‘We should adapt to newer ways of doing business’

Rajesh chats about his journey in advisory and how he uses his paintings to engage with clients.
By Morningstar |  09-10-18 | 
 

Mumbai based adviser Rajesh Hattangady’s firm THiiNK is perhaps the only advisory firm in India to be certified by International Organization for Standardization, or, ISO, 9001:2008.  He chats with Ravi Samalad about his journey in advisory and how he uses his paintings to engage with clients.

You are good at painting since your school days. Did you thought of pursuing it as a career?

I had received Soviet Land Nehru Award in my eight grade. I am not formally trained in painting and drawing. I have always taken it as a hobby and did not look at it as a career.

You had the option of joining your family business. What made you strike out on your own?

I had joined family business initially. However, the business was into technical domain, which wasn’t cutout for a commerce graduate like me.

Tell us about your early days as a financial adviser? How did you build your clientele? What marketing activities did you adopt to acquire clients?

I started out taking a life insurance agency. I am probably one of the few advisers who sought life insurance agency as a walk-in, that too in a private life insurance firm.

Most of the clients that I acquired initially were from roadshows. I used to put up kiosks at business parks, large departmental stores, etc. Investor awareness workshop wasn’t a known name then. The intention was to collect prospect data and subsequently follow up for meetings. Over the years, I took up licenses to market general insurance, fixed deposits and mutual funds. Nowadays, putting up kiosks and help desk at corporates is passé and I have been concentrating on investor awareness workshops. I hold small meetings for prospects and clients at our office on Saturdays very frequently. Although it’s unfortunate that SEBI doesn’t allow AMFI certified advisers to conduct IAPs, we host such initiatives at our own costs.

Your firm is International Organization for Standardization, or, ISO, 9001:2008 certified which is very rare for a financial advisory practice. How has it helped you?

We are arguably the first ISO certified independent financial advisers to have gone for the certification. Individuals like me had and always will have limitation in growing our practice and hence investing in systems was utmost important. We chose ISO for the same. Today, my practice doesn’t require my intervention since the systems everyone in my office.

You answer queries on Quora. Has it helped you acquire clients? What would be your advice to advisers who wish to have a presence on Quora.

Answering user queries, especially in our domain establishes us an expert in our field. Users are bound to check your profile via other social platforms like LinkedIn and would ultimately become your clients. Read the questions what the world wishes to know. These questions show us a trend in people’s behavior and help us create our client acquisition strategies. I would advise not to use Quora if the intention is to only acquire clients.

How do you use your art in your practice?

I have been rendering charcoal sketches since a couple of years. Since it is a passion it takes me away from mundane and routine work and forces me to THiiNK innovatively. I find it extremely satisfying to communicate with clients and prospects in a different language. From my website, visiting cards, greetings, blogs, social media post, T-Shirts and coffee mugs, I have everything rendered in charcoal sketches. I have been sending charcoal sketches on investor behaviors, investing in SIP etc. via these sketches. I use social platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to share my work. The idea is to occupy the mind space and not wallet share. Most of the times, the sketches are in sync with festivals or events of national importance. This helps the client and prospects connect with us. To cite an example, the sketch on France winning the World Cup football had our clients in Bangalore being appreciated by his visiting French delegates.

How do you plan to overcome the challenge of shrinking margins?

If I see this move as a challenge, it will remain a challenge. The margins in every business is shrinking, and we aren’t the only ones feeling the brunt. I believe in keeping the focus on clients and to serve them well. Everything else, including commercials, follow suit. Clients are smart and definitely see the hard work we put on them. However, there will be a few who will get filtered and will opt out. If we see ourselves being in this industry for the long haul, THiiNK long term and draw up long term goals for our businesses too.

How have direct plans impacted your business? How do you convince your clients against migrating to direct plans?

They haven’t and will never impact. Most of our clients come through referrals and hence direct plans do not affect us much. Nevertheless, one cannot be complacent. We should look and adapt to newer ways of doing business. Innovate or perish is the mantra. We do not convince clients not to go direct. In fact, if anyone wishes to migrate, we help them in the transition. We need to act professionally with clients. If their entry is welcomed by us, they deserve ceremonial exits too.

What are your plans for your practice for the immediate future?

We are in the process of forming a Limited Liability Company. We are expanding the team and launching a mobile app for clients.  There is a coffee table book on the anvil too.

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