What are the challenges faced by advisers in hiring and attracting the right talent, given that you are competing for the same pool of talent as banks and national distributors which are better known brands?
Recruitment is a big challenge in the wealth management space. I don’t really see a lot of people willing to take this up as a career.
Having said that, people who have got the right qualification and experience tend to give first preference to the well established brands like banks and national distributors.
An individual adviser who has just started his business may find it difficult attract the right talent. But in our case, we are like corporate entities, so hiring the right talent is not as challenging. This is because people look at us as a brand. So the level of difficulty in hiring and attracting the right talent will vary from one advisor to another.
Give us an overview of your HR philosophy and approach.
We realised that unless you are an established brand, you need to think differently. So we started nurturing our employees. Our business is divided in two parts- back office and advisory. Certainly, for advisory, we require experience and qualifications which we recruit from outside. But we believe in developing and training the employees in house. So when we hire people for back office, we look at people who are keen to meet and interact with clients. Among them those who are observant, curious and quick learners get a chance to work as relationship managers.
Besides, technical and soft skills are an important part of employee training. We ask our back office support team to clear NISM and other certifications. To develop their soft skills, we make them attend client meetings along with our relationship managers. Once they gain enough confidence, they start interacting with the clients. We start taking feedback from them on whether they like their new profile and are willing to pursue it.
One advantage of this strategy is that since employees start everything from scratch in a comfortable environment, they develop a better understanding of our company. If you recruit people from outside, they come with their own pre-conceived notions and it becomes very difficult to deal with them. So a lot of focus and time goes into making them comfortable in our business.
As far as measuring performance is concerned we not only look at their targets but also take feedback from our clients on their relationship with our employees.
Who is your inspiration or role model in shaping your leadership style and HR philosophy? How have they influenced you?
We do not follow any particular leadership style. Before I started this business, I had spent around 16 years in the mutual fund industry, having worked for firms which had international presence. So while working with them, I got to know their best practices and how these companies had grown in different countries. I implemented some of these practices after starting my own venture.
In a business which is affected severely by market volatility and regulatory changes, is it possible to have a consistent HR policy? Have you rationalized/downsized staff or cut salaries in response to the many changes that have taken place in the environment?
If you are in advisory business, you have to be ready to face the volatility. Employees would like to work in an organisation which is more stable. They may not be expecting miracles but they also do not want to be affected by market conditions. To ensure that our organisation is stable, we make sure that we are sound financially.
We have seen more difficult times than good times for the last 12 years. Fortunately, we have not had to cut salaries or downsize so far. If you start downsizing during volatility, you will not be the brand that people will look up to. Clients don’t like meeting new advisers every six months or a year. So if they see the same adviser who has been throughout, they see us as consistent.
How do you incentivize them? Do you think monetary incentive is a good way to motivate your staff? How do you ensure that such incentives are aligned to client interest?
Monetary incentive is just one of the ways to motivate employees.
Apart from monetary incentives, you need to look at employee development. When you help somebody in learning and developing which is completely new to them, you make them understand their importance in the company.
To ensure alignment with client interest, we have set very stringent rules. For instance, we have a list of funds which they can recommend to investors. They can’t recommend any product which is not in this list. This ensures that their interests are aligned to client interest.
How do you retain your employees? Have you faced attrition challenge?
We have a very open environment in our company. Employees have the freedom to give their feedback and opinion which they think can be useful for the company. Also, since we have been nurturing our employees from their initial days, they feel valued and are willing to contribute for the company’s growth. Work for the benefit of your employees and they will never leave you!