Platform Point
Is Rs.6,000 just a teaser pricing for this platform?
Bishnu Sahu, CEO, FIINFRA (Ffreedom Intermediary Infrastructure Pvt Ltd), Mumbai
3rd January 2017

imgbd In recent weeks, we featured two articles on OFA (Omni Financial Advisor): NSE platform now in your pocket and 4 Ps that IFAs love in this platform. There's a lot going for this exciting, new age platform, but to be fair, there are some questions too that IFAs have in their minds about OFA. Who actually owns the company that runs OFA? How can I get comfort on data security of my client data? Is the incredibly low Rs.6,000 p.a. pricing only a teaser pricing - an introductory offer that will be withdrawn later? What are OFA's key differentiators? Is OFA meant for MFDs or RIAs? We asked Bishnu Sahu - the captain of the OFA initiative since its inception - to address these and other issues around OFA.

WF: What is the proposition that OFA offers to mutual fund distributors? What are its key differentiators and its USP?

Bishnu: Online/digital platforms have shown a remarkable growth over the last few years. This trend is likely to grow and is expected to be the key to aid unlock the huge potential of retail participation in MF industry. The use of mobile and digital medium till now has been limited to sourcing of data, news and investor education, However, the wide spread adaptation of mobile technology is now seeing the introduction of transaction, reporting, e-KYC, client engagement etc. With India on the verge of digital explosion, the increase of mobile penetration, data consumption on mobile, artificial intelligence, cashless economy, Uberization, industrialization of knowledge…. IFAs can embrace these and create a business which is scalable, sustainable and profitable.

OFA's vision is to aid this journey and help digital enablement of IFAs leading to better client engagement. We do this by providing an app for IFAs and a customized app for their clients.

Our key differentiators are

1. Identity Retention - We are a Fin-Tech company and we provide business infrastructure platform for the IFAs. They continue doing business on their own code.

2. Open Architecture - The products on the platform are not hard coded. It means the IFAs have the flexibility to recommend the products that's suitable for their clients

3. White Labelled - The solution that we provide, is completely customised to the IFA. The pings, Client Apps, Reports etc that the IFA shares with his clients carries his branding

4. Talented & Dedicated Business Support Team 5. High end solution at a very affordable price

At OFA, we provide a complete business infrastructure to our IFAs in the form of Portfolio Reporting, Business Analytics, MF Online Transaction, Goal Planning, Client Engagement facility & Goal Planning

WF: How is OFA integrated with the Shubchintak platform? What more does one get in the Shubhchintak platform that one will not get in OFA?

Bishnu: Axis AMC has been a great visionary right from the beginning. Even before the rush for digitalisation started, way back in 2013, Axis did foresee this and joined hands with OFA to provide this gen-next solution for its IFAs. Axis at every step has guided and helped built this platform. And they have played a very crucial role in shaping up the platform.

Shubhchintak is a premium program by Axis AMC for its IFAs. Axis AMC has partnered with FIINFRA, to take OFA to the IFAs.

OFA stands for Omni Financial Advisor, which is a combination of High Tech & High Touch. In today's world, to be a successful MF distributor you need best of both the worlds Technology as well as Connect. OFA is designed, developed and maintained by FIINFRA.

At the core Shubhchintak and OFA is one and the same and we are into a watertight partnership to provide digital enablement to the IFAs.

WF: How has response been so far from MFDs to OFA? What are the biggest benefits that distributors see from this proposition? Conversely, what are some of the biggest apprehensions that are keeping distributors away from signing up for OFA?

Bishnu: FIINFRA has received an overwhelming response from all regions across India as well from other categories of IFAs. To give you some facts we are present in more than 250 locations in India, we have more than 3500 users on our system. Close to 1500 IFAs use our RTA Data Curation feature to simplify their reporting system.

We had launched our BETA - OFA Client App in the mid of September and presently we have more than 15000+ users, we are given 4.6 ratings on Google play store for our app.

The biggest benefit which an IFA sees in our proposition is that it's a complete business infrastructure platform which we are providing. We don't ask them to become our sub-brokers which means they can retain their own identity and work on their own ARN code. They like the price point that we work at, it translates to 500/- per month.

In our experience of handling IFAs, we have seen some IFAs who feel that they are not very tech savvy are apprehensive in approaching us, but the fact is our platform is completely user-friendly and simple to use, moreover, we have a dedicated team as Business coaches who are assigned to each IFA to help them understand and use our platform.

Some of the IFAs also have the apprehension regarding Data Security. Both on the software & hardware side, both on the front end as well as the back end, we have put the checks. We store all our data on cloud Since our business is B2B, we have taken extreme care to ensure that the data stays confidential and protected at all points of time. The last two and half years of journey, with so many satisfied IFAs on-board is the testimonial for the same.

WF: What is the ownership structure of FIINFRA - the organization that offers OFA?

Bishnu: Ffreedom was founded by Mr. Sumeet Vaid in 2010. Initially, till about 2013, it provided Fee-based Financial Planning to the retail clients and helped them achieve their goals. The core objective was to empower clients to Dream>Decide>Do. That is help them to DREAM - Articulation of Financial Goals; DECIDE - Prioritize and decide on the action plans; DO - go ahead and fulfil the Goals.

