Four colleagues turned friends - Harmik Singh Sachdeva, Jigesh Patel, Pratik Shah and Vaibhav Bhandari floated Milestone Financial Advisory in 2007 after working for a national distributor for nearly six years.
We spoke to Harmik, one of the co-founders of Milestone Financial Advisory to understand what inspired them to start their business and how difficult was it to move from a comfortable job to a start-up. “We started our careers in the financial distribution industry. We were responsible for managing clients’ portfolios and selling different investment products. But not all products were suitable to our clients. Clients trusted us and it was unfair on our part to sell products which would not suit their needs.”
Harmik’s partner Jigesh says, “We became friends while working and our bond has just become stronger with time. Though we were colleagues, we discussed every important aspect of our lives. In our previous job, we had to sell products to meet the sales target and we were not enjoying it. This is how the idea to start our own venture came up and we were ready to float our firm after a few brainstorming sessions.”
“This was also possible because our ideologies have always been similar and we trusted each other completely. As business partners, we never mix our personal lives with the profession and this is why we are still sharing the same love and affection for each other,” adds Jigesh.
Harmik considers themselves lucky as acquiring clients was not a challenge during the initial days. Since they shared a good rapport with their clients, he says that many of them moved their money with Milestone. “We were surprised as well as overwhelmed to see the support of our earlier clients. That is the power of trust and relationships,” says Harmik.
Thanks to their unflinching effort, they have built an AUA of Rs. 250 crore in mutual funds and SIP book of Rs.40 lakh per month. Their effort has paid off and recognised by the industry. The company recently bagged the CNBC TV 18 award for best advisory firm.
They started their business in 2007 and were hit with the global market meltdown in 2008. Harmik says that while the market crisis hit their business badly, it served as a good learning point for them. “We acquired clients very easily and when the markets tumbled, we realized how difficult it was to convince our clients to stay invested. It is important to have discipline and integrity as clients require constant hand-holding and if we are not confident, it is possible things may not go our way,” recalls Harmik.
Like most advisors, the major chunk of their clients has come purely through referrals. Harmik claims that they have acquired 80-90% clients through referrals. “This is no rocket-science. Once an investors gets good guidance and service from his advisor, referrals come automatically. Client loyalty has helped us survive during tough times as well as helped us grow our business,” says Harmik.
Recalling one of the moments, he adds, “Recently one of our clients who has been with us since company’s inception called us to commend on the service we provide to our clients. As an advisor, this is what we want. The outcome of our sincerity and commitment should make our investors happy.”
Harmik and his colleagues have made sure that they kept adapting to change. They ride the latest trends in communication to acquire and service clients. They have upgraded their website with tools and calculators and are also offering clients online transaction facility. They are now populating this facility and teaching their clients on how they can use these facilities to make their life simpler. “Currently, we are providing door-door service but we are now slowly looking to shift online.”
To grow their clientele, they are now focusing on IAPs. Harmik says that while their success rate in converting clients in IAPs is currently very low, it gives them an opportunity to understand people’s concerns and make their brand visible.
His team is trying to make inroads in networking groups of businessmen. “We thought of targeting niche prospects as it becomes easy to communicate to people of similar goals and aspirations. To gather people to attend our IAPs, we spread the word through our friends. We educate them about the importance of cash flow management, diversifying risk and the need to protect themselves and their business with insurance.”
Future plans and advice to IFAs
Harmik says that they want to automate a majority of their processes. “For any business to succeed, it is necessary to adapt to new trends and technology. We now want to shift online as the young generation prefers buying online.”
Harmik’s advice to fellow IFAs is that they should take risks and differentiate themselves. “Initially, we were very hesitant to quit our jobs as everything was at stake. However, we had to overcome our fears. Fear will not help an individual to grow and survive in this competitive world. Sticking to the old roots is important but learning should never stop. If you are a good advisor, start thinking how you can be better than your peers,” suggests Harmik.