Debt fund managers have had a tough time navigating through a low interest rate regime for the last couple of years. Amid the tough times, Manish Banthia, senior fund manager, fixed income, ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund, has grabbed the top slot among debt fund managers in the Fortune India-Morningstar study.

Banthia manages over ₹70,000 crore across nine schemes, mostly from the debt category. The prominent debt schemes that he handles have delivered 6.47-9.19% returns over the last three years compared with SBI’s three-year fixed deposit rate of 6.8 per cent three years ago.

Banthia says the 2020 performance was aided by AA-rated papers trading at 10-11%; these usually trade at 5-6%. “2021 was a challenging year. Against expectations, RBI could not raise rates due to Covid-19. It has resulted in a lot of liquidity. So, spreads are down,” he explains.

ICICI Prudential AMC has also grabbed the second spot in the debt fund category with Rahul Goswami, chief investment officer (CIO), fixed income, ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund. He is the lead fund manager for nine schemes with assets of around ₹1,24,000 crore. Key debt schemes that he manages have delivered 6.07-8.11% over last three years.

“Our investment philosophy is around safety, liquidity and returns. We focus more on the process than creating alpha in a day because the fund’s life is more than the longevity of fund managers. A long-term approach that meets the fund’s investment requirement is needed,” says Goswami.

Anupam Joshi, fund manager of Fixed Income at HDFC Asset Management Co, holds the third spot. As of November 30, 2021, he was managing ₹1.06 lakh crore. The two prominent debt schemes that he manages are HDFC Corporate Bond and HDFC Low Duration with three-year returns of 8.69% and 6.62%, respectively.

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