Meet the most influential distributor in Kerala

Shiney Sebastian of Affluenz Financial Services India Pvt. Ltd. has become a catalyst for helping women take the lead in managing their finances.
By Morningstar |  12-11-18 | 

Grown up in Mumbai in the early nineties, Shiney Sebastian took up an assignment at an Executive Search firm while pursuing her Masters in Marketing Management from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai. She discovered that with liberalization, a lot of foreign institutions were entering India and thought the financial services sector could open up immense opportunities for professionals trained in this field.

 This led her to gravitate towards the world of investments. She got an opportunity to work with Parag Parikh Financial Advisory Services (now Parag Parikh Mutual Fund), founded by late Parag Parikh who was known for his research-driven value investing style. At PPFAS, Shiney learned about portfolio management services, equity markets and was involved in launching the firm’s discretionary PMS. While marketing PMS, she got an opportunity to interact with a lot of investors and nurture her advisory skills.

Subsequently, she moved to Kerala after marriage and a child with her spouse Cdr. Maxie Jose who served in the Navy. After marriage, she had short stints with a brokerage firm and a multinational bank. Shiney also worked with Franklin Templeton Mutual Fund in Mumbai. After spending a decade in the industry, she identified a need for professionals who could offer holistic bespoke solutions to investors based on their life goals. 

The entrepreneurial plunge

In 2007, she took a leap of faith and struck out on her own by floating Affluenz Financial Services at Kochi in Kerala. For any adviser, building a strong foundation of initial clientele is vital. Shiney had nurtured good contacts with small and medium enterprises and high net worth individuals who formed her initial client base. Her experience of working with large corporates helped her put in place the processes and systems in her practice.

Winning client trust

Hardly a year after starting her practice, markets across the world were hit by the global financial crisis. It was a testing time for many advisers. From the formative years of her practice, Shiney Sebastian has assigned a great importance to asset allocation-based advisory. This approach helped her clients traverse the treacherous market turbulence in 2008. When her clients required their money back in the turbulent phase of 2008, she was able to provide liquidity from their investments in debt and liquid funds. This episode helped cement client relations. “I had recommended fixed maturity plans and debt funds to my clients which were largely ignored by many advisers at that time. I did what was right for the client to avoid any conflict of interest in my advice,” recalls Shiney. She hasn’t recommended unit linked insurance plans to any of her clients yet.

As her client’s wealth grew, her spouse, Cdr. Maxie Jose who had joined the firm in 2010 carved out a Registered Investment Adviser firm which solely caters to high net worth clients requiring complex services. This is now run independently as a separate entity.

A catalyst for women empowerment 

Shiney goes beyond the call of her duty to help women in Kerala take the lead in financial planning. Kerala has a rich history of people migrating to United Arab Emirates, USA, US, Australia and other parts of the world and it is often the women who have to take care of the house back home. “Women manage the finances and they need to be educated about saving and growing the wealth to take care of their families. Traditionally, men have been taking investment decisions but the trend is reversing,” observes Shiney. She also caters to many self-employed women clients working in tourism, hospitality, garments and architecture field in addition to the male clients with families in India.

Kerala is known for matriarchal family set ups where important decisions are taken by women. In spite of that financial decisions are taken by the males. To involve spouses in taking financial decisions, she ensures that goal setting and review meetings are attended by both spouses. Women in Kerala too have an affinity for gold and real estate but she has been actively apprising them about the benefits of moving to financial assets. Besides investment planning, Shiney is providing services like wealth transfer, succession and taxation to her clients by tying up with other professionals.

A helping hand to flood victims

In August, Kerala was badly affected by floods due to unprecedented rainfalls. Though the rains did not affect her office infrastructure, her new business came to a standstill and the firm was involved with flood relief work. They did not face any redemption pressures but fresh investments virtually stopped since people are still trying to bring their lives back on track or helping family member needing the help. Shiney has been helping raise funds and resources to contribute to the flood affected people by working with existing voluntary Non Governmental Organisations.

Anticipating and managing change

Shiney believes in being proactive when it comes to adhering to rules and being compliant. Anticipating the changes which the industry might face, Shiney moved to all-trail model when fund houses started offering this option. This foresight has helped her practice thrive in a competitive environment. “It is better to foresee what’s coming and adapt rather than wait for  the regulator to make it fait accompli!” believes Shiney.

Way Ahead

Her strong advisory acumen has helped her firm become a distribution powerhouse catering to 250 clients with assets under management of under Rs 300 crores.  When asked about her expansion plans, Shiney says that she would prefer to work with  her client base which would help her provide the personal touch and keep her existing clients happy. "Happy clients generate good referrals," says Shiney.

This post is authored by Ravi Samalad.

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