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April 2018

Clarity in Clutter

India’s sunrise industry of wealth management is also one of its most crowded. It is a direct beneficiary of the economic growth in any nation leading to wealth creation and affluence in the society. India’s economic growth spurred by reforms in the 1990s ushered in a new industry to manage the growing wealth. Buoyed by the future growth potential that India’s continued economic growth offers it has become massively crowded often confounding its two key stakeholders – customers and talent which services them. With plethora of wealth management firms how does a client make a choice whom to work with and similarly how does the talent make a choice whom to build its career with? While from a distance the Industry may offer a chaotic view of itself but if one looks deeper there is sufficient order across various current and emerging filters which would make it very simple for anyone to choose their preferred playground. Let’ see how.

The DNA filter
Like human beings and any other form of life on the planet any business organization too could have traits similar to a living being. It is manifested by way of its very own and distinct DNA which is defined by its values. This shows up in terms of its distinct organizational personality.

Every organization could be segmented in the following personality categories -

  • Long term value creation player versus aggressive short term opportunity driven player. The latter could have a more transactional character while the former could be more relationship oriented willing to let go an opportunity of making money today as against making money year on year.
  • Collaborative vs. competitive player. The former’s approach towards the business would be to explore, foster and build upon potential synergies amongst various stakeholders both internally or externally whereas the latter would believe to win every sprint at whatever cost it takes. Collaborative players are more likely to have win win engagements with their clients and talent. Competitive players not only thrive on competing with its peers but also thrusting internal competition amongst its talent.
  • Humble vs. prideful players. Humble players would believe in letting their bat do the talking and would always prefer to under promise and over deliver. Prideful players would like to believe that they are the game changers and drivers of the industry.
  • Quality vs Quantity players. Quality players would be passionate about adding value to their clients and enabling their talent build lifetime careers. They would be motivated by influencing the industry by instituting best practices which could become benchmarks for the industry thus benefiting the entire ecosystem at large. Quantity players would be volume players driven by capturing the market share across the length and breadth of the industry. They would be motivated to acquire a dominating control over the industry.

The Business Model filter
Currently firms in the wealth industry can be identified with primarily two business models – the Pharma company model Or the Hospital model. Under the pharma company model the firm manufactures its own products or medicines which are then channeled to the consumers by its own team of medical representatives. Here instead of getting holistic advice the client gets access to individual medicines. Open architecture hospitals with doctors model does not manufacture their own products but provide access to the best in class medicines through third party manufacturers. The focus here is to understand the requirements of the client and then provide the holistic advice to be implemented by investing in products sourced through third party manufacturers. So its wealthcare like healthcare. While there could be inherent conflicts in both models its direct in case of the Pharma company model wherein while the client is at the risk of getting non-independent and conflicted advice while the talent reduces its value from that of a potential doctor to a medical rep. There is nothing demeaning in a medical rep. It’s a celebrated sales career and many may have built commercially successful careers out of the same. However, it’s different than gaining the respect, credibility and dependability of a doctor in the society. A client would like to take advice from a doctor working with a hospital which doesn’t have its own pharma company. Mature talent too would like to build a credible non-conflicted practice in partnership with a hospital which doesn’t push its in-house products as a lifetime career just like a doctor.

The stakeholder model filter
Over the last 2 decades of its existence the wealth industry has scaled both in terms of its breadth as well as its depth. This is manifested in the variety of stakeholder models which exist today. These can be segmented into three categories – Owner driven, manager driven, and Investor driven. Amongst these the skin in the game along with emotional attachment for the key stakeholders would be highest in case of the owner driven platform. An investor driven platform would be driven by the endgame of achieving a great exit over medium term and therefore would push for a rapid scale up of the business to grow the valuation. A manager driven set up would be an organization run by competent managers on an auto-pilot basis enabled by established and proven processes. The owner driven platform could have the advantage over others. It may have the ability and willingness to execute in a patient manner a long term vision well aligned with the life goals of both clients and the talent. Wealth management business is a relationship based business which requires nurturing and keeping relationships on a continuous basis. It’s a knowledge based business too which requires ongoing R&D into testing new hypothesis just like a new recipe. It is very similar to growing and maintaining a vineyard which requires patience, long term vision and sustenance. Its no brainer why best of the wines still come from vineyards owned and run by families across generations and why it is difficult to find investor driven vineyards or those run by transnational companies.

For clients looking at long term care of their hard earned wealth and that too with a high degree of customisation and personal attention an owner driven platform may be more natural fit. Similarly mature talent which has the patience and aspiration to build a large and high quality practice over time may be more naturally aligned with owner driven platforms.

Having described different players in the wealth management industry will it be possible to connect the dots across different filters. Very much so. Players driven by long term value creation are more likely to be relationship oriented, collaborative, humble and driven by quality. They are marathoners and therefore their natural selection would be the open architecture Hospital model and the only way this could co-exist over time is on an owner driven platform. Investors driven platforms are natural sprinters and therefore would be aggressive driven by short to medium term opportunities, competitive, may be prideful and driven by capturing the market share. They would need to have the pharma company model to achieve their aspirations. Manager driven platforms would be natural decathloners who may have a mixed bag of everything. Depending upon the incumbent management’s goals they could be driven by either long term goals or short term opportunities, they may be collaborative or competitive, humble or prideful but still be driven by quantity keeping in mind the scale of their organization. Its upto the clients and the talent to choose which of these is their natural playground.

Rohit Sarin
April, 2018