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Her Funds, Let Her Take A Call

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Her Funds, Let Her Take A Call
Himali Patel - 28 February 2021

A quick search on the internet for the definition of a fund manager gathers that she is the one who manages the money of investors and is entrusted with the responsibility of putting it to best use so that it reaps the maximum returns.

Women glorifying the most coveted posts in fund houses make the best choices for investors looking to park their money in mutual funds or hedge funds. A study by Goldman Sachs finds that between the market low in March through August 2020, 48 per cent of female-managed funds outperformed the indices, compared with 37 per cent for male-headed ones.

No wonder, women – either alone or in an all-women team or leading a mixed team of male and female experts – control an asset value of $2.95 trillion through 17 per cent of fund houses around the world, says Citywire, a British financial publishing group.

In sync with the preference for a woman chief across the world, Indian fund houses, too, are shifting to a gender parity for the alpha females. Although only 8 per cent of the corner rooms in Indian mutual fund houses have female occupants, according to Morningstar India, the value of the assets managed by them has grown to Rs 306,500 crore, which equals 15 per cent of the total assets under management (AUM) for open-end funds in 2020.

Ritu Modi, Fund Manager (Equity), LIC Mutual Fund

Handles Rs 2,374 crore

Her Money Mantra: Compounding is what helps you create wealth over time and to get better returns, you need to be extremely consistent with your investments

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Who could be a better guide than these alpha females, as Citywire calls them, for women managing finances at home or at workplace at varying scales? When Outlook Money reached out to some female financial wizards, seeking their views on women managing finances and for delving deeper into the challenges faced by them, the first issue that came up was trust.

Most women in India have a tendency to trust either their spouses or some male relatives with their funds blindly. They also tend to put societal expectations and traditional gender roles ahead of their own careers and financial goals. Together they weigh on a woman in her attempt in wealth accumulation and financial planning. In absence of financial independence, a woman fails to build her identity and her future is left in the hands of the man she trusts. “Being financially independent gives freedom to women to make their own decisions and not depend on anyone else,” says Anju Chhajer, Senior Fund Manager (Debt) at Nippon India Mutual Fund.  

Despite being successful in her career, a woman often suffers from financial insecurity in later part of her life because of improper planning and blind faith in an incompetent person. Mistakes in managing personal finances are common. Only proper understanding of the subject makes a woman secure.

“If you are not financially independent, how would you pay your bills if the source of your finance goes away?” says Nupur Gupta, Co-founder of NIRA. Her company provides small credit to consumers with limited access to traditional avenues of finance. “More importantly, in this pursuit, you will explore and find opportunities to earn or get paid for doing something that you like to do.” With the government pushing for financial empowerment of women, and microlenders, non-banking financial companies, non-government organisations and developmental groups toiling hard in the same direction, there is a brighter sunshine for the woman of tomorrow. “She must be bolder, smarter, and more agile in dealing with life,” says Chhajer. “She must be calculative, meticulous and methodical in drawing up the blueprint for her personal finances,” she adds.

Anu Jain, Head (Broking), IIFL Wealth Management

Has an experience of 18 years, and handles a team of 17

Her Money Mantra: Advice sometimes comes directly, and at other times, is imbibed by observing other people’s actions. At a very early age, my mother ingrained within me the importance of acquiring financial independence for confidence and self-respect. Have more faith in yourself, follow your gut, and always stand your ground when you believe in something

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Budgeting is integral to financial planning for anyone. It must begin right at the onset. Justified allocation of funds under various heads of expenditure makes it easier for her to earmark a portion of the funds for savings or investment. Investment, too, has to start from the day one. Any delay in regular and incremental investment takes a greater toll in the later part of life.

Lakshmi Iyer, who is the Chief Investment Officer (Debt) and Products Head at Kotak Mahindra Asset Management, handles a corpus of Rs 1,37,861.45 crore. She learnt from her mistake in starting to invest late. “By doing this, I delayed the power to potentially compound my money even earlier. I also made the mistake of assuming insurance cover to be my investment. It is nothing but a pure risk cover,” she says. As the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer at Edelweiss AMC, Radhika Gupta controls investor funds close to Rs 50,000 crore. Gupta admits that as a young investor investing in equities, she didn’t think much about asset allocation. Later on, she realised that personal finance is different for every individual and so are the circumstances. “I finally went about implementing a more well-thought-out plan, understanding the nuances and doing what works for my risk profile, my circumstances, and my goals,” she says.

