We caught up with Virendr Pal Singh who was on his way to Mathura and Agra to conduct investor awareness programs. An army veteran, Singh ventured into MF advisory after serving the nation for three decades.
Singh ventured into MF advisory in 2010 and in a span of six years, has built AUA of Rs. 40 crore in mutual funds. His predominant focus is on SIPs. He has a SIP book of Rs. 1 crore with a client base of over 10,000. Let’s look at Singh’s entrepreneurial journey and how he is championing the cause of mutual funds in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh.
Virendr was exposed to Army life from his school days. “There were many recruitment rallies and training programs of Indian Army in my locality. So, whenever there were rallies and programs, I used to visit and admire them. I joined the army when the opportunity knocked at my door,” recalls Virendr.
After servicing army for three decades, Singh wanted to dedicate his time to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams. Even during army days, he had been assisting his wife, who deals in insurance business.
Singh realised that there is lack of financial awareness among people and thus sensed a great opportunity for investment advisers. In 1992, he gave a formal shape to his practice by floating ‘Jai Jawan India’. Singh realized that selling insurance policies was not making any difference in his clients’ lives. He wanted them to retire peacefully and have a secure financial future. While Singh started with insurance, he has now expanded his offerings to provide a more holistic solution to clients. “Insurance is necessary but it does not increase your wealth. I started learning more about mutual funds and found that equities have the power to earn good returns over the long term.”
After taking AMFI license in 2010, Virendr started introducing MFs to his existing clients. So impressed were his clients with MFs that he got 2000 SIPs in a year. “SIP is the 8th wonder of the world and convincing clients to invest in SIPs is much each easier as clients can invest every month,” believes Singh. Meanwhile, Singh also completed CFP to hone his skills.
Singh brings discipline to his business, something which he learned in army. He tries to inculcate this trait among his clients as well. In fact, he has made starting one SIP compulsory for all his clients! The khaki colour, images of fighter jets and soldiers marching with patriotic fervour on his website shows his passion towards helping his fellow army men to achieve ‘financial freedom’. Since Singh shared a great rapport with his colleagues, many of his fellow army men became his clients when he floated his advisory firm. With referrals, his clientele has now diversified.
When asked how he manages SIP and lump sum investments, “SIP is an essential and I have made it compulsory for all my clients. On the other hand, lump sum is optional but important to fulfil financial goals.”
He’s also been switching his risk averse clients’ money from fixed deposits into MIPs. He has also been actively pitching mutual funds as superior alternative to generate wealth vis-à-vis real estate. He is also advising his clients to monetise their second property and channelize the money in mutual funds.
When asked what goals and expectations lump sum vis-à-vis SIP investors have, he says, “A large numbers of Indians are still not aware about mutual funds. They prefer spending over saving. When we explain to them how investments work, very few decide to do on their own. They completely rely on their advisers. Majority of investors tell us the amount they want to invest and the rest is left for us to decide. So there is hardly any difference in the mind set of an SIP and lump sum investor.”
When it comes to selecting funds for his clients, his first filter is AMC brand. Then comes the assets managed by the fund house followed by performance.
While referrals have been his primary source of getting new clients, he is also getting a good number of clients through his awareness programs. Client acquisition was not the sole purpose of doing these awareness programs. He set out on the journey of educating clients when he discovered that people had no idea about mutual funds. Client conversion was the end result. “As I met more people, I realized that the penetration of mutual funds is still very low as compared to traditional products. I decided to make more people aware about the concept of mutual funds,” says Singh.
He also realised that financial planning is something which needs to be taught at colleges and schools. So Singh started approaching institutes to conduct financial literacy programs for their staff and students. “I have been conducting five awareness programs a month. More than 200 people attend each session,” he says.
Singh says that the secret of organising successful IAPs is to talk to people in local lingo and avoid jargon. “Investors like simple concepts. If the adviser can deliver it in a familiar language, investors can come on-board easily. I am able to convert at least 30% of audience into my clients,” he adds.
Besides colleges, Singh also conducts programs in companies, army and police colonies where he talks about tax planning, funding children’s education, securing life through insurance and retirement.
Virendr says that advisers need to adopt technology to streamline their processes and build scale. To start with, he says that advisers need to at least have a website which can act as their digital office and help increase their visibility. Virendr’s website allows his clients to view portfolios online, calculate corpus required to meet different goals and transact.
Virendr says that the distribution landscape is undergoing a see change and advisers need to be clued to the latest trends in the industry and adopt themselves accordingly.
Singh wants to reach out to more investors across the country to make them financially independent. He has an ambitious dream. He aims to acquire 60,000 clients by 2020. When asked how he would achieve this goal, he says, "I would continue what I am doing – educate investors," says Singh. Wealth Beats salutes the vision of Virendr Pal Singh