AMC Speak 27 March 2014
Here comes a true well wisher
Karan Datta, National Sales Head, Axis MF


Well-wisher in Hindi translates to ShubhChintak - an apt name for a fantastic new proposition that Axis Mutual Fund has now made available to the entire IFA fraternity in the country. Every distributor, big or small, understands the need to transition from product oriented client conversations to goal based conversations. It is in the execution of this desire that many continue to grapple for cost effective solutions. ShubhChintak is perhaps exactly what can finally fill this long felt gap. By promoting a truly open-architecture platform with complete infrastructure support, at a highly subsidized cost, Axis MF is making a strong statement that a true long term well-wisher of an IFA is one who supports the IFA to become a Shubhchintak to his investors. Read on as Karan explains what ShubhChintak is all about and how it can meaningfully help you change your conversations with your clients, help make happy investors and thus grow your business on a firm footing.

WF: What were the key issues faced by IFAs that prompted you to come up with a solution like ShubhChinthak ?

Karan Datta: ShubhChintak for Axis AMC is not just a proposition or initiative but our guiding philosophy. ShubhChinthak literally translates as "Well Wisher" in English.

Our collective experience in the industry continuously throws up one common trend and that is - the list of happy investors in the industry is far smaller than that of unhappy ones. If we probe deeper and focus just on an investor's experience, we find that the list of happy investors in our industry is limited because,there is no anchor reason to buy mutual funds. This is because the retail investor is forever buying a trend, a performance, or the latest fad and hence the experience is not the best as he invariably ends up buying at the top of each such trend. Lack of an anchor is also one of the biggest reasons for SIP stoppages. If this trend has to change someone has to step in and change the conversation. Which is exactly what we are trying with ShubhChintak as a philosophy. We are trying to move away from a conversation based on products and performance to one based on goals, plans and dreams.

ShubhChintak is the mechanism that will help distributors change this conversation with their clients. For an IFA or a distributor, the tough part is that the infrastructure required for changing the conversation is both expensive and difficult to create, besides being hard to justify. All this is created by ShubhChintak at one go.


WF: So what exactly is ShubhChintak? Is it a financial planning software or something beyond that?

Karan Datta: There are many financial planning solutions and planning tools available in the market. However, we have notice that they are not being usedextensively because they are all isolated pieces of tools. In ShubhChinthak, we have created the entire infrastructure with People, Process and Technology at its heart. People at the back end who are mapped to each IFA are constantly in touch with the IFAs for planning, execution and closing out opportunities. Process is the means to ensure productivity and analytics and eventually it is technology which threads all of this together.


WF: Before proceeding to the infrastructure aspect, a clarification please. We have seen planning tools offered by some fund houses, but with embedded solutions that revolve around their own products. Is ShubhChintak open architecture in terms of the end solutions that advisors can deliver with it?

Karan Datta: ShubhChintak is an open architecture infrastructure solution and covers multi products. It is about the advice of the distributor himself as it is his product, input, and solution. We are just the creators of the infrastructure and are willing to give it out to the IFA community to use all its parts. At the heart of its creation is the ability to ask investors questions about their goals, provide them with solutions and eventually offer products that meets goals.

The IFA can present Axis products or any other as part of his solution - its his choice. But the real benefit from ShubhChintak is the opportunity for an IFA to now have meaningful and relevant control over an investors long term aspirations and goals.


WF: Technology is perhaps the more familiar aspect. What are the contours of the infrastructure that make the solution complete?

Karan Datta: Think of Shubhchintak as a transition from a personal assistant to an executive assistant. An executive assistant is a smart intelligent person working to enhance your productivity. One of the biggest challenges we face as IFAs is productivity. Under the Shubhchintak umbrella, you are focused predominantly on investor interface and leaving the entire infrastructure headache, to the back-end created by us. Another way to look at Shubhchintak is like the R&T created for IFAs.One very critical point that needs to be highlighted here is the data confidentiality that exists out there. All our agreements including Master agreements are tied around data confidentiality. We are very sensitive to data confidentiality as it can have a damaging impact on our brand.

WF: So if an IFA signs up for ShubhChinthak, then he gets access to planning tools which can help him change the conversations with his clients, and then he also has access to a team of people who will help him at every stage of execution of the plans he has made for his clients. Is that correct?

Karan Datta: Yes. For example once you have signed up with ShubhChintak an IFA's endeavour is to focus on goal based conversations with his clients and to create solutions for each goal. ShubhChintak will help him create the goals as well as the solutions. But what is even more important that for creation of goals, asset allocation, products - each and every input is that of the IFA. Every IFA is asked to complete a set of 15-20 questions about advice parameters. For eg inflation range, expected rate of returns for each asset etc. In many ways each Shubhchintak is different because every IFA will have his / her own view on these 15 questions.

Then, he will be assisted at every stage, by real people that he will talk to, who will ensure that the focus on executing the solutions does not waver. At no stage does the infra team get in touch with any clients. The back end team is forever in touch with the IFA. Its from the IFAs email ID or website that the client is given his asset allocation solution and products.

Once the solutions are fully executed the IFA is assisted in regular tracking and monitoring progress. Most importantly he will have a comprehensive suite of business analytics which will really help him sharpen his focus and enhance his productivity. There are multiple elements to ShubhChintak that go far beyond creating financial plans - that's just the starting point.


WF: So effectively ShubhChintak is not just an open architecture financial planning tool but has got a whole CRM solution embedded in the proposition that goes to the IFA.

