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The Champions Gallery

Here are the winners of the BT-MT Financial Awards and how they made it to the top

The Champions Gallery
Nilesh Shah, MD and CEO at Kotak Mutual Fund

People often face tough choices while buying investment and insurance products. This is because few have the time or the expertise to do their own research. BT-MT Financial Awards are an attempt to identify the best mutual funds, pension funds and insurance products and their providers.

This year too, we shortlisted the nominees after a rigorous quantitative analysis. The final winners were selected after extensive deliberations by a jury led by former LIC Chairman V.K. Sharma.

Out of the 14 awards, seven were for mutual funds, one for pension funds and six for insurance. Here are the winners and what made them stand out.

Mutual Funds

Best Fund House (Equity)- Axis Mutual Fund

Axis Mutual Fund has won with four of its funds getting four- and five-star rankings. These are Axis Bluechip Fund, Axis Long Term Equity Fund, Axis Midcap Fund and Axis Small Cap Fund. The key was playing for the long term. "Our investing strong suit has been to identify long-term investing ideas and playing them through the cycle. Our portfolios reflect our long-term conviction through good times and bad; the results are there to be seen. Our portfolios have traditionally been nimble in terms of liquidity, yet high on conviction," says Jinesh Gopani, Head, Equity, Axis AMC.

Best Fund House (Overall) - Kotak Mutual Fund

Kotak MF's seven funds have four- and five-star rankings in debt and equity categories. Apart from the four debt funds mentioned below, the three high-ranking equity funds are Kotak Bluechip Fund, Kotak Emerging Equity Fund and Kotak Standard Multicap Fund. Risk management practices have been a critical factor in this achievement. "Kotak MF is focussed on minimising risk and optimising returns. Relentless focus on managing risk has worked well for us. It is like regular practice for fire drill which helps immensely when a fire breaks out," says Nilesh Shah, MD and CEO at Kotak Mutual Fund.

Best Fund House (Debt) - Kotak Mutual Fund

Kotak Mutual Fund has four funds in four- and five-star categories. These are Kotak Bond Short Term Fund, Kotak Corporate Bond Fund, Kotak Credit Risk Fund and Kotak Dynamic Bond Fund. "We believe we are in the business of managing trust. Hence, our predominant focus is on risk-adjusted returns. Risk is the most forgotten four-letter word in good times and we endeavour to keep looking for what can go wrong than right. That is a key differentiator for us," says Lakshmi Iyer, CIO, Fixed Income, and Head, Products, Kotak Mutual Fund.

Best Value Creator Fund (Equity) - Mirae Asset Emerging Bluechip Fund

The fund has delivered decent returns with relatively lesser risk with one-year return of 14.72 per cent, three-year return of 17.35 per cent and five-year return of 15.64 per cent as on December 31, 2019. The best part is consistency (it has scored 17.72 points out of 20 on this parameter). "We make 50:50 allocation to large-caps and mid-caps. A disciplined approach to investing, with focus on quality at a reasonable price, has helped us deliver a satisfactory record. Our attribution analysis suggests that at an aggregate level, alpha generation has been from stock selection," says Neelesh Surana, CIO, Mirae Asset Mutual Fund.

Best Fund Manager (Equity) - Neelesh Surana (Mirae Asset MF)

While return is a big determinant in equity funds, delivering better returns while taking the least risk makes Neelesh Surana stand out. He has two five-star funds in his kitty. Both Mirae Asset Tax Saver Fund and Mirae Asset Emerging Bluechip Fund are among the most popular funds of the fund house. "Discipline and adequate diversification is important. We seek to construct a diversified portfolio which can handle mistakes and deliver decent risk-adjusted returns across time frames," says Neelesh Surana, CIO, Mirae Asset Mutual Fund.

Best Value Creator Fund (Debt) - HDFC Short Term Debt Fund

The fund delivered good returns without taking too much risk. It delivered one-year return of 9.71 per cent, three-year return of 7.73 per cent and five-year return of 8.24 per cent as on December 31, 2019. "Our portfolio is constructed with an aim to generate returns through interest accruals with relatively short maturity products. We maintain credit quality with exposure to AAA or equivalent credit rated instruments usually in excess of 80 per cent of the portfolio," says Anil Bamboli, Senior Fund Manager, Fixed Income, HDFC AMC. "We follow a conservative approach towards credit and our endeavour, even in the best of environments, is not to take undue credit risk, even if that means marginally lower yield to maturity. This relatively conservative approach has helped us minimise unfavourable outcomes," he says.