Risks are inevitable but they are not invincible. One cannot progress without taking risks, though the appetite for risk varies across individuals. In this fast-evolving world, gender doesn’t matter for risks in life. Understanding one’s own attitude towards risk is crucial. Investors tend to make the worst decisions when they react either out of fear or greed. This awareness comes at a cost and one has to pay through her personal investing experience.

“Understanding your risk profile gives you the comfort to invest in a wider basket of instruments. It gives you superior returns and translates into a larger corpus over the long term. I would not be overtly conservative in the allocation of assets to lower risk instruments,” suggests Reshma Banda, Head (Equity) and Senior Vice President (Investments) at Bajaj Allianz Life.

Hardika Shah, Founder and CEO, Kinara Capital

Handles advances/assets worth Rs 800 crore

Her Money Mantra: Spend a third of income on basics, another third on giving back to others, and the remaining on savings and doing what I love. Don’t hesitate to invest in experiences, not just on buying expensive things. And, you don’t need a lot of money to have a good time

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Investing on a regular basis is the most critical aspect. After having invested in one’s life goals, the key is to stay invested for a long term without getting influenced by external market factors like volatility and price corrections. Most investors, doesn’t matter whether male or female, are driven by the market swings and, in most cases, they suffer an erosion in their wealth because of such impulsive moves.

Banda, who takes decisions for a corpus of Rs 18,000 crore of equity assets, is a strong believer of long-term investment instruments. “You should not let market volatility delay your investments. You should rather diversify your investments in assets as per your risk profile. This will help you tide over the volatility more efficiently,” she says.

It is imperative for an individual to have clarity in her objective. She must be sure how she plans to use the funds. It could be for her own higher education, for her children, for her retired life, for buying a home, for a long-haul trip, or just a rain check for the family. She must list down her specific objectives and the time when she needs the money and the amount required. Investment is just a like a journey – there has to be a specific destination and an expected travel time.

“In terms of a strategy, working women must factor in costs and expenses towards children’s education, purchase of assets, self and family healthcare costs, and even retirement. Also, they may choose to take a break from work due to family commitments, higher education, child birth and so on,” says Anita Pai, Chief Operating Officer, YES Bank.

Anita Pai, COO, YES Bank

Manages around 3,000 people based in Mumbai and a couple of more metros

Her Money Mantra: Prefer doing my own research and speaking to a financial advisor before starting my investment journey. Building and diversifying a portfolio with a mix of traditional and new investment tools can help achieve the desired returns and  reduce portfolio risks

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While teaching compound interest to his students, Albert Einstein said, “Compounding is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it earns it, he who doesn’t, pays it.” Every woman taking over the leash on finances must start investing and saving early for the maximum compounding yield. It does not matter whether she invests in stocks or in systematic investment plans (SIPs), it is her consistency in investment that matters the most.

“Compounding is what helps you create wealth over time and to get better returns, you need to be extremely consistent with your investments,” says Ritu Modi, Fund Manager (Equity) at LIC Mutual Fund.

The next big challenge before the female financial planner is asset allocation or distribution of the fund across different asset classes such as fixed income, equity, alternates, real estate, and commodities. This helps build a long-term resilient portfolio. Asset allocation acts as a hedge against market swings. The financial markets have cycles and different asset classes react differently. By spreading the investments, she can protect and grow her wealth.

“Be disciplined in your approach, don’t make impulsive decisions because you will regret most of them later, even if you get a few right, review your portfolio periodically, and see what you hold. Whatever product you invest in has to earn its right to be in your portfolio every time you review it,” says Amrita Farmahan, CEO of Ambit Global Private Client.

