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Poster boy of India's IFA fraternity

Shyam Sekhar, ithought, Chennai

imgbd He is a successful value investor with a well-honed contrarian investing style. An engineer by education and a paint manufacturer by vocation, he ventured into financial advice once he had mastered his craft in value investing over a 16 year period. He has created a team of skilled professionals who deliver high quality advice to a growing client base. He bought over an IFA firm to supplement organic growth and is today a business growth champion in South India. He was adjudged among the 3 wisest advisors in the Wise Advice Case Competition 2016, for the fantastic quality of his advice. He is an early adopter of the RIA hybrid model and a vocal and articulate face of the opportunities as well as challenges of this emerging business model.

Great quality advice. Fiercely independent thinking. Proven business acumen in growing organically as well as inorganically. Business growth champion across all key growth parameters - net sales, SIPs, investor folios. Early adopter of new age financial advice business models. Truly a poster boy of India's IFA fraternity - one who epitomizes everything that's good and desirable about this profession. Shyam Sekhar shares his journey in the world of financial advice - a journey that young IFAs will do very well to learn and imbibe from.


Educational and professional background

I am a chemical engineer by training. Ran a paint manufacturing business for 20 years. I started as an investor on completing my engineering studies. I learnt to read balance sheets during my student summers. A one year resident management program for technologists at IIM Bangalore in 1992-93 helped me learn about value investing. I set up a proprietary equity research practise in 1993. Over the next 16 years, I grew my proprietary book through research driven investing. Over this phase, my expertise in investment ideation, strategy and portfolio strategy evolved. In 2009, I founded ithought, an investment and strategy firm focussed on mutual funds and financial products.

Journey in this profession

I started out as a research driven investor. I always bought a stock after proper study. Over time, I practised value investing. Value investing taught me discipline and contrarian thinking. I stayed out of tech in 2000 & infra in 2008. Buying consumption stocks during 2008 worked very well. Subsequently these investments reached all time highs during the subsequent 8 years. The lows were in 2000. Despite being in value stocks and no IT exposure in it , my portfolio was affected just as badly after the tech crash.

The challenges were in the phase 1990-2000 when we did not have the kind of technological access and corporate disclosures were inadequate. We did not enjoy access to company managements who always showed preference only to deal with large institutional investors. Learning to deal with this handicap taught me to invest with minimal or no management interaction. But, the challenges of this phase were significant and a retail investor needed to learn to survive this phase. I was lucky I survived.

Building ithought

I started ithought building a team of young professionals. We wanted to build an investor centric professional practise in personal finance. We believe in process driven investing. Our approach is disciplined, research driven and contrarian.

We have over the past 7 years provided a sound and secure investment experience to our investors, helping them achieve scale in their investing. Our key learning is the need to constantly improve our processes and to create a culture of investment excellence across functions. We maintain independence across functions - planning, investment research, customer relationship and process management.

Core values of ithought

Credibility, Knowledge, Method, Decision and Conviction- these are the core elements of the ithought way.

Learnings in this profession

My learning in this profession is simple. Put fiducary responsibility first. Educate investors to appreciate how it helps their investing. If an investor fails to appreciate your work or shows hesitation in remunerating your work, let him go.

Dos and don'ts for advisors to succeed in this profession

Create an investor-centric professional firm. Managing risk sensibly must be our primary goal. Returns are a function of our excellence in managing risk. Create systems to achieve scale. Ensure quality standards maintain as you grow.

Recognitions in 2016

Among the 3 wisest advisors in India

Shyam's response to the Wise Advice Case Competition 2016 was adjudged as the 1st runner up by a three member independent jury comprising of some of India's finest advisors.


Shyam Sekhar accepting the 1st Runner Up award in the Wise Advice Case Competition 2016 from Milind Barve, MD, HDFC AMC. The three member jury for the Case Competition are on Milind's right: Vishal Dhawan, Lovaii Navlakhi and Bharat Phatak. On Shyam's right, Ashok Kanawala and Kiran Kaushik from HDFC AMC and Vijay Venkatram from Wealth Forum.

To know more about the Wise Advice Case Competition 2016 and the awards, click here

To view Shyam Sekhar's winning response, click here

Retail Growth Champion - South Metros


Shyam Sekhar's VPK Financial Services won the Retail Growth Champion 2016 award for South Metros at the 7th annual Wealth Forum Advisor Awards. Shyam receives his trophy from Sunil Subramaniam, CEO, Sundaram Mutual and Sidharth Damani of Birla Sun Life MF.

Distributor of the Year - South Metros


VPK Financial Services also bagged the coveted Distributor of the Year 2016 award for South - Metros, signifying the best all round business growth among all IFA firms in South Metros. Shyam receives the award from Harshendu Bindal, President, FT along with Naveen Gogia and Rajeev Maniar of HDFC AMC

Know more about the annual Wealth Forum Advisor Awards

Retail Growth Champions, 2016

Business Growth Champions, 2016

Distributor Of The Year, 2016


Content is prepared by Wealth Forum and should not be construed as an opinion of HDFC Mutual Fund.

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