5 business development tips from Madurai’s champion IFA
P. Ramaswamy, Madurai’s largest IFA with an AuM in excess of Rs.80 crs, shares his 5 key learnings that have helped him grow his business and deliver value to his clients:
An ordinary lady in her mid-70s is being felicitated for her extraordinary work in helping clean lakes around Madurai and everyone wants to listen to her. Madurai after all has been recently awarded as the best district in rejuvenation of water bodies by the national government in 2019. Now why is this relevant for IFAs you may ask. Ramaswamy attended her presentation with a different perspective: how will she convey her thoughts to the captive audience? What lessons can we imbibe from her inspirational work? IFAs can improve their presentation skills if they only take the time to observe others as inspiration and lessons can come from all walks of life, shares P. Ramaswamy.
Are you clear when you present?
An avid reader, Ramaswamy feels the mistake that many IFAs make is to not read on a regular basis. Given the overabundance of information, clients are often more knowledgeable than the IFAs themselves. Therefore, in order to be relevant to clients, IFAs also need to read on a wide variety of topics including non-financial areas.
Many IFAs don't even take the time to read the materials from AMCs and translate it into their thoughts and words. This results in a lack of clarity and originality during presentation and discussions, and clients will pick up on that. If your client does not have confidence or is not able to understand what the IFA is sharing, they may choose to switch to a competitor. Therefore, it is very important that IFAs have clarity of thought in their presentation of product materials and the key is to convey the content in their own style and words, he said.
If IFAs don't feel comfortable around a certain product, they will not be able to answer clients’ questions and handhold them in a reassuring manner during market dips. So it would be better to offer products where IFAs have a thorough knowledge and comfort level, he shared.
Understand your region
While there are many points to learn from other advisors within the industry, IFAs also need to be careful to avoid imitation and instead put in the effort to understand what is their own comfort level, strengths and weaknesses. IFAs also need to understand that a strategy that would work well in metros may not well in their own towns. For IFAs in smaller cities and towns across India, the challenges may be different from those in the metros and the key is to understand the customer mindset in their region, he said.
Madurai is the last mile connect and many have to fly to Madurai before traveling by road or train further south in Tamil Nadu. The per capita income is smaller and people around Madurai come for the market, small-scale industries and tourism. An IFA in Chennai might consider a 10 crore cheque a big ticket but a 10 lakh cheque would be considered a huge investment for a client in Madurai. Therefore, the expectations of an IFA have to be pared accordingly to income levels and the business plans must consider what is happening at ground level, he advised.
Awareness building in vernacular language
Slowly, people in smaller cities like Madurai are moving away from traditional forms of investment. Lots of awareness about mutual funds has to happen in order for IFAs to scale up in smaller towns and cities, advises Ramaswamy. He conducts one or two IAPs a month. With the daily operational constraints of running a business, more IAPs are not feasible and a more effective way to reach prospects would be to use media.
Rather than English, financial information presented in vernacular language is highly appreciated by clients as they are able to understand the concepts with better clarity. In 2017, he gave a presentation about mutual funds as part of a programme held by a Tamil business magazine. The video of the presentation posted in the magazine's youtube channel has over 1.2 lakh views and continues to gain more eyeballs.
His own YouTube channel: Easy Invest Ramaswamy
An audiovisual presentation has the power to reach far more people than an IAP but there are challenges in creating the content. In order to have a winning presentation, the content has to be accessible to a wide variety of people from different income levels, financial knowledge and investment needs, he advised.
IFAs, who are considering audiovisual content as a strategy to connect with clients, also need to consider how clients will be accessing them. Rather than the computer, many prospects tend to watch videos through the phone. Data is a huge consideration when it comes to downloading or streaming videos. If the video files are too large, clients will choose not to watch due to data limitations and therefore, the videos need to be short in length.
Accordingly, his youtube channel has videos that are under five minutes and cover basic financial concepts as well as introduction to mutual funds in Tamil. These videos are then easy to share among clients who can forward to their friends and relatives.
Clients do understand risk
A satisfied client can be your ambassador, said Ramaswamy. He shared that one of his clients started with a small amount of Rs. 40,000 in 2012 as the client was not very sure about mutual funds and did not have much knowledge about the financial markets.
However, as the client gained clarity and insight into mutual funds, he grew more comfortable and understood what to expect from the market. The client is now of the firm's top 20 clients and has also referred friends, relatives and acquaintances even outside Madurai.
IFAs need not worry about losing clients during market dips if they have provided enough clarity to clients. Rather than fancy jargon, clients want simple thoughts that will give them peace and good night sleep. If they understand the risks, then clients are well prepared for the market dips. So rather than exotic products, clients new to financial investments need products they can easily relate to and understand, he shared.
There is no straight road
Technology innovations can both be a boon as well as a challenge for IFAs in smaller towns and cities, says our Madurai champion. Ramaswamy and few friends helped kick-start an association for IFAs in the Madurai district. The association meets on a quarterly basis to network and share knowledge on topics like platforms and MIS related issues.
While the constant changes in the industry from regulation and innovation can be a challenge, IFAs need to learn to adapt. There are no linear roads in travel and the road can have constant turns and obstacles, yet the driver learns to manage.
manage. Similarly, IFAs also need to be adaptable in order to thrive, he shared.
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