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 Adam Ferrari, Founder & CEO of Ferrari Energy
Adam Ferrari is the Founder & CEO of Ferrari Energy. Born and raised in the south suburbs of Chicago, IL, Adam is the grandson of an Italian immigrant coal miner. Adam firmly believes that the oil and gas industry not just keeps America moving forward but the industry also provides good-paying jobs for millions of blue-collar men and women across America. For him, it is important to support the oil and gas industry.
Success should be followed by giving back to the society and through the successes at Ferrari Energy, the company has been able to give back to various organizations in the greater Denver and Chicago regions.
We recently got a chance to Interview Adam Ferrari.
Adam, Thank you so much for talking with us. For any entrepreneur, every new day brings its own challenges. Tell me about your best and worst days at work.
Thanks for having me. My best workdays are the days we close transactions that are mutually beneficial to both our company and client. Leading up to these closings are key milestones in both software development and service enhancements that result in an amazing sense of achievement. The days where the fruit of all the hard work is visible are most definitely the best days. The worst days consist of moments where world events outside of our control impact our business negatively. For example, the initial COVID-19 restrictions and the more recent ones have been very challenging for our business and many other small businesses. However, if it were not for the challenging times, we would not appreciate the good times as much!
What are the projects that you most enjoy working on?
We get the most enjoyment in earning the business of a client that does not think they need our services. Taking a hard ‘No’ to a resounding ‘Yes’ is quite exhilarating, and we get to experience that quite often. In terms of projects, the projects we engage in are cutting-edge, so they are all quite enjoyable. Developing the code to run valuation models across the assets in our universe is a never-ending project that is very enjoyable to work on.
What was your biggest ‘a-ha’ moment?
Being able to accurately forecast cash flow from all asset types in our space via automation. We had our ‘a-ha’ moment during one particular whiteboard session, and it all came together nicely. I cannot give away any more than this here as this is our secret sauce!
What has been the most important part of your professional journey?
Practicing humility! Having too much success early in one’s professional journey can be detrimental to discernment. Possessing and practicing humility will allow you to remain open minded and to hear others voice opinions and concerns in a way that will lead to better outcomes most often. I firmly believe a foundation in humility is critical to have lasting success in business.
What are some of the risks that your company is currently facing?
There is growing sentiment in the world that oil and gas are evil. This flies in the face of real economic data and the physics of energy generation and consumption, but nonetheless, this current sentiment poses longer-term risks to our business. I believe that physics and economics will prevail in the long run, but only time will tell.
What would you do with unlimited resources?
I would have every title document ever filed in the United States reviewed and ensure key information was extracted from each document. There is no software solution for this task yet, thus the need for manual human involvement. This information would give us a massive competitive advantage over every other company in our space.
When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?
I lost myself while reflecting on the highs and lows of the past four years of my life. Some people suggest you should look forward and not backward, but I found this moment and others like it to be incredibly useful and nourishing to my soul. Being deeply in tune with our own unique journey is critical to moving forward with a clear and focused mind.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I love to travel and experience other cultures. This is critical to ensure I keep the challenges faced by me and my business in proper perspective.
Through Adam Ferrari scholarship, you are already in the path of changing lives. What more do you feel you can do to make a difference in the world?
Yes, we are fortunate and proud to empower the future generations of health science professionals through this scholarship. We also support the development of domestic energy reserves, which ultimately leads to a higher standard of living for hundreds of millions of people in America. We are incredibly proud of this fact. However, there is a lot that we need to do.
An Interview with Mariana Toncu, Founder of Bestyn, a Social Media App for Neighbors
Bestyn is a multifunctional app that makes it easy for neighbors to connect, share information, and collaborate. Apart from helping neighbors connect, Bestyn also acts as a marketplace for neighbors located in the same communities and enclaves. Bestyn also ensures that users never miss local events like garage sales, birthday parties, charity events, and more serious community events, like death or accident.
In short Bestyn is meant to change the way communities interact. We recently interviewed its founder Mariana Toncu to know more about the app.
Mariana, Thank you for talking with us. Bestyn has just entered the market. What is your number one goal with this app?
Thanks for having me. Our number one goal is to enable easy connections between neighbors. A lot of apps that are available right now don’t have the ability to use maps tactfully to understand who is around. You may have neighbors with special skills that you are looking for. For instance, they can advise you for free just because they are in your area and they can help you with your needs as a good neighbor. But how do you get to them? This is where our app comes into the picture. Apart from this, we also want to reduce costs for the people in the neighborhood for different tasks. Using our app, people will have to pay less for marketing and advertising which can be really helpful for small businesses.
What were the initial challenges that you faced in your endeavor?
