Approach gold the traditional way!

Gold finds place in an Indian’s asset basket with or without a conscious asset allocation strategy that might be in place. This tradition of having some of it stashed away for the rainy day or for a family function (mainly children’s marriage) need not be elaborated at all. However, in today’s context gold find place in an individual’s asset basket as a result of more formal means of inclusion. This has happened over the past 15 years with India getting more closely knit globally, proliferation of advisors and knowledge transfer on currencies and resultant need to hold real assets.

As a result, gold is now held more in an sophisticated form (ETF’s) or more complex to understand ‘Gold funds’ (a quasi form of holding gold through long position on gold mining stocks). The need to hold an alternative or real asset is now fulfilled by allocating 5%-8% of an individual’s portfolio by exposure through these means. In addition, positives like liquidity, ease of transacting and low/no storage costs make the case stronger taking exposure via this route.

The question then arises is should exposure to gold move completely to holding it in these forms. The answer to this question lies in looking at both pros & cons of holding it in the traditional (physical) form and making a choice according to personal needs and goals.

• Amongst the biggest advantage of holding gold in physical form is its absence of daily valuation which is evident in holding it as an ETF. This sets the stage for increasing the holding period as a result of absence of mark-to-market.

• Secondly, the notion of liquidity might be misunderstood when holding it in physical form; since in the ETF mode it would still take t+2 days to realise cash, while in the physical for its just over the counter (at least in the Indian context). This normally acts as a liquidity booster during emergencies and a last line of defence for any household.

• Third, unlike other asset class which require constant monitoring and periodic re-allocation depending upon investor’s asset allocation, gold can continue to be held for pre-specified goals such as daughter marriage (since it would be cost neutral when jewellery purchases are to be made under anytime horizon).

Amongst the disadvantages could remain its cost of holding and security, both of which are a big hurdle for today’s investor.
The need to propagate and communicate benefits of gold investment to his/her client’s asset basket lies ultimately with the advisor. More often than not gold investment is either too little or too much and depends upon investor’s psyche and outlook towards holding it. Advisor’s role in maintaining the appropriate level (ideally between 5%-8% of the asset basket) will have its advantages in the long run.


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