Abhishek Datta is a Dubai based financial planner and wealth manager. Over the years, he has helped his clients achieve their Financial Goals including those of several High Net-Worth Individuals(HNIs). In this interview with Times of Startups, Abhishek talks about the importance of financial planning and what all things can be done in order to achieve one’s goal of financial freedom.
Abhishek, Thank you for talking with us. How has been your journey so far as an independent financial planner and wealth manager?
Thank you for having me. After a 6-year journey with 2 of the biggest banks in the region, I decided to go independent and today I can proudly say that it was the right move for me on a personal and professional level. I have also achieved the desired results for my clients.
I have been able to help several affluent families and individuals grow their wealth and secure their finances.
The fact that several people are on the path to financial independence and success gives me immense satisfaction.
What are some of the market-specific challenges that you experienced as a financial advisor?
This could open a pandora’s box, but I will try to be brief.
Firstly, advisors in the region suffer from what is known as product syndrome. Clients are always on the lookout for a little higher yield or a slightly lower cost.
While those are extremely important, but lower transaction costs do not necessarily result in better returns in the long run. This trend is a result of the subconscious adaptation of the behavior of the different advisors they come across in their lives, who were pushing products, and the only differentiator they offer is transaction cost, or yield.
Financial products are commodities, and if you focus only on the transactional aspect, all you get is a transaction.
If you take a commodity, and use it to create a solution, only then can you get the desired results.
Another quirk in this market is the amount of traveling people do. Prior to the coronavirus crisis, the entire cycle could get extended by months because people are constantly traveling for work or holidays. The time between the first interaction and a follow-up meeting could be so long, that both the advisor and the client had to start from scratch.
This leads to conversations either dying off or results that are not ideal for the client due to the loss of interest/attention of the advisor and client.
But that is what makes my work challenging, to make the best use of that small window of opportunity.
Financial freedom has different meanings for different people. Based on your experience of working with a wide range of clients, which definition do you get to listen more often than not?. What are your views on Financial Freedom?
Financial Freedom affords people the luxury of choice, the ability to make decisions based on merit and not on cost.
For example, you would rather choose the school your kids attend, rather than the one that is most affordable. It could also mean the ability to pursue your passion at a certain time of your life, rather than continue working for money.
I consider a person as having achieved financial freedom, once they are able to focus on what is most important, i.e. life itself.
To achieve this, I, as an advisor, need to ask the right questions to people. Because a question, when asked right, leads to 80% of the answer.
Some financial planners make a mistake designing a lopsided portfolio wherein a large chunk of the investment is allocated to very few sectors. Some, on the other hand, make the mistake of adopting the ‘one size fits all approach’ wherein they design a generic portfolio without understanding the needs of the clients. What would be your suggestion for those who are entry-level managers and also for those who are managing their portfolio themselves?
All the above issues that you have mentioned, have a root cause.
Inadequate risk profiling.
We, as advisors, need to understand the client’s appetite for risk better in order to provide him with appropriate products based on this. We also need to understand the risk associated with a product.
“Most of us try to meet a client’s expectation, rather than manage them.”
A good advisor would carefully design a portfolio after considering the client’s risk profile and manage his expectation of returns.
The above would lead to a well-diversified portfolio and automatically manage the risk associated with it.
There are numerous other factors that one needs to look at, but it is impossible to elaborate on those in this brief conversation.
Given the market situation that we have due to the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic, global stocks have taken a hit. However, it is also the perfect time to buy undervalued stocks. What is your take on the current situation?
I think there is definitely value in the market when it comes to specific stocks.
However, it is also important to understand, that this is not a financial crisis. Hence, we cannot yet predict when this will end, and what the new world will look like.
The access to free credit can lead to mispricing of stocks and assets. Most of the global economy has come to a standstill, manufacturing plants are idle, global trade is trending lower. A lot of companies have withdrawn their full-year guidance and some economies are predicting a 10-15% fall in their GDP.
Considering these factors, I urge caution, but also to deploy money in stages throughout this cycle and not go all in.
I would urge everyone to consult a qualified advisor and temper their return expectations for the future. Before you consider investing, prepare for the rainy day and hold cash in hand for at least 6-9 months of expenses.
How important is portfolio diversification?
Over the years, I have come to realize that 90% of my job is risk management.
