds will have lower credit quality!!
  • Suitable for: Use as a debt component for long-term goals (with or without equity).
  • Returns Expect it to beat FD returns (assuming no major default issue)

Category 8: Fund Type Debt: Credit risk (very high risk)

  • Duration Strictly long term: More than 5Y, preferably much longer
  • Fund name Franklin India Credit Risk Fund Direct plan Growth option
  • Nature Very Aggressive! Invests in low credit quality bonds (AA and below). Not for the faint-hearted!
  • interest rate risk: medium-high
  • Credit risk high!
  • Why? If you must take credit risk, take it with Franklin. They have the money to buy back junk bonds!
  • Suitable for Use as a debt component for long-term goals
  • Returns Expect it to beat FD returns (assuming no major default issue)

Category 9: Fund Type 10 Year Gilt: 

  • Duration Strictly long term: More than 10Y, preferably much longer
  • Fund name  SBI Magnum Constant Maturity Fund
  • Read Review: A Debt Fund With Low Credit Risk for long term goals!
  • Nature Invests in close to 10Y government bonds and some low-risk short term bonds
  • interest rate risk: very high
  • Credit risk low!
  • Why?  If you wish to minimise credit risk events but are willing to take on interest rate risk and willing to actively rebalance the portfolio at least once a year
  • Suitable for Use as a debt component for very long-term goals
  • Returns Should be close to long term FD average (but can suffer if there a long period of no rate cut or rate hike). NAV can gradually fall over months or can suddenly shoot up or down.

Category 10: Equity Tax planning

  • Duration There is no need for ELSS mutual funds., but if you must use, use only for long-term goals with proper asset allocation.
  • Fund name Aditya Birla Sun Life Tax Relief ’96 – Growth – Direct Plan or DSP Tax Saver Fund-Direct Plan Growth Option
  •  Nature multi-cap tilt
  • Performance Update:  Using the Consistent Equity Mutual Fund Screener (June 2019) both these funds have 70% or more return outperformance consistency wrt Nifty Large Midcap 250 and 70% or more downside protection over 3,4 and 5 years.
  •  Suitable for Use only if you have a proper asset allocation and if you cannot exhaust 80C with your expenses and fixed income instruments. Read more: Making the best use of section 80C for tax saving: an example
  • First-time tax saver? That is, if you have just started earning or just moved into taxable income bracket this FY you can consider Parag Parikh Tax Saver Fund. This is an NFO with a similar investment style to Parag Parikh Long Term Equity Fund.
  • Why? Why not?! In any case, you need to learn how to review a fund. Check out:

Category 11: Balanced fund (equity oriented) or Aggressive Hyrbid

  • Duration Treat all such funds as pure equity funds, so strictly long-term. Use robo template for allocation
  • Fund name
    • HDFC Hybrid Equity fund Direct plan growth option formerly HDFC Balanced or
    • Franklin India Equity Hybrid Fund formerly Franklin India Balanced Fund or
    • ICICI Equity & Debt fund
  • Nature Neither conservative nor aggressive
  • Risk Only a bit lower than diversified equity funds
  • Why? The HDFC fund is neither inconspicuous, nor a star, but a consistent performer with good downside protection. Franklin Balanced is an inconspicuous consistent performer but going forward will not have large cap tilt. ICICI fund has been included because of this review: ICICI Prudential Equity & Debt Fund (ICICI Balanced) Performance Review
  • Disclosure: I am invested in HDFC Hybrid Equity for retirement

Category 12: Multi-Asset

  • Duration Treat all such funds as pure equity funds, so strictly long-term. Use robo template for allocation
  • Fund name
    • ICICI Multi-Asset Fund
  • Read Review: ICICI Prudential Multi-Asset Fund Review: Suitable for new investors?
  • Nature Neither conservative nor aggressive
  • Risk Only a bit lower than diversified equity funds
  • Why?  This fund will combine multi-asset allocation with market timing like ICICI Balanced Advantage. Should be suitable for new investors and those who are risk-averse.
  • Disclosure:

Category 13:  Equity multi-cap

  • Duration Strictly long-term with proper asset allocation. Use robo template for allocation
  • Fund name  Parag Parikh Long Term Equity Fund Why? Very good downside protection resulting in consistent performance Who should use? Only those with low expectations, patience. Not suitable for star rating fans and daily portfolio “trackers”
  • Disclosure: I invest in both funds (& HDFC balanced for my retirement).
  • Performance Update: Quantum Long Term Equity Value Fund-Direct Plan Growth Option has just gone through a poor stretch of underperformance. This is worrying as it has failed to beat the Sensex over the last 7Y. I would recommend new investors to choose the Parag Parikh fund. Existing investors can either exit or give it a little more time if they can afford to. Personally, my patience is running thin but I am going to wait a little bit more




