When we think of Goa, the first thing that comes to mind is its serene beaches. However, did you know that Goa’s capital Panaji is the 15th largest city, in terms of contribution to the total AUM of the industry? According to AMFI data, Panaji contributes Rs. 6,191 crore or 0.38% to the MF industry’s total Rs. 16 lakh crore AUM as on September 2016.
Let’s look at how the Goans are waking up to the benefits of equity investing. To understand more about this shift, we caught up with Jennifer Mendes who is actively championing the cause of mutual funds in Goa. Jennifer ventured into MF distribution in 1999 and today has built a clientele of 8000 clients with an impressive Rs. 260 crore AUM in mutual funds.
Starting a new chapter
Once a Mumbaiite, Jennifer and her better half, who used to teach western music, quit their jobs and moved to Goa in search of a peaceful life in 1987. “People thought that we were insane because we were giving up our careers in Mumbai and moving to a completely new place. Although we had to start afresh, we were happy with our decision,” recalls Jennifer.
After moving to Goa, Jennifer started her second innings by becoming a postal RD agent and slowly began expanding her offerings.
Foray in MFs
Jennifer’s journey in mutual funds was purely by chance. “In 1999, I got an invite to attend a seminar on MFs. Though it was meant for CAs, I was curious to know more about mutual funds. This seminar changed my perspective on the business completely. I realised that FDs and recurring deposits won’t earn good returns over the long term. I found mutual funds very useful and started researching MFs.”
So fascinated was Jennifer with mutual funds that she immediately applied for an ARN.
Transitioning clients from RD to SIP
But little did Jennifer know that convincing investors to switch to mutual funds would be so difficult. Her main challenge was bringing about a shift in investor’s perception towards mutual funds. “Convincing people to invest in FDs and postal savings was much easier than mutual funds as investors were looking for guaranteed returns. Initially, I started with lump sum investments in MFs and later on focussed more on SIPs. As people were willing to make regular contributions to RDs, I explained to them that SIPs too can be paid by installments every month which will generate much better results than RDs.”
When Jennifer approached clients, she realized that they were not comfortable talking about their wealth. She says that banks on the other hand have an advantage because they are privy to customers’ balances. “Banks have an edge over the customer, but as an advisor, it is difficult to make any individual client trust us initially. For this you need to have the patience, good listening power and the ability to understand clients,” observes Jennifer.
To overcome this hurdle, Jennifer started showing her personal MF portfolio to prospects. “I have been showing my personal investments to my clients and how I was able to buy a bungalow with Mutual Fund investments,” says Jennifer.
Her effort paid off as a few of her clients started to invest through SIPs. Slowly, as the word spread she started getting referrals for SIPs from her existing clients. Today, Jennifer has a SIP book size of Rs. 1.5 crore per month.
As her MF business grew, her family members too offered a helping hand. “I am truly blessed that everybody in my family contributes to the growth of this business. My son joined me when he was only 20. Now he goes out to meet prospects. My daughter-in-law is a CA. She’s very tech-savvy and helps me on the technology front. My husband helps us to take the strategic decisions for the business.”
Jennifer says that focusing on SIPs has helped her build a strong foundation for her business. “There is continuous inflow every month and most importantly it is a win-win situation for both the client and the IFA. SIPs help you grow your business as well as help your clients grow their wealth in a disciplined fashion.”
While investing systematically is a must, it is also important to increase investments as income grows. Thus, Jennifer makes sure that her clients top-up their SIP contributions every year. “We focus more on retail clients, so for a SIP of Rs. 1,000, we tell them to at least top-up by Rs. 500 every year.”
Acquiring mind share
To grow her business, Jennifer believes in acquiring clients mind share. “The population of Goa is small, so I have to make sure that the client is thinking about me all the time when it comes to investments. For this, I focus on building deeper relationship with clients,” says Jennifer.
The SIP formula
Jennifer believes in linking every SIP to a goal. Also, she says that IFAs need to first help clients build a contingency fund through SIPs in liquid funds and then start SIPs in equity funds which are linked to longer term goals.
According to her, there is not much difference in the mind-set of an SIP or a lump sum investor. She recommends lump sum only if clients receive sudden money or bonus. If the market is volatile, Jennifer first makes the client invest in liquid funds and channelize it through STP in equity funds.
Shift in investor behaviour
Jennifer observes that investors are taking a more active role and are forthcoming when it comes to investing. “Investor awareness programs, media coverage and the effort of IFAs has led to increased awareness about mutual funds. Now people are curious to know more about mutual funds,” observes Jennifer.
When asked where she invests her personal money, Jennifer says that all her savings are in a mix of equity and balanced funds.
The Gen Next
Jennifer believes that her next phase of growth will come by focusing on younger clients. To meet their expectations, Jennifer has developed a robust website which provides a host of features, including transaction facility. She says that technology will help her cut costs and scale up.
Jennifer started her business from scratch and today is amongst the most respected IFAs in the country. When asked what is her success mantra she says, “Focus on building relationships with your clients and talk in the language which the client understands.”