Karan Datta: We have created the entire back end infrastructure that an IFA requires from start of a conversation around goals to complete execution. One of the biggest tools is the analytics. The analytics that the infrastructure will play back to the IFA is absolutely amazing. We are trying to help IFAs move away from revenue per transaction to revenue per client.

WF: What will it cost an IFA to become a ShubhChintak?

Karan Datta: Axis AMC , over the last 5 years has been thinking a great deal on how to add value to the IFA community. Beyond a point performance and pricing of products is transactional and does not create a deep bond.

At Axis we strongly believe that if we are to create happy customers we have to make the first move. It is with this thought that we created Shubhchintak. This is not a revenue line for us because we are not in the business of selling software or hardware. The benefits to Axis AMC will come via increased share of business to us and the brand that we build with IFAs. To us that is much more important and relevant.

When we went out and did road shows and spoke to groups of IFAs across the country, we were advised that while we should offer the product, it certainly should not be free of cost. During the many discussions on the pricing that subsequently took place, prices that emerged were in the range Rs 299 to Rs 999 per month. In fact the median feedback we got from IFAs was a price of Rs 599 per month. This is practically free considering that the actual cost for a complete back end solution like Shubhchintak can range between a minimum of Rs 35,000to Rs40,000 per month.

WF: So an IFA has to pay is Rs 599 per month to avail of the entire ShubhChintak suite?

Karan Datta: Absolutely. And this number again has come from the IFA community itself. Like I have said, it is important to start talking the language of the customer ie his / her goals and dreams. For that to happen we need to give all the support required.

What is even more relevant here is that the IFA need not charge the clients for creating these plans. IT is left to the discretion of every IFA oh how we ants to use Shubhchintak.

WF: What in your opinion will be the key benefits that an IFA will get if he were to take on the ShubhChintak proposition?

Karan Datta: First, if you start by believing the ShubhChintak philosophy of moving from products and performance to goals and plans, you will create happy investors. This is the single largest benefit and if it benefits customers it will benefit IFAs and hence the industry. Other things along with it are productivity, engagement, and a holistic view of the customer, much more business and referrals. I think it's a complete package.

Having said that it is also a mind shift change away from our usual method of taking fact sheets and forms. We have to sit with existing and potential investors and take that half an hour to ask him the right questions,input the responses and then give out solutions. So it's not an easy transition and can take some time but it's a transition that the IFA community is in the best position to make because they have always had the interest of the customer.


WF: Given that there is MF Utility on the horizon that is part of a large industry initiative, would ShubhChintak link into MFU for transaction execution?

Karan Datta: Absolutely.The IFA will continue to do business through his own ARN code and has complete control on execution. ShubhChintak simply acts as the back end infra for the IFA and will link into MF Utility, for executing mutual fund transactions.

WF: Would ShubhChintak also give him all the client reports and business MI that he currently gets from back office software?

Karan Datta: Completely and that's very scalable. I would in fact like to give the background on who our infrastructure provider is and how we decided to partner with them. We had the option of going to three vendors before we actually decided to sign up with Sumeet Vaid's Ffreedom Financial, after considerable due diligence. We have worked very closely with Ffreedom Financial in creating the inputs and the infrastructure that we needed. Ffreedom has stopped its B2C model and is highly focused around creating the back end for Axis AMC. Our arrangement with Ffreedom is exclusive and hence we get first mover advantage in providing a complete solution to our IFAs. For all practical purposes the IFAs sees Axis AMC at the fore front of the initiative while Freedom acts as our vendor / co creator of the infrastructure that has got built based on our inputs.

WF: Are there any plans to train and hand hold IFAs who want to get on to ShubhChintak?

Karan Datta: No doubt about that. Since the transition is not easy, we have started carefully. We want the right IFAs to sign up as Shubhchintak. Forward looking, investor centric, ready to embrace new ideas and willing to create happy investors is what we are looking for.

Now, the first set of 110 ShubhChinthaks have already signed up and they have undergone intense two-day training sessions. It is not just about learning and development but is also a lot of emphasis on the usage of the process etc, including sharing of experiences. We are now rolling out our proposition across the country. Pune was our first market where the initial response has been superb. We chose Pune first because of its unique mix of advisors. We are now ready to go across the country and request IFAs to choose doing business as a Well wisher of their clients.

WF: I must compliment you and your team for coming up with such a wonderful initiative. A comprehensive financial planning and business support solution, with all the necessary infrastructure made available, and that too on an open architecture multi product platform, is clearly a first from any fund house - and one that can surely make a meaningful difference in helping IFAs make the transition they want to, but lacked the resources to do on their own.

Karan Datta: Thank you Vijay. It is not easy for a fund house to create a capability which goes beyond its own product lines. We have made that choice because we feel it is the right thing to do both for the clients and their advisors.

From what we hear from our colleagues from Schroders, globally too, they haven't come across any fund house that offers as comprehensive a solution as we have in place with ShubhChintak. The other aspect of course is that whether you are an advisor or a distributor, the regulator anyway is a lot more demanding in terms of good sales processes. With ShubhChintak, you don't have to worry about compliance. And, with the cost being pegged so low, you have no compulsion to charge clients to make it worthwhile. We are very confident that by embracing goals and dreams of clients, we will help move in the right direction ie create happy investors.

WF: I sincerely hope that we have many thousands of IFAs who take up this offer and actually make the transition, change their conversations and thus help make many more happy investors over time.

Karan Datta: We are looking forward towards this journey. It is not an easy transition and we will be with the IFAs every step of the way. We will also live and learn as this is a new path for us too.

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