UTI Truly Independent, IPO to Strengthen This Character: Leo Puri


Mumbai: Asserting that UTI Mutual Fund is the only large independent asset manager in the country, its chief Leo Puri has said that the fund house's proposed IPO will further strengthen this character.

"We are very proud to be an independent asset manager. We are the only large asset manager which is not controlled by a corporate or a bank. This gives us a unique position in terms of being an independent financial institution," Mr Puri said.

The country's oldest fund house, which manages assets worth over $15 billion, is planning to launch an Initial Public Offer (IPO) and would be the country's first asset management company to go public.

"One of the benefits I see from our IPO is that it will strengthen our character as an independent asset manager," MR Puri told PTI in an interview.

Listing out the benefits in this regard, Mr Puri said a large number of retail investors after the IPO, along with a professional management and a board-governed structure, would make it further answerable to the market for its performance.

"We certainly should be answerable and transparent and people should be able to ask us how we are doing and what we are doing. We would like to be positioned that way. It will keep us on our toes," he added.

Mr Puri said that UTI Mutual Fund is an asset manager today in entirety. UTI Mutual Fund was carved out of the erstwhile Unit Trust of India as a mutual fund in February 2003.

It is promoted by the four of the largest public sector financial institutions as sponsors -- SBI, LIC, Bank of Baroda and Punjab National Bank. These four each hold 18.5 per cent stake in UTI Asset Management Company, while US-based fund house T Rowe Price has acquired a 26 per cent stake.

"We are no longer a conglomerate. We are not the old UTI which was promoting exchanges and other entities," he said, while adding that the institution is very proud of the role it played in the past but that phase is over now.

"That phase of India's history is done and today it is much more important to focus and excel in what you do. We are asset manager in broad sense and that is what we want to excel at," he said.

Talking about the benefits that an independent character bring in, Mr Puri said it gives you greater credibility and ensures that there are no conflicts of interest, in comparison to others promoted by business houses or even banks.

"There is nothing to conflict us in terms of how we run our operations or how we influence the governance of the companies. The two roles of an asset manager are to allocate capital and to influence governance.

"The best asset managers across the world are the independent ones, because these two functions ideally and even from a systemic point of view are best carried out by a company that has got a broad-based ownership and board governance, as opposed to being subsidiarised.

"I think our markets will mature in that direction also, but UTI is already there as a role model of what you could build," he added.

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