In early 2014, FIINFRA was conceived and founded by Mr. Sumeet Vaid and myself with the objective to provide world class Business Infrastructure to the intermediaries. Our journey has been very interesting, with a lot of dynamic adaptation to the customer needs and market changes. Initially, we started with goal planning as a key deliverable, quickly added data reconciliation & reporting, upgraded to responsive platform, introduced online transaction, customized Client Engagement, launch of mobile apps, making the solution user friendly and much more. All these features/innovations were driven by our vision of providing easy yet world class business infrastructure solution to the IFAs.

Omni Financial Advisor (OFA) is a high-end technology platform created for the gen-next advisors who have an urge to add value in their relationship with clients and focus in growing their business to a new level. OFA is driven with an aim to empower advisors digitally for better client engagement. It helps advisors increase their assets under management, identify product opportunities and win their clients confidence and loyalty. With resilient data management systems, dedicated team of information and technology specialists we ensure the highest standards of data security, completeness, quality and authentication. OFA enjoys a high level of confidence amongst a diverse group of clientele across the sector including financial institutions, mutual fund house, distributors to name few.

OFA is designed, developed and maintained by FIINFRA which was started in the year 2014. In recent times, Anand Rathi which is a leading financial services firm in India has taken a majority stake in FIINFRA and thus, FIINFRA has become a part of Anand Rathi Group. The group which has its presence in more than 1200 locations in India along with an international presence in Dubai employs over 2500 professionals. Anand Rathi shares the same value as FIINFRA in enabling advisors for better client engagement and exceeds the hope for a firm that FIINFRA can combine with and continue the tradition for excellent service, deep expertise and better environment for clients.

With a larger organization, we believe it will allow us to provide wide array of services, efficient research team and technology.

WF: How can you give comfort to MFDs about privacy and confidentiality of their client data on your platform?

Bishnu: Data security is the bedrock for success of our organisation. We have taken several measures to ensure that data stays confidential & protected at all times.

  1. Data confidentiality is one of the clauses in the agreement and various terms and conditions relating to FIINFRA platform

  2. High end servers placed at independent data warehouses and managed by reputed domain experts like Netmagic (Mumbai)

  3. Controlled hierarchy-segmented viewing rights for the team

  4. 'Non sharing of data' clause embedded in the agreement between Axis and FIINFRA

  5. Dedicated technology team specially assigned to ensure reports generated are not misused

  6. Encrypted front end view for the team

  7. Each PST/POT (Business Coaches) sit in an access-controlled work-station and each member made to sign an agreement which makes them legally bound if they are found misusing any data.

  8. No USB/pen drives, CD are allowed in their workstations and the workplace is powered with CCTV

  9. Calls are made from recorded lines from diallers

  10. Third Party certification on the VAPT (Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing)

  11. Internal Audits for process adherence

  12. Need based data Access

  13. We are currently building a lot of Algos, Machine leaning, Artificial Intelligence to ensure that Very soon, we will move into a NO MANUAL INTERVENTION environment.

WF: The pricing of Rs.6,000 p.a. for access to the comprehensive platform may not be sufficient to cover your costs. Are you looking at stepping up the pricing once you get sufficient traction in terms of sign ups? Is this, in other words, an introductory pricing?

Bishnu: We want to provide world class service at an affordable price to all our users across India. Hence we have a very affordable pricing i.e Rs. 6000/- p.a which translates to just Rs. 500/- p.m. We presently have about two membership modules for using OFA - 'Starter' & 'Professional'. Starter, which is completely free is the basic membership with limited access to our features, whereas our Professional membership (which costs Rs. 6000/- p.a) gives access to our complete features available on OFA. Currently the cost is subsidized by our partners, like AXIS AMC. As our investment on the platform goes up we will invite more like-minded partners who will help us to ensure that the current price band doesn't gets tampered.

WF: In what ways do OFA and Shubhchintak support MFDs in their endeavour to make a transition to the RIA model?

Bishnu: Currently OFA is a platform that helps the users for their MF Distribution business. We are in the ideation stage to help them with other financial products like Insurance, Bonds etc. It needs a lot of thinking and development. We are also coming up with solution that will help all of them who want to kick start their fee-based business. Currently, it's still on the drawing board. We will share the same with you once we get closer to launch.

WF: What are plans ahead for OFA and Shubhchintak? What more can distributors expect from this platform in the coming 12-18 months?

Bishnu: As you are aware financial industry keeps on changing every single day, so we have to quickly ensure that we are up there as market leaders. The first and foremost thing which is on our mind is making our technology system efficient and focusing on user experience, at the same time we are in the process of innovating and changing the mode of using technology for eg. We had launched OFA firstly on browser, then we slowing moved it on Android mobile application. We are planning to launch our OFA Client app and OFA Advisor app on IOS application too. But the biggest benefit which IFAs can expect from us in the coming time is smooth transaction flow for reporting, online transaction and engagement.

A comprehensive Business Infrastructure platform like OFA ensure that the IFA doesn't have to subscribe to multiple solutions. This enables him to focus on what he does best. Spend time with the Client, understand their requirement, guide them accordingly and handle their emotions. This will release his bandwidth and allows him to increase his client base and therefore grow his business at a very fast pace. A lot of our IFAs have discovered this magical equation and have grown their business multi fold.

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