While an increasing number of women are now donning the adviser’s hat, they were a rarity a decade back. We caught up with one such adviser who started distributing mutual funds 17 years back and has become a role model for aspiring women advisers.
Starting from a compact 100 sq. ft. office in Fort, Sangeeta today manages more than Rs. 600 crore AUM in mutual funds across 750 clients from her plush office in Lower Parel. She heads an all-women team of ten from her office tucked in a tiny lane on Lower Parel’s bustling N.M. Joshi Marg. The numerous trophies received from AMCs displayed at her office are testament to her commitment towards her profession.
Recalling her early days, she says that her first client’s investment was in Sun F&C Mutual Fund (acquired by Principal MF). Sangeeta was introduced to mutual funds by a chance meeting with a distributor. She learned the ropes of the business on the job. “I didn’t know how to fill an application form. An AMC official came to our office to help us with it. That’s how we learned,” says Sangeeta.
When she started, liquid funds had not gained significant ground among corporates. “Corporates had burnt their fingers in bill discounting market and were looking for new avenues to invest. There were hardly any corporates investing in liquid funds at that time,” recalls Sangeeta.
She narrates how she bagged Rs. 225 crore investment deal in a liquid fund which turned heads in the industry in 2003. “I read in a newspaper that a big corporate was about to get Rs. 2,000 crore from a deal. I contacted the company by looking up their number in a telephone directory and asked them to connect me to the finance head. After following up with the finance head five times, he finally gave me an appointment. I explained to him the concept of mutual funds and how the company can benefit by parking the cash in liquid funds. They invested Rs. 225 crore through me. Even banks and national distributors could not get this deal. Getting this kind of money was big at that time,” Sangeeta recalls her proud moment. She says she was able to crack this deal due to sheer perseverance.
While her initial set of clients were corporates, the employees with whom Sangeeta made contacts at corporates helped her diversify into retail. Today, she has a healthy mix of corporates, HNIs and retail clients.
Sangeeta acquired most of her initial set of clients through cold calling. Now, she gets a steady flow of clients through referrals.
The entrepreneurial bug
After completing CA, she started her career as an auditor and later joined an NBFC. Her stint with the NBFC coincided with the CRB scam which left a serious dent on the NBFC sector's image. That is when she decided to start her venture in 2000.
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, striking out on her own was only natural. Nevertheless, she relishes the challenges that came with her job. “Wherever I have worked I have worked as if it is my own company,” recalls Sangeeta.
A chartered accountant, Sangeeta deals in insurance products as well. She has qualified for MDRT for ten years and also for court of table (COT) & top of the table (TOT).
Her success mantra is simple. Do what is right for the client and business will follow.
Client interest is her priority. In fact, she doesn’t check the commission structure before recommending any fund.
Sangeeta believes in continuous learning. She acquired the CFP certification in 2009 which helped her adopt goal based planning. Recognizing her contribution towards the profession, CNBC TV 18 UTI bestowed her with the Best Independent Financial Advisor award in women category (National) for the year 2015-16.
Tips for women advisers
There were hardly any women financial planners when Sangeeta started her practice. Armed with CFP, aspiring women advisers are now joining established advisers to learn about the practicalities of financial planning on the job and going on to set up their own practices. Some have even reached leadership positions in wealth management firms.
Sangeeta believes that any investor will trust an adviser more than a banker and thus women advisers have an edge.
She is very confident about the growth of the industry and recommends women to take the plunge as soon as possible. “This business will expand significantly and if women want to enter this business my advice would be to start today.” She suggests that women should not treat MF distribution as ‘side business or a part-time profession’. “You are competing with men so you have to be dedicated to your work,” advises Sangeeta.
The road ahead
Having achieved Rs. 600 crore AUM in MFs, Sangeeta has not set any targets for herself. She emphasises integrity in advice and excellence in service which begets referrals.
How she caught our eye: Runs an all-women practice with over Rs. 600 crore AUM in mutual funds. Director of Mumbai based IFA association Foundation of Independent Financial Advisors (FIFA).
Personal: Married to Sunil Jhaveri. Likes to watch Bollywood movies.
Favorite book: Winning by Jack Welch.