IFA: Better get Better!

Except if you are in government service and have a nice subsidy for everything in your life and have a pension, there is financial tension. The Indian Finance industry is no exception, and as in every industry, the most threatened person is the LOWEST person in the chain – the IFA. All mutual funds keep assuring the IFA that they are with them, but obviously when push comes to shove each person would be for himself. All mutual funds are gungho about the digital sales platform, the RIA, banks awesome selling skills, and so the IFA is not really the ‘top most’ priority – a claim that they make at all forum meets.

It is obvious that in this background the IFA is bitter. Fair enough. And like all Economic learning we also know that when the pie shrinks, the denominator also shrinks. Look at the airline ticket agents. Sure those who survived are doing well. I hire a car from a car hire company which has an awesome software which tracks me, my flight delays, sends the appropriate car, etc. Costs? well it costs me 4X of what it costs by Ola. However once I have gone to these guys they do everything – taxi, ticketing, taxi at the place of travel, hotel, local taxi – the works. So this company has beautifully re-invented itself so well that some of us do not look at the price vs service on a daily basis. Ifa in just every city that I travel are drowning in a sea of sameness. Their websites, marketing materials and approach look the same and their sales pitches and explanations of services sound EXACTLY the same! Just as there are two ways you can operate your business, there are also two types of IFAs- ones who are bitter and ones who are getting better. At most forums that I speak, I see both the varieties of IFA.

At every meet I find 4 types of IFA –

a) been there for 15 years, built a business and are now at Self Actualisation stage

b) young IFAs who have started new but have a huge client base because they have had a institutional database to start with

c) young IFA who are in this because they are forced to enter this

d)the category wondering ‘who moved my cheese’

All of them feel that the current environment of regulation is very harsh, and something needs to be done. Forming groups is fine, but the world over the move to fiduciary sales cannot be ignored. What Obama has done to Fiduciary selling is awesome, do take a look at it. As a young Ifa you do not have too much of a choice. Getting bitter is not going to help. Staying bitter will spoil your health. Sure if you have created enough wealth and AUM you can look forward to a nice retirement. Learn to say ‘enough’. I

If you are a young IFA, go and get a degree – not because the degree will help, but it gives you a platform to protect yourself. Your association will fight the press, the regulator, etc. and the competitive vested interest. So get a degree.

Learn technology. The Robo Advisory scenario may look very different in 10 years time, but right now they will do a lot (repeat a lot) of damage to the IFA community. The worse thing is that the genie cannot be put back into the bottle. Look at Ola and Uber – the will perhaps never make money for their shareholders, but have damaged a lot of taxi and auto drivers!

Join the bodies which suit you – so Fifa, Ifa Galaxy, etc. – some kind of a joint representation helps. Remember the baboo(n) is strong and can afford to be arrogant for long periods of time. However no businessman – not even MDA – can afford to be arrogant. Not even the PM, only the baboo(n) can.




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