Here is how you can select mutual funds with lower risk & higher return

Published: September 18, 2020 at 10:11 am

Here is a simple way to select mutual funds that have beat the category benchmark in terms of both return and risk over the last one, two, three, four and five years simultaneously! That is higher than the benchmark return and lower than benchmark risk.

Unlike return, risk can be measured in many ways. The simplest and most common measure of risk is the standard deviation. We look at a mutual fund’s daily returns and determine how much they deviate from the average daily return over say a year or three years. This tells us how volatile the fund is. A fund with lower risk is one with a lower standard deviation than a benchmark.

The excess return of the fund = Five-year return of the fund minus the five-year return of the index. We need this to be positive. We have used a five-year return as an example here.

The Excess risk of the fund = Five-year standard deviation of the fund minus five-year standard deviation of the index. So if the excess risk of the fund is negative it means the fund has taken lower risk than the index and vice versa.

Both these measures are plotted against each other for five years for funds across categories. Clearly, we are looking for funds with higher return and lower risk. That is we are looking for funds with a positive excess return and negative excess risk.

Shortlisting mutual funds with lower risk and higher return
A plot of the excess return of funds vs their excess risk

This screening is only over five years. To gauge performance consistency, we repeat the above test for one, two, three, four and five year periods. That is a fund must be within the blue box for all the periods simultaneously!

These are the number of qualifying funds in each category. The total number of funds are mentioned within brackets.

CategoryNo of qualifying funds
Aggressive Hybrid Fund6 (33)
ELSS0 (42)
Focussed Fund2 (18)
Large & Mid Cap Fund2 (24)
Large Cap Fund3 (29)
Mid Cap Fund4 (23)
Multi-cap Fund4 (34)
Sectoral/ Thematic4 (85)
Contra funds0 (3)
Dividend Yield0 (6)
Small cap Funds 1 (20)
Value Funds0 (14)

Only 51 out of 331 or 15% make the shortlist! This lower risk, higher reward screening is automatically applied in the monthly freefincal equity mutual fund screener. This is the September 2020 Equity Mutual Fund Performance Screener which also has rolling return and rolling downside capture screening capability. This is a video guide for using the screener.


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About the Author Pattabiraman editor freefincalM. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. since Aug 2006. Connect with him via Twitter or Linkedin Pattabiraman has co-authored two print-books, You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) and Gamechanger and seven other free e-books on various topics of money management. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India” an organisation to promote unbiased, commission-free investment advice. He conducts free money management sessions for corporates and associations on the basis of money management. Previous engagements include World Bank, RBI, BHEL, Asian Paints, Cognizant, Madras Atomic Power Station, Honeywell, Tamil Nadu Investors Association. For speaking engagements write to pattu [at] freefincal [dot] com
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