Reshma Banda, Head (Equity) and Senior Vice President (Investments), Bajaj Allianz Life

Handles Rs 18,000 crore of equity assets

Her Money Mantra: A woman has to work towards financial independence. It will provide her with financial security and confidence in achieving her life goals. She can be a contributor within the family and provide financial stability at various life stages

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Although the percentage of women making big strides in the field of financial services is growing steadily, the overall statistics look grim for the average Indian woman when it comes to managing finances. Only 33 per cent of Indian women take independent investment decisions in a stark contrast to 64 per cent of men.

The world’s fastest-growing major economy could be a lot smarter if only it treated its women better. The country could add up to $770 billion to its GDP by 2025, simply by giving equal opportunities to women, says a report by the McKinsey Global Institute. A recent study by the World Economic Forum supports the view. As women’s contribution to the country’s GDP stands at a meagre 18 per cent, one of the lowest in the world, with only 25 per cent of the labour force being female, the Indian economy has the second-largest potential in the Asia-Pacific region from improving its gender parity.

Lack of financial independence muzzles a large section of the 48 per cent of the Indian populace from making a say on cash matters in their families. More than half of the women in India are involved in domestic work and there is little financial independence for most of them. In fact, this scarcely becomes an issue in a typical Indian household. Women in cities lag behind their rural counterparts when it comes to having a control over funds, thanks to various initiatives for economic empowerment and gender equality by the government.  

Farmahan stresses on the need for every homemaker to be involved in financial planning for the family. “Even if financial markets do not interest a homemaker, she should at least make the effort to comprehend. Life is uncertain, be prepared. Your life and that of your loved ones will be impacted by financial decisions taken in your family – make sure you know what those decisions are, and have a voice that is heard,” she alerts.  

Lakshmi Iyer, CIO (Debt) and Head (Products), Mahindra Asset Management

Handles Debt AUM of Rs 1,37,861 crore

Her Money Mantra: Refrain from succumbing to ‘amdani atthani kharcha rupaiya’. Stretch your feet only to the size of the mattress. This nugget from my mom still drives my decisions. Further Income minus investments is equal to spending. No income minus expenses is equal to savings. Following this money motto can help you go a long way in planning for the future

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All the fund managers Outlook Money spoke to emphasised heavily on the need for women to be financially independent, regardless of their marital status or motherhood. They face a lot of systemic bias in India at every point in life and are more likely to pause their careers only to look after their children or elderly family members. But income alone is not enough to get her on board with the man in the family in financial matters. Managing chores back home comes as a default responsibility for the woman in most households. And, then it becomes difficult for most women to strike a work-life balance. “Whether it’s starting their own entrepreneurial venture or learning to manage their money through a simple act like investing in mutual funds or real estate, having access to your own financing goes a long way in making one self-empowered and self-reliant, especially in the face of systemic injustices,” says Hardika Shah, the Founder and CEO of Kinara Capital. Looking back at her own life, Anu Jain, who leads the broking wing of IIFL Wealth Management, recalls that the most difficult and heart-breaking decision for her was to take a one-and-a-half-year sabbatical when her baby was born. “It was terrible for a mother, too, to leave back home a toddler at the mercy of the house maid,” she says.

Jain’s tryst with destiny was not over. Her next big challenge was managing her home when her husband began facing mental health issues. The situation continued for about 10 years with gradual deterioration until he passed away. Prioritising her family set her career back and the rising financial wizard lost her momentum. “I still stand by my choices. I made the best decisions my conscience permitted me to, and though my career growth was initially slower than expected, more recent years have brought me knowledge, recognition, and accelerated progress,” she says.

Whether it is trust or tradition, large swathes of India still believes that men are better at managing funds, and they have the last say even on the earning of the women. Professionals like Aditi Kothari Desai who, as Director and Head of Sales and Marketing at DSP Mutual Fund, takes decision o an Aum of Rs 1,00,000 crore, lament over the very slow rate of change in tradition.

“I think parents play a big part when teaching their kids the importance of money. From the beginning you need to tell your children to learn to earn and manage your own money. Keep the reins in your hands,” she says.


himali@outlookindia.com

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