EVALUATING THE ASSET perspective and not getting into very short-term moments in the market were central to Manish Banthia’s investment strategy during the year, the best debt fund manager in the Fortune India Best Mutual Funds study. “I look for margins of safety in assets when I want to deploy money. In a market that is largely sideways, a contra approach helps. And given that you don’t have a momentum strategy in a sideways market, it also helps from an investment perspective,” says Banthia, chief investment officer, fixed income, ICICI Prudential AMC, and an 18-year veteran at the company.

Agrees Anju Chhajer, senior fund manager, fixed income, Nippon India, who grabbed the second spot among best debt fund managers. “In a backdrop of rising uncertainty, what has worked for the funds is consistency and discipline, active management of duration and nimble-footed approach in investment,” says Chhajer. While short-duration funds delivered category average returns of 5.67%, returns for medium-duration funds came in at 5.52%, and corporate bonds at 5.77%.

For Mohit Sharma, senior fund manager, Aditya Birla Sun Life AMC, who grabbed the third spot, 2023 was about taking tactical calls. “In the duration funds, we played most of our positions via G-secs as the spreads weren’t attractive. It helped as the spreads opened up towards the latter half of the year,” he says.

Meanwhile, Kaustubh Gupta, co-head, fixed income, Aditya Birla Sun Life AMC, who shared the third spot with Sharma, says a core-satellite approach was key to his investing strategy. “Debt market cycles have become shorter in time frame, thereby raising the demand for a nimble-footed approach to fund management. Given that in the last 18 months markets have been exposed to multiple risks, we are not taking large fixated calls to a particular view,” he adds.

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