Category 14: Index funds (large cap)

  • Duration Strictly long-term with proper asset allocation. Use robo template for allocation
  • Fund name
  • Risks No downside protection
  • Who should use? If you wish to adopt a passive investing strategy (eliminate fund manager risks), and wish to track a less volatile large-cap index

Category 15: Index Fund (large + midcap) – high risk

  • Duration Strictly long-term with proper asset allocation. Use robo template for allocation
  • Fund name UTI Nifty next 50 direct plan growth option or ICICI Nifty Next 50 Direct Plan Growth Option or Reliance Junior Bees. See: What is the best way to invest in Nifty Next 50 Index?
  • Risks Can be extremely volatile, so tread with caution
  • Who should use? If you prefer a volatile index fund (with unmanaged risk) that has a very good track record of beating actively managed funds in all categories

Category 16: Index Fund (large + midcap)- medium risk

  • Duration Strictly long-term with proper asset allocation. Use robo template for allocation. 50% Nifty 50 + 50% Nifty Next 50
  • Fund name   50% of one fund in Category 14 and 50% one fund in category 15. 
  • That is, 50% of a Nifty (or Sensex) fund and 50% of a Nifty Next 50 fund (let us call this the Nifty Blend 50:50).
  •  Who should use?  Only those who appreciate the benefits of Index investing and will chase after stars or compare with peers. See: Will large-cap mutual funds struggle to beat Nifty 100 Equal Weight Index?

Category 17: Index Fund (large + midcap)- low risk

 Category 18: Equity Large Cap

Category 19 Balanced Advantage (Dynamic Asset Allocation)

  • Duration Strictly long-term with proper asset allocation. Use robo template for allocation. Use a core part of the equity portfolio.
  • Fund name ICICI Balanced Advantage Fund Direct plan Growth Option
  • Risks low (compared to aggressive hybrid funds)
  • Why  This has a fantastic track record with low volatility. See: ICICI Prudential Balanced Advantage Fund: Performance With Low Volatility

Category 20 Equity Midcap

  • Duration Strictly long-term with proper asset allocation. Use robo template for allocation. Do not exceed 40-50% within the equity portion.
  • Fund name Franklin India Prima Fund-Direct Plan Growth Option; HDFC Mid-cap Opportunities
  • Risks Aggressive
  • Why Because in the mid-cap and small-cap segments, it is crucial to choose consistent performers which no one is talking about. The Franklin fund has a decent track record and has managed to have a mid-cap tilt for most of its 23+ year existence. You need to give it time to work.
  • Note: ICICI Prudential Midcap Select ETF is a promising index option in this space. However, its liquidity has to be verified by giving some more time. So far it has done well.
  • Performance Update: Both Franklin Prima and HDFC Mid cap have slipped below 70% wrt NiftyMidcap150TRI when three-year rolling returns are considered. As of now, they shall remain in the list due to their long term record (see reviews below).
  • Promising Candidates: L& T Midcap (see review below) and Kotak Emerging Equity (will review this). Both have >70% rolling return outperformance and downside protection consistency wrt NiftyMidcap150TRI over 3,4,5 years. (June 2019)




Category 21 Equity Smallcap

  • Stay away from this segment. Most midcaps have all the small-cap exposure you need.
  • If you are interested, get the freefincal Consistenty Screener (April 2019) and check out these videos



Closing Remarks

If you are a new mutual fund investor, download this Free e-book: Mutual Fund FAQ 100 essential Q & A for new investors!

To understand the debt fund choices, you need to learn more about interest rate risk, credit rating risk, floating rate bonds, etc. You can download this free e-book if you are interested: Free E-book: A Beginner’s Guide To Investing in Debt Mutual Funds I have a strong Franklin bias when it comes to debt funds for two reasons: they always make the product positioning clear to investors (who bother to read) – this is crucial. Interest rate risk is beyond their control as it is governed by market forces. They do take on quite a bit of credit risk and this does go bad often (we don’t always hear about it!), but if the bonds become junk, the AMC is wealthy enough to bail out the fund. I repeat that there is no point in questioning me about his bias. Unless we have biases, we will never get things done as an investor. It is not enough if you know how to choose a fund, it is important to review its performance. If you wish to know how to do this, see: How to review a mutual fund portfolio. You only need 1/2 funds to build a well-diversified equity portfolio.

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Pattabiraman editor freefincalDr M. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He has over ten years of experience publishing news analysis, research and financial product development. Connect with him via Twitter(X), Linkedin, or YouTube. Pattabiraman has co-authored three print books: (1) You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) for DIY investors. (2) Gamechanger for young earners. (3) Chinchu Gets a Superpower! for kids. He has also written seven other free e-books on various money management topics. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India,” an organisation promoting unbiased, commission-free investment advice.
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