Editorial 10th June 2015
This platform raises the bar for the industry
Vijay Venkatram, Managing Director, Wealth Forum


DSP Blackrock has launched IFA Express, its business platform for its distribution partners. DSP Blackrock is certainly not the first - a few large AMCs have active transaction and business support platforms in existence. So why this article? Because, having seen IFA Express and the level of detail that the e-business team at DSP BR have considered in building IFA Express, it seems to me that the bar has now been raised for the fund industry.

Indian consumers are benefiting from high quality, intuitively designed, extremely convenient e-commerce platforms. IFA Express brings in a similar experience to IFAs when transacting mutual funds for their clients. IFA Express is clearly next gen, it raises the bar on user experience within our industry, and will undoubtedly push competition to look at how they are going to enhance their own platforms - all of which is good news for our distributors. And, this may well also act as a catalyst to upgrade investor oriented online platforms - which is great news for investors.

Click here to log into IFA Express

DSP Blackrock's e-business team has been working round the clock for a little over a year to create IFA Express. It's a platform that has been built completely in-house, by a crack team that understands the internet world as well as understands mutual funds very well. This confluence of understanding is what has perhaps enabled them to create a transaction and business platform for IFAs, which in terms of convenience, is quite similar to what we experience as consumers in the e-commerce space.

There are many pluses, but from an IFA's perspective, perhaps one key minus: it allows IFAs to transact only DSP Blackrock funds (which is understandable from the AMC's point of view). A big wow would have been if it were open architecture. But then, that's the domain of MF Utility and not IFA Express.

Here are some of the features of IFA Express that are likely to be very useful for IFAs:

Customer on-boarding: If you have a new client (new to you but not new to the industry), as long as the client is KYC verified, you can create a new folio and make a fresh purchase in a jiffy. All you enter is the client's PAN number and date of birth, and a new folio gets created by picking up other details from the KYC. You do not have to go through filling in 15-20 fields of information to create a new folio with a 1st time purchase transaction.

Online SIP registration: IFA Express allows you to register SIPs online, which means that you can now look at sourcing low ticket retail SIPs using this platform, and eliminate a lot of the paperwork that otherwise makes this business opportunity unviable.

Real-time tracking: Just like courier companies and e-commerce platforms keep you informed at every stage on what is happening with your deliveries, IFA Express gives you real-time information on what is happening with every transaction that you have logged in. This eliminates a lot of time otherwise spent in calling the call centre and then the AMC branch to verify status of transactions. The moment a transaction is logged in offline (say at the R&T's office or the AMC branch), its real time tracking starts immediately on your IFA Express dashboard.

Convenient product selection: We often know which scheme we want and what option we want, but get confused when we see a drop down with 10 fund names that sound very similar, and thus perhaps inadvertently make a wrong product choice when logging in a purchase transaction. IFA Express asks you questions that lead you to the correct product, without expecting you to know the exact product name.

Exit load alert: When redeeming, IFA Express tells you how many units are off the exit load and how many will carry an exit load, if redeemed on that date. If you choose to redeem units with exit load, it will again calculate and let you know exactly how much exit load your client will pay, should the transaction be processed on that date. This piece of information often acts as a useful deterrent in redeeming in panic on bad market days.

Business dashboard: IFA Express's business analytics features in its dashboard give rich insights into business trends that enable IFAs to have a quick yet comprehensive look at how their business with DSP BR is shaping up.

Click here to log into IFA Express

To conclude

Some of the IFAs who have participated in beta testing of IFA Express in recent months find this platform very effective for managing near term liquidity of their existing clients, as liquid fund investments and redemptions are quick and easy. Some also find it a convenient way to source low ticket retail SIPs, which they were otherwise not keen on pursuing, with the rather laborious offline mode. It's still early days, but it appears that enterprising IFAs are finding ways of leveraging this platform not just for convenience but for business growth as well.

Beyond the immediate benefits to IFAs from this new platform, I believe the real benefit from IFA Express is that it will catalyse a version 2.0 among existing distributor transaction platforms that AMCs have made available to their distributors. As AMCs look to innovate further and redefine convenience, the real winner will be the IFA.

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