For me leadership is making my teammates feel like entrepreneurs
Gajendra Kothari wanted to make it big on his own. He could have led an easy and comfortable life by entering his family business or continuing with his job. However, he had something else on his mind.
While working with UTI Mutual Fund, he saw a lack of proper communication between financial institutions and investors. To bridge this gap and to help people reach their financial goals, he took the plunge and became an independent financial advisor. He has established an advisory firm, Etica Wealth, where he and his 25-member team manage assets worth Rs.450 crore from over 2800 clients.
He also appears in various mutual fund shows and answers mutual fund queries on many national dailies.’
1. What inspired you to take financial advisory as a profession?
I ventured into this profession by chance. I did my MBA from Delhi’s International Management Institute. After that, I started working with UTI Mutual Fund and went ahead to head UTI’s business development in the UK and European markets for three years. I worked at UTI Mutual Fund for a total of seven years, but I always had the itch to become an entrepreneur.
During my tenure at UTI MF, I came face to face with disgruntled investors. There were a lot of gaps in communication. When I interacted with these investors, I was able to change their mood. I would come up with talking points that could hold their attention. After the interaction, they would heed to my investment suggestions. I realised that I fit in the business-to-consumer space better than the business-to-business segment where I was.
2. The number of educated and employed people are going up. At the same time, the level of financial awareness is not growing at the same pace. Where are we going wrong?
While all other subjects are taught in schools and colleges, financial education has not found its place in our present educational setup. Even MBA students are not aware of the basics of personal finance. As youngsters are not aware of investment avenues, they go to their parents, who in turn put the money in Fixed Deposits and other traditional forms of savings. Therefore, we need to educate the parents as well as the youngsters. Every organisation can have a financial planning section as a part of their induction program so that they start investing from the first month onwards. We need to have investor awareness programs for youngsters and make them realise that investing is necessary and easy as well.
3. How do you make investing easy to understand for a person with no background in finance, especially while conducting investor awareness programs?
We make sure that our conversations do not have any financial jargon. We have seen that people understand investing and take an interest in it if we include real success stories of others or ourselves. We also make it interesting with the help of videos.
Personal finance is more about people than finance. We ask them about their goals, why they want to invest, and for how long they want to invest. We listen to the problems that they are facing.
Thus, it becomes easier to hold our clients’ attention that could have fizzled out if we had talked about finance or products.
4.Proper interpersonal communication is very important in your business. How did you master this skill ?
I learnt it through experience. As time passed, I understood what works and what doesn’t. I tried different strategies and fine-tuned the strategies that ultimately worked for me.
In this business, it is important to talk about tangible assets that clients can visualise instead of talking about fund returns.
5.You have been heading Etica Wealth for nearly 11 years. The firm has grown magnificently in these years. How have you grown as a leader during this time? What according to you makes a great leader?
It has been quite a journey. I think the role of a leader is to see that all the team members are on the same page as you are in terms of goals. They should be empowered to make take basic decisions on their own. You should give them the freedom to do what they want to. Give them authority and responsibility, so that they feel like entrepreneurs in their own way.
6.What are some of your major accomplishments and lessons learnt during this time?
I think our major accomplishments will be coming in the next 10 years. It is when we will see that the goals of our clients are coming true. Around this time, my clients will be able to send their kids to the best universities in the world or buy their dream houses. My clients’ goals determine my success, and not the amount of money that I manage.
I have learnt a lot on this journey. I have learnt to keep taking risks in life. I believe that leading a normal and comfortable life is not enough. Life should be fulfilling. To lead a fulfilling life, you have to take risks and challenges to try out new things. Some will work and some won’t. At least you won’t regret that you didn’t try.
This article was first published on August issue of District 98’s bi-monthly newsletter ‘Communicate 98’. To read other articles, click here.