Best Fund Manager (Debt) - Deepak Agrawal (Kotak MF)

The best fund manager was selected on the basis of the number of four- and five-star funds under him. Deepak Agrawal manages four such funds - Kotak Corporate Bond Fund, Kotak Credit Risk Fund, Kotak Dynamic Bond Fund and Kotak Bond Short Term Fund. His key to success has been picking the right duration(s). "At periodic intervals, based on our macro and micro assessment, we decide the duration band in which we intend to manage the fund in the near term. Largely, we stick to it, and try to create alpha within that, unless there is an event which warrants a re-look," says Agrawal.

INSURANCE

Best Life Insurance Provider of the Year - Life Insurance Corporation of India

All life insurance companies were evaluated on multiple parameters like operating cost to first-year premium, incurred claims ratio, net profit ratio, per cent growth in new business market share, 61st month persistency ratio, per cent of claims paid (individual/death), per cent of claims rejected (individual/death), number of complaints per 10,000 claims registered and per cent of grievances resolved during FY19. Life Insurance Corporation of India emerged as the winner.

"Team LIC continues to remain committed towards its objectives and the vision to be a trans-nationally competitive financial conglomerate of significance to society and pride of India. Therefore, improvement in service benchmarks and customer convenience is a constant endeavour. Our distribution force is our core advantage. At LIC, growth is only a by-product of every action taken in pursuit of our objective of spreading life insurance widely to provide the people of this country adequate financial cover at reasonable cost and returns," says M.R. Kumar, Chairman, LIC of India.

Best ULIP of the Year - Bajaj Allianz Life Goal Assure

As new generation ULIPs shed their cost and start competing with mutual funds in terms of cost efficiency and returns, we selected the one that had good returns and innovative product features. The ULIPs were evaluated based on product features, fund features, cost, return and linked premium. This year too, Bajaj Allianz Life Goal Assure emerged as the winner. "We wanted to give customers all the reasons to invest in ULIPs - from availability to cost and returns, and I am happy to see that these have all come together effectively. Furthermore, we see that customers are happy with the unique features of RoMC (return of mortality charges) or return enhancer. I also believe that our effective fund management team has helped us get a distinct differentiator," says Dheeraj Sehgal, Chief Distribution Officer-Institutional, Bajaj Allianz Life.

Best Term Plan of Year - HDFC Life Click2Protect 3D Plus

It was selected on the basis of product features, claim ratio, persistency ratio, cost, and claim settlement time. "We are constantly innovating to create products that meet the ever-changing needs of customers. Term insurance is a necessity for all working individuals with responsibilities. Hence, we designed a comprehensive term insurance plan. We encourage customers to purchase term insurance early in life, along with riders that protect them financially in case of accidental death/disability and diseases," says Srinivasan Parthasarathy, Senior Executive Vice President, Chief Actuary & Appointed Actuary, HDFC Life.

Best Health Insurance Provider of the Year - Star Health and Allied Insurance

The credit goes to the insurer's overall performance including in product strength and customer service. "We handle our customer claims directly through an in-house set-up of 500-plus doctors, 12,000-plus cashless network hospitals and network diagnostic labs across the country. We are proud that our innovations in products and services are making a big difference. We have more than 12 million customers. We keep adding new channels, new products and simplifying processes through technology," says Anand Roy, MD, Star Health and Allied Insurance.

Best Motor Insurance Provider of the Year - Bajaj Allianz General Insurance & ICICI Lombard General Insurance

The winner was selected based on multiple parameters that included solvency ratio, motor business size, incremental motor business size, claim settlement and motor loss ratio. "Our strategy has always been to care about our customers and solve their worries. The biggest differentiator has been our claim servicing. We have continuously innovated on this to make the process digitally enabled and provide maximum convenience to our customers," says Tapan Singhel, MD and CEO, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance.

Best General Insurance Provider of the Year - ICICI Lombard General Insurance

The winner was selected for its performance on various parameters including solvency margin ratio, overall claim incurred ratio, net profit ratio, gross direct premium (within and outside India), net premium growth, number of products approved, net premium to total net premium, per cent of grievances resolved and number of penalties imposed by the regulator.

Pension Funds

Best Pension Fund House- HDFC Pension Management

The best pension fund house was selected on the basis of returns and distribution strength. In equity, its fund has been the best performer and given a return of 11.94 per cent in one year, 14.57 per cent in three years and 9.31 per cent in five years to December 31, 2019. Its corporate fund has also been a top performer - one-year return of 13.64 per cent, three-year return of 8.46 per cent and five-year return of 9.71 per cent. In the G-sec category, returns were 12.58 per cent (one-year), 7.87 per cent (three-year) and 9.42 per cent (five-year). "Customer focus and being a one-stop shop for retirement solutions is the key differentiator. We are also driven to provide best-in-class service and technology through our digital strategy," says Sumit Shukla, CEO, HDFC Pension Management. The fund house's AUM grew 63.82 per cent from Rs 14,856 crore in December 2018 to  Rs 24,337 crore in December 2019.