CEO Speak 8th November 2013
The pioneer in distributor education now goes online and multi-lingual
Harshendu Bindal, President, Franklin Templeton Investments


Franklin Templeton has long been regarded as one of the pioneers in distributor education and training. Now, FT is taking its training initiative to a much larger platform, with the launch of the online edition of Franklin Templeton Academy. Harshendu takes us through the contours of this new education initiative from FT and how it can help every distributor and advisor gain useful insights that can help you serve your clients better.

WF: Franklin Templeton Academy is now a decade old and is seen as one of the pioneers in the arena of advisor and distributor education. How has the journey over the last 10 years been? What have been some of the significant milestones that this initiative has achieved?

Harshendu: The last 10 years have been an exciting journey for us. When we started off, it was a relatively new area and nothing significant had been done, but we clearly recognized at that point in time that this was the need of the hour. As an AMC, this was our way of partnering with our advisors and distributors and adding value to them through this training. It has been quite successful and over the years we have had several thousand advisors who have attended the training modules. While some have gone through a few modules selectively, there are many of them, who over time, have gone through all the modules that the academy offers.

In these training sessions we have classroom programs which cover various topics on investment concepts, client management, business development and professional development. It is about holistic development and practice management for the distributors and I think this has been highly appreciated.

For us it is also satisfying that this program which started off for Franklin Templeton in India has now been integrated in the global platform within Franklin Templeton. These training conceptshave been exported to several countries across the globe. We originally thought that the trainingneed is more in developing markets but the fact is that it also exists in developed markets across the globe.

In India, we have reached out to a lot of people - national distributors, banks and independent financial advisors. We have contributed to their development in whatever way we could through the academy and at the same time we have been able to take this initiative globally as well. So this has been very satisfying for us.

WF: FTA is now donning a new age avatar with the launch of its online edition. What was the thinking behind the decision to take it online and what will be the contours of the new online initiative?

Harshendu: There are a variety of reasons to bring this online. When we started off ten years ago, the need was clearly there but even today the need not only exists but has grown and this is especially so, as more people are being added tothe distribution community. There is also an endeavour to add new cadre of distributors and hopefully when that takes off we will have several thousand people joining the industry.Over time, you will have a lot of youngsters joining this industry not only as financial advisors but also in the banks as relationship managers.

When we looked at our courses in the physical format, there were some limitations. Scalability is one as the challenge is it had limited reach and also there is a limitation of language as all courses were in English. Advisors are a lot more conscious about time and sometimes going for a course taking afew hours away from work may not always be possible.

Moreover internet usage in India has also gone up dramatically and is likely to go up three fold in the next 5 years. People are accessing the online space more and more not only through the desktop but also through mobile devices such as tabs and smart phones.

Thus looking at the need for scaling up, reaching out to a wider number of people and reaching out to them at their convenience in languages that they are most comfortable with were some of the key drivers for us to take the Academy online. Some of these modules cover complex topics and if you learn them in a language you are not comfortable with, the impact is not really there or the level of understanding is not as great as it would be when you are learningin a language you are more comfortable with. To start with all the courses will be available in these five languages. - English, Hindi, Tamil, Guajarati and Bengali. The endeavour was that we take the bigger languages and try to cover all the four regions across the countries.

Click Here to go to Franklin Templeton Academy

WF : What about investor education?

Harshendu : Thanks for bringing that point in. We also felt that in addition to serving our distributors and advisors, the Academy must also be useful to investors. With the online version of the Academy, there is a good opportunity for us to reach a large cross section of investors across the country, again, in languages that they are most comfortable with and at a time and place that is most convenient to them.

We have specially developed content for investor education on the site. Forinvestor we have developed several topical videos covering about 19 topics to start with it. It covers various aspects of investing and mutual funds. These are also available in the 5 languages. The content consists of 3 to 5 minutes animated videoswith the objective to help investors learn concepts in a fun way, as some of these investments concepts can be a little heavy. If you are able to simplify these concepts and present them in a fun manner, the chances of learning and absorbing some of these things go up.

WF : What are some of the salient aspects which distributors can hope to learn from FTA's online version?

Harshendu : For advisors, the video content is from the programs that we are running in the physical space covering practice management, investment concepts and client management. Advisors will get to experience meaningful content and the idea was to get to them all of benefits as if they are attending the program in front of a trainer in a user friendly manner.

To start with we are show casing nine modules. Each module is divided into shorter chapters for convenient viewing.This helps in managing bandwidth limitations. These have been presented by one of our senior trainers. We have added simple animated graphics in the background to make it engaging and viewer friendly.

WF: How can a distributor access FTA online? Are there any entry qualifications to gain access?

Harshendu: The investor education content is available for everybody to access but the advisor modules have some content, which we would liketo share with NISM qualified distributors. So to access the content for the advisor community, we have a simple registration process where we ask them for basic details such as the ARN or EUIN number for validation and they can set up their own login id and password. It is not necessary for the distributor to be empanelled with FT. The academy is meant for the benefit of the entire distribution and advisory community - whether they are empanelled with us or not for business.

Once the registration is done, the course contents are free for viewing. They can then track their progress with their login details.When he or she logs in, there are three tabs that will be present. They will show youwhat courses have you completed, what courses are left, what are the new courses available. The distributor can resume from where he left off since the last login.

At the end of each module there is a quiz and when the user clears the quiz, they get a personalized e-certificate. So we are giving advisors the opportunityto learn and also get a certificate from FT Academy

Similarly for investors, registration is optional. But again if they register they can track their viewing history just like an advisor. They also have the option of taking an online quiz and getting recognized for it.

WF: What are your future plans in the area of distributor and investor education?

Harshendu: In the online initiative, the quality of content is important and as we launch this, we are actively going to solicit feedback from both distributors and clients and would like to continuously improve in terms of content and delivery. We will broaden and improve the suite of topics as we get feedback. Once more people start going through the courses; we will continuously look at adding content as well. In terms of languages; if the feedback is good and we get a lot of demand then we will be open to adding more languages in the future. We will look at providing training for some examinations inother areas as well. People are regularly taking NISM exams and if they want training around that, we are open to providing training through the academy going forward.

WF: SEBI is very keen to get financial education included in college curriculums. Is there any thinking of taking the FT Academy to colleges?

Harshendu: We are active on the key social media platforms. This has helped us connect with the younger audiences and we see a lot of interest from that segment. We are hoping that through these platforms we will be able popularize concepts on investing and mutual funds amongst the younger generation.

We think the online format is good for taking FTA to the colleges. We are keen that the youth go through the investor sections and learn about investing. For people who want to become investment advisors and choose financial advisory or distribution as a career option, once they have completed their NISM certification they can go through all of these trainings in the advisor sections as well.

Click Here to go to Franklin Templeton Academy

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