Portfolio diversification is an extremely important tool for this purpose.
But this is also a highly misused and misunderstood concept.
Most clients I meet, have 10 different funds in their portfolio. Hence, they believe they have a diversified portfolio. 90% of the time, this is not the case.
For instance, A client owns an ESG fund that is extremely popular, with 40% tech stocks in it. He also has an income fund with 33% exposure to tech stocks. To top it all off, he owns a pure tech fund. So how diversified is he actually?
5 tech companies make up 18% of the S&P 500, all tech stocks. So how diversified is the 500 stock index actually?
Maybe it is time most people need to relook at their portfolios.
A crisis is always a good time to clean house.
Lastly, keeping the ongoing tough times in mind, what suggestion would you give to our readers so that they can attain their long term financial goals?
Start Early, spend less, pick your advisor carefully, do your due diligence and most importantly, do not be greedy.
When you hear stories of how people make phenomenal amounts of money in the stock markets and other investments, always remember that those people are not telling you how many times they lose money. Human beings like to amplify their successes to drown out their failures.
Remember, that this is the crisis, when you could lose money even if you bought US oil at close to 0.
An Interview with Actor & Musician Carrel Lasso
Carell Lasso is a Colombian actor and musician. He is well known for his role in La Esclava Blanca (The White Slave) which is available on Netflix. Carrel is also one of the actors of the new HBO show “One thousand fangs” or “Mil Colmillos” .
Carell, thank you for talking with us. To be a part of the first HBO series in your home country must have felt great. How was the experience like?
Thank you for having me. For me it was a wonderful experience, to be part of the first HBO Series produced in my home country.
I met very talented people. The shooting days were extensive and 70% of the filming was at night in difficult conditions due to the weather and the jungle, but at the end of the day, it was a blessing and a great pleasure to be part of this awesome crew .
Tell us more about your character Barakus.
My character is called Alfredo Barranco aka Barakus. He is a corporal in the army’s special forces, and embarks on a mission where unexpected things happen
By the way, I had to gain 10 kilos of weight to play this character and had to go through a difficult military training and extensive gym workouts.
You have been a part of several awesome projects. Which project is really close to you?
La Esclava Blanca (The White Slave) has been a project that meant a lot to me due to the conditions and the circumstances that I was going through in my life at that time. It was also the production with which I obtained international recognition for my work, since it was sold to more than 280 countries in the 5 continents and was dubbed in many languages. You can watch this awesome show on Netflix.
What suggestion would you give to actors who are struggling to get their first break?
My suggestion is to prepare, to work hard and to have their minds focused on what they want no matter what others say. People who are not capable, are always going to want you to be like them, so through criticism and ridicule they will want to discourage you, but you must be patient and persistent and trust the talent and the desire that is in you. The best things come from heaven when you least expect them.
How are you helping young actors achieve their goals?
Since last year I have been collaborating with NYC Latin Media preparing their new talent for productions. Through live acting workshops and now via Zoom I serve as an acting coach, teaching different techniques and methodologies of acting and hoping to instill my passion for acting to the next generation of actors.
An Interview with Russell Jack, Southland-based Yogapreneur and Mindfulness Teacher
Russell Herbert Jack is a yoga and mindfulness teacher from Southland, New Zealand. He specializes in Vinyasa Yoga, Qigong, and guided meditations, helping clients achieve harmony of body, mind, and soul. Russell is passionate about animal rights, regularly volunteering with the World Animal Protection Organization and donating to protect endangered species in New Zealand.
Russel, thank you for talking with us. Even the best of Mindfulness experts and life coaches have their own ups and downs. Tell me about your best days at work and also about days when you feel low.
Thank you for having me. You are right when you say that it doesn’t necessarily mean that people who are life coaches and who teach mindfulness are immune from their own life challenges. The thing is, they know how to deal with such situations better than most of the people out there.
For me, the best days are whenever I can be at the beach. I love teaching outdoors, and the days when I get to teach by the ocean are the best. There are so many distractions in our life that can bring us down, and being out in nature walking, running, doing yoga, or simply observing is so therapeutic. I also feel down sometimes. Those are the days when I get bad news. I am very close to my clients and I am an empathetic person, so I take their problems too close to my heart.
What are the projects that you most enjoy working on?
