'There is vast potential in smaller towns'

Mar 02, 2020

Alka Chitnis decided to strike out on her own after she discovered mutual funds while handling third party distribution at IDBI Bank.  An ace adviser, Alka has many achievements under her belt. She is a sculptor, kathak dancer, chef, author of three books and proficient in nine languages. Alka chats with Morningstar about how he has built a niche for herself in Satara and shares tips for budding women advisers.

You have been a banker for 25 years and a National Award Winner in Fashion designing. What inspired you to don the hat of an adviser?

I am not only a banker and fashion designer but I’m also a sculptor, kathak dancer, a free-lance artist, writer, a professional chef, social worker, serve the ladies by providing my own handmade sanitary napkins since last 25 years and a paper artist. Besides, I have published three books. I prepare one art every day before going to sleep. It helps increase my capacity to work. I have a museum where I store all my art work. So far, I have prepared more than 3,000 piece of art work.  I don't have a profile on Facebook and I don't use WhatsApp which helps me focus on my work.

So, it’s my nature to explore new horizons. While working with IDBI Bank, I was asked to handle third party distribution (mutual funds, insurance, NHAI bonds and new savings and current accounts opening). I developed a keen interest in mutual funds decided to strike out on my own in 2009.

How did you go about educating prospects about mutual funds when you started your practice?

By nature, I am very aggressive woman. I firmly believe in planning and research before entering any profession. I attended workshops organised by fund companies to get an understanding about this industry. To spread the word, I prepared handmade pamphlets in regional languages. I have conducted 342 lectures to spread awareness about mutual funds. For this I have used one of my talents, as a Marathi Kirtankar. I have prepared a Kirtan on money and used to sing it so that the less educated people can also understand mutual funds.

You speak nine languages. How does this skill help you as an adviser?

It’s a famous proverb that “When you are in Rome, behave like Romans do!!!!” I followed the same principle. Jaisa desh , Vaisa Bhesh!  I have learned Gujrati, Marwari, Punjabi, Kannada and Japanese to get merged with people like as colour merge in water. Knowing different languages helped me build a bond with clients, get to their family better and communicate easily.

How did you grow your business in Satara? How much assets do you advise in mutual funds currently?  

Actually, I never count while working. Work is my passion. I work for 18 hours every day. My current AUM is round about Rs 50 crores in mutual funds. While working at Satara, I was aware of the fact that people here are very fond of investing in FDs with Banks, co-operative society and bhishi pattern investments. I had to educate them first about mutual funds by using my skills. For this, I encourage my clients to read fund fact sheets. There is a corner in my office where I keep all newspaper cuttings, magazines and where necessary, I translate it in different languages for my clients. The first and important step ended here. Now I am not having any trouble to take investments because all my clients have become “mutual fund friendly.”

What do you do to engage with your clients?

My local clients visit my office every day. I have inculcated a habit in them to visit my office whenever they come outside the house for purchasing vegetables, withdrawing pensions, visiting medical stores etc. My office is like as a second house for them. They share all their issues with me - whether it is personal or money oriented.

I love to meet people and interact with them. Besides, every month, I write a letter in a designer envelope created by me and give it to them when I meet clients.  For those who are unable to attend, there is an Index register where I note their names and personally visit them and give them the colourful envelope containing account statements.

You encourage your clients to read financial newspapers. How does this help you? Does this keep your clients nerves cool when markets are volatile?

Yes, I encourage my clients to read newspapers and to watch personal finance shows on television channels to help them understand investments. Definitely, it helps them to stay calm and wait and watch till the market recovers. It helps them take independent decisions when to withdraw or not to withdraw from mutual funds. They never get panic as they already have updates about markets due to this habit. So my work also eases.

What would be your advice to women from smaller towns who wish to become financial advisers? How big is the potential in smaller towns for advisers?

There is vast potential in smaller towns. It’s said that when your slate is empty, it is easy to write first letter on it to learn. On these lines, women from small towns are welcome in this field provided they must seriously learn about this industry. Then it’s a golden gate. It gives you respect because your knowledge speaks there! There is no boss, so no targets or obstacles for taking leave for your household duties. You are the queen, rule the mutual fund dear ladies.

What can be done to attract more women in financial advisory profession?

It is a difficult task to convince a woman for anything new. They are very curious about everything and they are hard working too. Women always think about the forthcoming difficulties first. So, in my opinion, you have to try to erase the threat of market from their minds and teach them the basics of mutual funds first. Merely passing AMFI examination is not a qualification. Let them explore the global markets and give them training by continuous workshops without intervals so that their mind should not be distracted to other avenues. Train them about mutual funds starting by fill up their own forms, making KYC and observing their own investment, maybe it will start from Rs. 500, but let them practically do all this. I am sure more women will enter into this niche, challenging and new field which keeps you fresh 24 hours, gives respect and happiness by earning handsome money by their own.

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