Right now there’s a lot of information everywhere and it’s kind of hard to select the right information and also it’s kind of hard to find the team and explain to build the right app that people can join and stay connected with their community. It’s not that there is a dearth of good people but it’s very hard to put to them to work together for one idea. Moreover, when you are launching a new app, it’s another challenge to find what exactly people are experiencing using your app and what exactly is their feedback about the app.
How and when did you come up with the idea of Bestyn app?
I am an immigrant from Eastern Europe and I came here a couple of years ago. I was stuck when it came to communicating with neighbors and connecting with the community where I’m living. In the market, there are a couple of apps but because they do not have a friendly interface, people don’t want to use them. People want something like easy access and at the same time stay updated with news and post news.
One of the biggest issues in modern day society is the fact that a neighbor does not know his or her own neighbor. How does Bestyn solve this problem and help people connect with their neighbors?
Bestyn has come up with some features that no app has. For example, a user can post events. This, I think is one of the amazing things that the user can share with his community. Another amazing feature is that you can access the map and you can instantly see who is around you and also you can message him and ask for a piece of advice or ask for help.
A lot of features are still under development but we are more than happy to receive the feedback and get more information about what has to be done and what people want from their community and neighborhood.
Bestyn is more than connecting people with their neighbors. Tell us more about those features.
The closest person to your house is basically your neighbor. In case of emergency, your neighbor can be of great help. Your neighbor is around you. By accessing the map you’ll be able to see all your neighbors around you and for safety. For obvious safety reasons, you will not be able to see the exact address of your neighbors. However, your neighbors will be able to know about it. You don’t have to go to their doors and knock them. That’s why you can ask through Bestyn app for advice and help instantly.
App security is a major concern nowadays. What preventive measures have been taken by Bestyn?
It’s true that app security has become a cause for concern. When it comes to Bestyn, you are going to share your address with the app which will help us serve you better, but when somebody will take a look at your profile, they are not going to see the exact address where you are. So the app is going to indicate just the street in the city where you are. Thus your exact location is not going to get divulged.
Also, you will be able to see people in a radius of 10 miles. Thus the concept of neighborhood remains intact.
Which locations do you serve?
We designed this app to cover all areas and countries so pretty much everyone who has a phone and wants to join this community. By joining this app now, you may help other people that will join this app later. We encourage everyone to join this platform and also the people who use this app to invite their neighbors and stay connected during this tough time.
What plans do you have regarding the expansion of Bestyn. Especially during the ongoing pandemic.
Bestyn App is going to come up with more features for the users. It’s going to be hard initially so we are going to first translate our app in the most spoken 15 languages, and bring more features that will reduce the cost of everything from services to ride-sharing, sending money, and just selling products and scaling businesses.
Want to know How a 27 Year Old Bought a Beach Lot? Find out in this Interview with Trishie Dela Cruz, Founder of Bride and Rose
The ongoing pandemic has made things hard for most of the entrepreneurs worldwide. Businesses, big or small, have suffered a lot during this pandemic. However, the situation has opened doors of opportunity for some individuals too. So why wouldn’t we Interview someone who managed to buy a beach lot when many are being forced to liquidate their assets.
Trishie Dela Cruz is one such Entrepreneur who managed to buy a beach lot when many are struggling to pay their bills because of the pandemic. An entrepreneur at heart since her childhood, Trishie is the founder of Bride and Rose. We recently interviewed her to know more about her success and her overall entrepreneurial journey.
Trishie, Thank you for talking with us. Kindly describe your journey as an Entrepreneur so far.
I started being an Entrepreneur way back 2012 and I had 2 careers in 2 different industries before I finally ended up here on the final path that I am already in.
First, I was a full time blogger, I attended events and promoted products, then I had a privilege to do solo traveling, and I loved it so much that I opened up a backpacking Travel agency and became a Travel Expert. I lead team buildings and developed a backpacking prototype.
I lost my time in blogging and focused in traveling the world and running my agency. Unfortunately, competition became very high and travel deals became lower and lower that it was hard for me to compete anymore. The stress that the business gave me was not worth it. When my husband and I moved to a house from a condominium, we bought tools such as circular saw and built our own furniture using 2nd hand palettes.
I shared it on my social media and blogs. One of my readers wanted something similar for her wedding. She asked us to do a bohemian table made of palettes. And then that’s how when it opened doors to wedding industry. We built those bohemian tables, I outsourced suppliers and I created wedding packages, which was by that time, not a trend.