I enjoy teaching, reading, and writing. I recently started a blog to practice writing and share my thoughts with the world. My primary focus is teaching though. I teach yoga, mindfulness, and Qigong, and I love walking my clients through the processes and seeing their results improve.
What was your biggest ‘a-ha’ moment?
Well, my biggest “a-ha” moment happened when I tried eating meat after a long break. My parents are vegan, so I was used to a meatless diet for the longest time. But during my late teenage years, you know, everyone rebels, and I decided to try a steak while I was away from home. I didn’t like it though.
What has been the most important part of your professional journey?
Dropping out of college when I felt like pursuing teaching as my life calling. There are many societal and parental pressures nowadays. My parents really wanted me to go to school and get educated, but I chose to educate myself. It’s my path. If I didn’t leave college, I would probably just hang out with my friends now, instead of building my teaching business and helping people connect with themselves through yoga and mindfulness.
The ongoing Pandemic has impacted businesses in so many ways. What risks is your company facing?
Well, COVID-19 has impacted many businesses, but luckily for New Zealand, we didn’t get hit as hard as the rest of the world. I am still able to teach and continue my practice. But I know that there are many people around the world who have lost their jobs and companies who didn’t survive the pandemic and subsequent closures. My heart goes to those.
What would you do with unlimited resources?
I would invest them in protecting animals around the world. There are many people who are conscious of the harm we create in the animal world, but there is not enough funding to make a big difference, I believe.
Being a Yoga practitioner gives you the necessary skills to immerse yourself in whatever you do. Still, When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?
I lose myself when I teach. I turn into a vessel of knowledge and try to help my students connect with themselves through my teaching.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I love traveling and being in nature, writing and learning, listening to music, and talking to my loved ones.
How do you feel you make a difference in the world?
My impact is not as big as I would like it to be, but I still think that by volunteering, teaching, and leading by example, I do contribute to the betterment of the world.
CEO of VEDOC Talks About the Initiatives taken by the company During the Ongoing Pandemic
In a previous Interview with Times of Startups, Yoguef Sanchez-Jarquin, the founder of VEDOC talked about how VEDOC or Vehicle Doctor helps users connect with vetted vehicle service providers with a few screen taps. We recently caught up with Yoguef Sanchez to know more about where his company is heading owing to the unexpected situation we are witnessing because of Covid-19.
Yoguef, It’s great to have you back. Since we last talked, how has been the growth story of Vedoc so far?
Thank you for having me again. Vedoc has grown significantly in the past few months, We are starting to expand and introduce our platform in places such as New Jersey, Chicago, and Detroit. Our goal is to create awareness in major cities and gradually work our way into smaller towns.
What has been the impact of Covid-19 on your organization and Vehicle service providers in general?
Thankfully the Automotive industry has not had any real setbacks overall. As an organization we have adapted well and we are continuing to grow as a team
Tell us more about your recent program in which your company will provide service attendants to gas stations in cities that have seen a massive surge in Covid-19 cases?
We have plans to roll out the program for the remainder of the year upon launching. We are currently seeking to onboard as many fuel stations in the most affected areas. Our goal is to reduce contact between people and provide additional income for locals who are struggling during this current crisis.
Social distancing is one of the tools which can help reduce the spread of Coronavirus. How can fuel stations and car service providers facilitate contactless service for their customers?
Vedoc app was developed with the idea of making the way you service your vehicle convenient which results in being able to contact service providers through the app, chat , schedule and pay and we are also now on-boarding mobile service providers which has become a trend in growing cities.
We genuinely believe that it will complement the concept of contactless service by maintaining people safe at at their homes. On the other hand, some gas stations can see up to 100 vehicles per day so imagine how the amount of germs are transmitted through people.
Through our recent initiative, our service attendants will reduce the risk by keeping you safe in your car while your vehicle is being fueled and providing safe paying methods.
At its core, Vedoc is known for connecting car users to service providers. However, several businesses have evolved in the last few months owing to the ongoing pandemic. Are their any significant changes in your organization in the recent past?
We have made minor modifications and improvements to our organization. However, the core operation has continued to run smoothly without significant setbacks. In that sense, we can consider ourselves fortunate. Overall, we believe this to be perfect timing to introduce a new, convenient and honest way to service your vehicle while contributing our 2 cents to the current crisis.
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