imgbd Mr. Dependable

What makes Ashwani "Mr.Dependable"?

Ashwani Tiwari, WealthMate, Jalandhar

Its not only the 100+ families who have entrusted him with over Rs.150 cr in MF AuM who find Ashwani "Mr.Dependable" - the country too depends on him to send the best chess players for international competitions and earn laurels for us. You read it right - Ashwani is not only a CFP and a Certified Market Technician, he also holds a FIDE Master title given to him by the World Chess Federation, he has played alongside the likes of Vishwanathan Anand, and is Member, Selection Committee, All India Chess Federation(AICF)- the governing body for chess in India. Ashwani takes us through his 10 year journey in the financial advisory space and his take on the 4 pillars of dependability that "Mr.Dependable" epouses: consistency, integrity, responsiveness and diligence.

I commenced my journey in the financial advisory space in 2006, when I decided to move out of our family business which is involved in fuel retailing and transport services. Petrol pumps did not excite me, there was nothing much for me to learn, there was little scope for me to add value. The analytical mind that I applied to chess couldn't find much joy in fuel retailing. Equities and financial planning drew my interest into a completely alien and exciting world, far away from the comfort zone of my family business.

When I took the plunge into financial advisory, I decided to ensure that I acquire the necessary skills to give it my best shot. I was among the first couple of hundred in the country to qualify as a Certified Financial Planner in 2008 (excluding those who were "grandfathered"). When I started out in 2006, it was almost at the end of the last big bull market. Initial experience of clients was good because of markets. But, in 2008-09, if the experience of my clients was better than others, it is only because of a disciplined approach towards asset allocation. Market gyrations early on in my career as an advisor built my conviction around asset allocation, which I have firmly stuck with right through.

CFP and CMT - a great combination

For me, understanding financial planning is necessary but not sufficient to give good advice - the other aspect that completes the picture for me, and gives me my conviction is understanding market trends. This is where my Certified Market Technician (CMT) qualification really helps. I must perhaps be one among less than 50 in the country who is both a CFP and a CMT. Technical analysis is often associated with day trading - but there is so much beyond day trading that it helps in. For me, technical analysis gives me an objective assessment of market trends and sectoral trends, which helps me in guiding my clients into appropriate funds. I don't suggest sectoral funds, but I do keep a tab on sectoral trends and study fund portfolios to see which funds are well invested into promising sectors. This builds my conviction in the funds I recommend, and my conviction is what my clients finally repose their trust in.

When I look at the 4 pillars of dependability - consistency, integrity, responsiveness and diligence - I must say each of these resonate very well with me and have certainly influenced my growth in this profession.

Click here to know more about the 4 pillars of dependability

Consistency for me is about meticulously applying a systematic approach towards all client portfolios. For me, there are only two approaches - and I never deviate from them. For HNIs, it is only asset allocation and periodic rebalancing. For younger clients, it is only goal based planning and SIPs. I do not work outside these parameters and maintaining this consistency in approach has hugely helped me in delivering satisfactory outcomes for my clients. Periodic rebalancing for HNIs is a must for me - this could be annual or even quarterly in some cases for more aggressive clients. I am somewhat conservative by nature and therefore do not recommend equity heavy portfolios, and always try to persuade clients to take a more balanced approach towards asset allocation. Equity heavy portfolios tend to be more volatile, and as we know, 90% of investment mistakes are made during periods of market volatility.

Integrity is of course the foundation on which any professional practice is built, and my business is no exception to this. I run a boutique advisory firm, I advise around 100-110 families, and my AuM has grown steadily to around Rs.150 cr in mutual funds. Every client I have acquired over the years is only from referrals from satisfied clients. And clients refer only when they believe I am doing the best I can with their money. Integrity is what gets you referrals, integrity is what builds businesses. I have 10 chartered accountants as my clients - they understand the financial world, yet choose me as their financial advisor. I have young celebrities as my clients who depend on me to invest their recently acquired wealth wisely. One earns clients' trust only through integrity.

Responsiveness is a very important foundation for building a successful advisory business. Let me give you a simple example. I usually recommend NPS as part of the asset allocation for many salaried clients. Now, there are a number of things an investor has to go online and execute in NPS. Some of my clients do this in their spare time, which often is at night. It is not unusual for me to receive a call at 10 or even 11 pm from a client who is stuck in the process and needs some guidance. I always take these calls and address their issues immediately. Being available for clients when they need you is a huge confidence booster for them. As a firm, being responsive is also about making sure your back office works very smoothly and that you have invested adequately in the people and processes in your back office to be able to respond quickly and proactively to all client requests and queries. I am fortunate that I have a dependable back office team that delivers on this expectation.

Diligence is of course paramount - you are dealing with clients' money - you better be diligent in your homework before making any recommendations. My belief is that as professionals, we have to commit ourselves to continuous learning, and have to make that extra effort for this. I attend many workshops in India and abroad which help me sharpen my understanding of financial planning as well as about markets - and I keep trying to implement these insights in my research and in my client interactions. One has to set aside a good amount of time and money each year towards professional development, if we are serious about doing the best we can for our clients. Equally, I believe in sharing insights within our IFA fraternity - there is a lot we can learn from each other, if we are all willing to share.

Bottom line for me is this:

  1. Never stop learning - markets and/or clients will teach you humility if you ever get overconfident or casual

  2. Get your macro perspective right, understand broad trends and align your advice accordingly

  3. Never chase fads. Keep things simple

  4. Despite your best efforts, you will make mistakes. Diligence and consistency can help minimize the magnitude of your mistakes. Learn from your mistakes and work constantly towards minimizing them.

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