I found what I really love. Ever since I was a kid, I loved beautiful things, flowers, laces and fabrics, jewelries. I backed up my career by enrolling to courses such as Professional Events Management in Enderun, attended the Teddy Manuel Master Class, and took Interior Styling at SOFA(School of Fashion and The Arts). I am now a wedding designer and own a concept store of all things beautiful. My happy place, my childhood dream ❤️
Of all those years, despite the different industries I’ve been in to, there are two things that I never stopped doing. Building/creating and selling. When I was a blogger, I built my own walk in closet, I built an office for my travel agency, and now, I have built 2 boutiques for my wedding designing career. But there’s no smooth sailing in business especially when you’re starting. There are many ups and downs. I even built a nail spa and salon and closed it down in less than a year. That’s why the 2nd thing is selling. On the side of my careers, I always make sure to have many streams of income. I am resourceful, I always have something to sell anything under the sun, but discretely; That I am not broadcasting or showing to public.
Before my entrepreneurial days started, I was a rebel. I parted here and there. I went to every night clubs in the metro. I’ve seen how drugs and alcohol change people and ruin lives. I was young that time and I already saw the importance of time and the value of what we do in life. One day, it put me an end and realized that all those selfless nights wont give me a direction in life. I graduated early on that kind of phase in life. I learned the hardships in life early. After that phase in life, I lost my privilege of studying in a way. However, I wanted to study. I wanted to achieve things and get what I want. That’s why I started to dream and focus on my goals. That’s when I started blogging, it was my first source of income, and I was 19yrs old. It was also the age that I was able to buy my own car. I started to decide what are my dreams and goals in life, early; and I think that was my edge.
You are just 27 and have achieved success which many envy. When the world is reeling down under corona pressure, you managed to buy a beach front lot. Mind sharing some of the secrets with our readers?
It was really one of my dreams to have a beach front house. It’s been quite awhile already that I was looking for a beach lot, even before the pandemic. But most properties for sale are sold by hectares. I stayed up to date with the trend, I saw a developer selling beach front lots but the beach is a black sand, so it’s a no for me. But I know that many developers will develop same idea- into a different beach. And I was right, there were new developers across the country who started selling smaller cuts of beach front lots. And it is fast selling! So, with the savings I had, I took advantage of it. And it’s a bonus that lots are cheaper during these days of pandemic.
Wedding industry has been hit hard by this pandemic. How did you manage to survive this pandemic?
Yes this is 100% applicable to me. My business was really affected. First, weddings were not allowed. 2nd, malls were shut down, and one of my boutique is located in a mall.
I am never a quitter. I took advantages of the opportunities. I took advantage of my digital skills and I have and focused on online marketing. I took advantage of being seen more by audience since almost every person is in the house, browsing the internet. I took advantage that we were one of the firsts in the industry that started intimate weddings even before the pandemic started. I took advantage of my extra time to research and redevelop our business plans and strategies, and as well as to improve things that need to be improved such as websites, our social media feed, portfolios, etc.
How and when did you come up with the idea of Bride and Rose?
The idea of Bride and Rose concept store started when I was in New York. It was inspired by Kleinfeild- Kleinfeild is the largest bridal shop in the city that carries different designer bridal gowns. If it worked in the western countries and is being patronized already for decades (since 1968), then it will definitely work here in Philippines too.
Few days before I traveled to New York, I attended a short curriculum at Harvard University in Boston that teaches us how to prototype and innovate.
I wanted to innovate Klienfield Bridal by adding a working space for different wedding suppliers, because I’ve seen that there are many suppliers such as coordinators, hosts, invitation suppliers etc. who do good in the industry but don’t have something they called their own office or space.
The moment I went back to the Philippines, I started the prototype and that was my first wedding concept store boutique- Shabby Chic Style Studio. The prototype was a success, and after 2 years working almost 24hrs to run this business, I am already confident enough that Bride and Rose will work. Using my savings, and getting investors to add more to the capital, we then built Bride and Rose.
How do you think you can share your success to others and Please share some mantras with our readers so that they can also achieve their pie of success.
“Never Stop Dreaming Your Dreams” this is my 2nd tattoo(out of 8), in my wrist. It was a quotation from my mom and I lived to that. Never stop dreaming because your dreams are what will drive you to do and achieve your goals in life. Dream big and inspire people. And help people in any ways that you can help even in the tiniest things because blessings will come back double. Value people who share the same dreams with you.
Also, I love studying and I invested a lot in my education because I believe that it is important to invest in yourself. Not only I pay for experiences, I buy books and PDFs of information, formulas, and resources. It cost me a lot and recently, I made an E- library of these resources and I’m selling it just for fraction of the price. I believe that this E-Library will be helpful to anyone who is struggling in business or who just started their business or those who want to start their business.
You can buy the E-library resource here: https://brideandrose.com/products/zero-to-six-figures-online-business-e-library?_pos=1&_sid=4d1866847&_ss=r
Trishie dela Cruz blogs here and is also available on Instagram
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