Advisor Speak 25th February 2013
The first association to join another association
Vijay Kumar Agarwal, Insurance & Investment Advisors Association, Indore; Director - FIFA


One of the keenly debated issues among IFAs - including in our Discussion Forum (Click Here) - is the issue of how to come together as one national entity, while at the same time preserving the identity of regional and state level associations that already exist and which are already doing a good job. In this context, much has been debated for and against a move to join hands with FIFA. In order to give another perspective on this key issue, we asked Vijay Agarwal, President of IIAA, Indore - the first and as yet the only IFA association to have joined hands with FIFA - to share his experiences and address some of the concerns that IFAs have expressed on this issue. Read on to get a perspective from the first association to join another association.


WF : When was IIAA set up and what have been the key activities of your association?

Vijay Agarwal : IIAA, Indore was set up way back in 1998 by 4-5 of us and in 2000, we took a formal Societies registration. Our primary objective right from the beginning was to have a platform for all members to exchange views and ideas and learn more. For several years now, we have had a practice of organising a dinner meeting on the 1st Friday of every month. All AMCs and insurance companies know this and never schedule any of their events on the 1st Friday of any month in Indore. Each month, we invite a speaker who shares some insights on financial advice, wealth management and related knowledge oriented topics. This is not a platform for NFO marketing for AMCs - invited guest speakers are requested to share insights and knowledge that benefits our members.

Apart from this, we also focus a lot on family bonding. We organise annual family days and movie shows, where all family members of our members get together and have a great time. Building these strong relationships among our members ensures that all members treat each other with professional respect and ethics. We don't find our members trying to undercut each other or snatch each other's business.

WF : IIAA is the first, and as yet the only association that has joined FIFA. What led you to take this decision to join FIFA as an association member?

Vijay Agarwal :You will recall that back in 2009, when SEBI first put out a discussion draft on abolishing entry loads and asked for public feedback, we at IIAA tried very hard to get people together from different cities to make a joint representation to SEBI. Regrettably, a joint memorandum never really went out from IFAs, expressing their views. In August the same year, SEBI went ahead and announced entry load ban.

What we saw in 2009 is that a number of associations came up in different states - after seeing the negative impact on business that this entry load ban caused us. We all need to learn from this that it is important to come together and make our representations at the appropriate time in a united manner - rather than making our individual efforts after the event has occurred.

When FIFA was formed with strong Mumbai based representation, we saw this as a good opportunity to come together and unite. The fact is that for our business, we do need a strong voice in Mumbai, as SEBI is there, AMFI is there and all manufacturers - AMCs and insurers - are there.

FIFA invited our association to their quarterly AMFI meetings. After some interactions with FIFA directors and consultations within our association, we decided to join FIFA as an association member.

WF : There seem to be some apprehensions among a few regional IFA associations that becoming an association member of FIFA could lead to a dilution in the regional association's identity. There is also a view that FIFA may represent the interests of only the "big IFAs". How has your experience been on both these aspects?

Vijay Agarwal : Let's get one thing very clear. In Indore, all our activities are conducted exactly as before - under the IIAA banner. All AMCs in Indore know IIAA and deal with us exactly as before. Nothing has changed in terms of our local activities or identity as a result of joining hands with FIFA.

On the contrary, we feel strengthened with this association. Dhruv Mehta and RoopaVenkat from FIFA are always easily accessible and hold consultations with us, like they do with other FIFA members before making any important representations. We are very happy to see that our views from Indore are carried to SEBI and even Ministry of Finance, through FIFA, which we would not have been able to accomplish so effectively on our own.

Now, to the second point of big vs small IFAs. We joined FIFA in July 2012. In November, we got a mail inviting us to contest the elections in the 1st AGM. After internal consultations within IIAA, we decided to go ahead and contest and I was nominated as IIAA's representative for this purpose. There were 16 contestants for 11 Board positions. The fact that I got elected, although a majority of existing FIFA members are Mumbai based, shows clearly that people in FIFA are equally keen to broaden its base and involve more and more IFAs from across the country in its functioning and decision making process.

For anybody who has so many doubts in their minds, I have a simple message : anything can be resolved with dialogue. We at IIAA have found FIFA's founders very accessible and open to suggestions. There is no point having worries in your mind. Sit down and have a dialogue and clear out your doubts. As I said before, our IFA community has lost out because of our inability to put up a united front. Its time we correct this, at least for the future.

WF : You recently conducted a much appreciated event in Indore, in partnership with FIFA. Can you take us through this?

Vijay Agarwal : Earlier this month, IIAA and FIFA jointly conducted a very successful program for all our members - which I would say was a unique one in Indore. This was a session where successful advisors like LovaiiNavlakhi from Bangalore and RoopaVenkat and Dhruv Mehta from Mumbai shared their experiences on what it took for them to become so successful in this profession. We have seen such experience sharing among distributors in your Wealth Forum conferences - however, in Indore, this was perhaps the first time we had something like this. It was very well appreciated by all members. For this event, we had members not just from Indore but also from Bhopal, Jabalpur and Kota.

When somebody like Lovaii, who has been recognised and awarded as a leading financial planner in India, gives our members a detailed presentation on what it takes to set up and run a financial planning practice, it adds a lot of value to all of us. These kinds of sessions, where leading IFAs share their insights with us, give us the opportunity to broaden our horizons and think bigger than what we perhaps were doing earlier.