Hailing from a middle class family in Bihar, Prabhat Kumar’s parents wanted their son to pursue engineering. As a dutiful son, Prabhat completed his mechanical engineering and started his professional career for a brief period in this profile, but his heart was not in the job. In 2002, he left his job to chart his destiny as an IFA.
Starting with insurance products, Prabhat added mutual funds to his offerings in 2007. “I soon realised that while it may be easy to start a distribution business but to survive, I needed to keep updating my knowledge and increase product offerings. I left no stone unturned. I read news articles, web articles, attended seminars. I never let go of a single opportunity to know and learn more,” reminisces Prabhat. From a meagre 10 to 15 clients when he started, Prabhat today caters to over 840 clients across various demographics.
Growing investor base
Prabhat attributes his success in acquiring an investor base of over 840 clients within a decade to his client acquisition strategies,
- Referrals: Prabhat gets most of his clients through referrals. “Referrals are ideal for growing the business. When prospects hear from your clients how your service has helped them, investors are encouraged to come to you. The best way to get more clients is by giving your best to the existing ones,” says Prabhat.
- Social Media: Prabhat has also been using social media to expand his client base. “While the conversion rate in social media may be low, it has helped me create goodwill and spread awareness. Also, social media has been very useful for engaging with my existing clients,” informs Prabhat.
- Newspaper inserts: This traditional way of advertising is best for those who do not have many contacts and have just started out as advisors, advises Prabhat. “In the initial days of my career I invested in newspaper inserts. This gave me visibility, which helped me acquire clients. Thanks to these inserts, by the time I approached prospects, they were already aware of me,” he shares.
- Investor Awareness Programs (IAPs): Coming from a non-finance background himself, Prabhat could empathise with clients who took wrong financial decisions as they did not possess the right knowledge. To address this knowledge gap, Prabhat has been conducting IAPs for a long time.
Prabhat makes it a point to stay in touch with those who attend his events. “After I get the investor’s contact details at the event, I try to engage with them by sending regular mails and messages regarding important financial events, interesting schemes, etc.,” he says.
- Morning walks: An ingenious idea that worked for Prabhat was visiting popular parks for morning walks. “HNIs are very busy during the day and getting a meeting with them may be difficult. However, when I meet them during their morning walk and talk about my business, they are attentive. This simple idea has helped me reach out to HNI clients,” he says.
Managing a huge client base can be quite daunting for many but Prabhat feels that with proper team in place, no number is too big. “I have a dedicated client servicing team. Each member caters to a specific group of clients. This way it is easier to handle diverse client needs,” he explains.
Prabhat uses technology to engage with clients. Using client management and investment management software has helped him in managing client portfolios.
Prabhat shares that 75% of his clients are from the middle-income group, 15% from lower Income group and 5% are HNIs. Despite the diversity in his customer base, Prabhat feels he is able to grow his business because he understands his clients and their needs. “Each client is different. Some might be looking for quick returns, while some might want to invest for their future,” says Prabhat.
Elaborating on his client engagement process, Prabhat adds, “I sit with each of my clients and understand their needs and aspirations. Then I come up with a financial plan that suits them. I usually spend a lot of time with my clients during the on-boarding process, educating them on what they must expect during various market conditions. I also review their profile at regular intervals and make sure that their goals haven’t changed. In addition, I make sure that I am constantly updating them, especially during volatile markets.”
Prabhat is active on social media. He updates clients on important events, new products, etc using WhatsApp. Today Prabhat manages an AUA of Rs. 30 crore in mutual funds. He also handles a SIP book of Rs.40 lakh.
Prabhat is selective in working with fund houses that have a strong brand image and optimal size. He feels that no matter how well a fund performs during normal market conditions; only large fund houses will be able to endure the pressure during bearish markets. “It was during 2008, when the markets were very low that I realised the advantage of investing in fund houses with a consistent track record,” he recalls.
The next important thing for Prabhat is the fund’s performance and the returns it was able to make in volatile markets. “I prefer funds that manage to stay afloat during volatile markets because I feel even if my clients might not book profits, they must never book losses,” he says.
Talking about his goals for FY 2017-2018, Prabhat says he hopes to have an AUM of Rs 100 crore with an SIP book of 1 crore. “I am going to continue doing what I have been doing so far. I also plan to promote my services on websites and run aggressive marketing campaigns,” remarks Prabhat.
Prabhat is also planning to become an RIA. He says, “My business already runs on the lines of financial planning. By becoming an RIA, I am just taking my business to its logical next step.”
When asked to sum up his success story, Prabhat says, “My pursuit of knowledge gave me success. I found out that knowledge is wealth – literally.”
Prabhat’s story is a testament to how constant and focussed marketing can help one garner a large client base.