Be a coach to your clients

Jul 11, 2018
Partha Iyengar talks about life planning, his new e-learning platform and more.

Founder of Accretus Solutions India, Partha Iyengar is one of the earliest advisers in India to be trained in life planning. Partha chats with Ravi Samalad on the advantages of adopting Life Planning approach for advisers, his new venture Your Life & Money and why he runs a fee-only practice.

You have been trained in life planning. Tell us more about this course and how it helps advisers.

Life Planning helps investors lead a value-centered approach to life and achieve their personal and financial goals. We are aware that various aspects of life like health, family, community, money, work, leisure time etc. are interconnected and one impacts the other. To help clients live a balanced life, advisers will have to understand various aspects of clients lives and guide them to lead a ‘rich and balanced’ life. When advisers help clients through life planning process, they play the role of a coach to clients. Sports is a great example of how a coach plays an important role in players success. Similarly, by adopting life planning process in their practices, advisers can become a coach to clients and help them succeed in their lives. By adding value in their lives, advisers can acquire and retain clients for life.

You have select clients and operate on fee-only model. Some advisers are of the view that Indian market is not yet ready for a fee-only practice. How have you been able to overcome this challenge and what would be your advice to someone who wants to follow your model?

As I had mentioned earlier, I have stopped serving individual clients to avoid conflict of interest. I am a firm believer in fee-only concept. When I pilot tested the fee-only model for the first time in India in 2003, my peers were shocked and surprised that clients do pay fees. When I started again as an LLP firm in 2009, the markets were more evolved with the introduction of direct plans and it was easier to persuade clients the benefits of a fee-only model.  The key to a successful fee-only model is to position ourselves as coach to clients rather than advisers. This is where continuous learning by advisers comes into play. Besides, there are various organizational practices that can be put into practice that will help transform from an individual adviser led practice to organization led practice that can serve hundreds of clients and their families through technology, process, practice and last but not the least effective succession planning or merging firms with like-minded advisers.

What is the rationale for launching Digital Financial Wellness Platform? Is it an e-learning course?

We have been conducting onsite Financial Wellness Programmes for many years in corporates and colleges. In designing the curriculum, we incorporated Life Planning process (with wonderful guidance from Money Quotient, Inc, where I learnt the Life Planning) along with the principles and framework of ‘Nudge’ and ‘Choice Architecture’ made famous by the Nobel Prize Winner and Author Richard Thaler.  Our programmes have encouraged individuals to move towards a behavioural change that enables them to lead a holistic and fulfilling life. This inspired and motivated us to scale up by launching the Digital Financial Wellness Platform. We believe that the Digital Financial Wellness Platform has the ability to impact millions of people across India in a positive way and transform their lives for better. Our platform is a continuous learning and development platform. The content is updated and people have access to mini courses and custom designed programmes throughout the year.

What messages these courses are trying to convey?

Our message remains the same whether it is onsite or online. We believe everyone dreams to lead a healthy, wealthy, happy and a meaningful life. Our courses are designed to help them live it through discipline and habit formation in all aspects of life.

Is it meant for both advisers and investors?

This course is meant for advisers’ clients. We believe our online programme will add value for investors because we have incorporated Life Planning process as well as the principles and framework of ‘Nudge’ and ‘Choice Architecture’ through innovative tools and resources. It will help advisers reconnect with their clients and their families better, help the second generation to create not just wealth but lead a balanced life from early on in their lives, get clients more goal oriented resulting in higher savings/investments towards their goals. And through custom reports, advisers can nudge their clients and their families to lead a fulfilling life. We believe our courses will act as a bridge for advisers to become a coach for their clients and their families.

How do you plan to monetize it?

Being a financial technology company, we believe a subscription driven model is the best route to add value to stakeholders and monetize our offerings.

You offer personal coaching as well. Could you please elaborate on this…

Till recently, I have been offering Financial Life Coaching for select individual clients. After we launched our platform, I have taken a conscious decision to not offer this service to clients. Because our primary target segment for the platform is financial advisers, it results in conflict of practice. However, leveraging on my expertise of having worked with clients across retail, mid net worth and high net worth clients, I plan to introduce coaching offering to advisers to help them grow their business. The first step towards that is the launch of Digital Financial Wellness Platform.

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