HSBC Bank / hsbc bank resort to toxic churning and illegitimate transactions to earn commissions
Two complaints of high net worth individuals have shown that the bank has possibly flouted rules and taken signatures on blank forms to execute transactions to churn the mutual fund portfolio and earn huge commissions
Over a year back we wrote about how HSBC Bank took Ms Suchitra Krishnamoorthi, a well-known singer and actor, for a ride over a five-year period by promising an extravagant assured return of 24% from mutual funds as well as insurance. (Read: HSBC loots Suchitra Krishnamoorthi after big promises of 24% returns) However, far from delivering such returns HSBC Bank continuously churned her portfolio. In a similar case, another high net worth individual (HNI) based in London, found out abnormal churning of mutual funds in his portfolio that was managed by HSBC bank. Both are HNIs who were made to sign a power of attorney (POA) in favour of HSBC to handle their investments smartly. They believed in the brand name of HSBC. Most importantly they trusted their banker, like they would trust their doctor.
Moneylife has reviewed the Ms Krishnamoorthi’s transactions and found massive malpractices by HSBC
• Her mutual fund portfolio was continuously churned resulting in high transaction costs in the form of entry load and exit loads. While several transactions led to huge losses for her, HSBC was the gainer of commissions.
• Out of the 75 transactions made, nearly 60% of the transactions were in equity schemes kept for a period less than one year. Here investments were made in schemes like HSBC India Opportunity Fund and HSBC Mid-cap Equity Fund, both of which have been underperformers. Apart from these, majority of the investments were made in balanced schemes of HDFC Mutual Fund, ICICI Mutual Fund and Sundaram Mutual Fund.
• The worst part of the transactions came around the market peak in November 2007 where nearly Rs3 crore was invested across five schemes on a single day which included over Rs1.67 crore invested in three sector schemes—ICICI Prudential Infrastructure Fund, Sundaram CAPEX Opportunities and Reliance Diversified Power Sector. Nearly Rs50 lakh was invested in Sundaram CAPEX Opportunities which has a current corpus Rs200 crore.
• The investments from all sector schemes were withdrawn between June and August 2010 at a loss of nearly Rs40 lakh, almost half her initial investment. The schemes from ICICI Mutual Fund and Sundaram Mutual Fund went down by nearly 50%. The other schemes were also withdrawn at a value 15%-30% lower resulting in a total loss of Rs86 lakh. These schemes included JP Morgan India Equity Fund (a poorly-performing scheme) and IDFC Premier Equity Fund.
• Surprisingly, in the whole portfolio there was not a single debt scheme and just one liquid scheme— HSBC Cash Fund. Ironically, commissions paid on debt schemes and liquid schemes are much lower.
• Ms Krishnamoorthi says an entry load amounting to over Rs29 lakh was deducted from her investments. If the bank had opted to only invest her amount of Rs3.60 crore in performing equity schemes for the long term, without any further buying or selling, the entry load of 2% at that time would have worked out to just Rs7.20 lakh.
According to data from mutual fund industry association AMFI, for FY11 and FY12 HSBC earned the highest mutual fund commissions amongst all distributors. In FY11 it earned a commission of Rs118.97 crore and in FY12 it earned a commission of Rs153.98 crore even when the industry was down in the dumps. Another bank just below HSBC in terms of commissions earned is, not surprisingly, HDFC Bank.
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