The Page Turns

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A reflection on the last 16 years - the IIFL Wealth journey, what we learnt, and what beckons!

This is a personal blog.

As a wealth manager it's really hard to talk about yourself. So this will take some stepping out of the comfort zone. But 2021 is the year of leaving many such comforts, so this will be worth it too!

The Beginning

Anusmaran (the annual IIMB alum reunion) of 2006 was a special one. This one, at Sea Princess Mumbai is where I actually met Karan Bhagat, though we'd been at the same office at Kotak Wealth since '05. From that chance meeting to later working alongside him, in '06 and '07, I actually figured what the fuss was all about - this was the smartest guy in the business! So, in late 2007, when we discussed the early ideas of what would become IIFL Wealth, the decision had already been made.

We look back at our lives and think of defining moments - and most of them are personal: the move to a new city, the wedding, the birth of your children. Rarely, does a new job count - and yet, the first day at work at IIFLW is right up there. IIFLW checked all the boxes on what is seductive about the startup journey:

✅  Extremely high motivation, energy and fun (no one personifying this better than Yatin Shah!)

✅  Learning from the smartest co-workers

✅  Doing stuff that had not been done before

✅  Putting up your hand and getting responsibilities beyond your years

We're Different

There aren't many places where a 27 year old newbie is allowed to launch the first product idea (h/t to the Deutsche team for taking the leap!), set up 5 new offices and (later) build one of the largest fee based multi-asset portfolio managers. There was a seat at the table for anyone who wanted to step up.

Today, 13 years later, looking back at this incredible journey of the most successful new wealth business in the country, it's natural to wonder what made it work. To me, the standout ingredient: the people. At the top, the energy emanated from the most positive and optimistic leaders in Nirmal and Venkat. And in the team, we managed to attract, retain and motivate the most unique combination of individuals - some of whom had never worked in this industry before.

Here, I've been exceptionally fortunate. In my own reportees, I've found friends, mentors, advisors, coaches and the best drinking buddies. Without actually knowing it they were helping me feel my way around. The legendary parties at Indus, Hitchki and our offsites often tested our biology but we survived, to turn up to work the next day with the same gusto as on the dance floor.  Their sheer persistence, each day, every day is inspirational.

The other unfair advantage is the opportunity to work for the smartest people in the country. Entrepreneurs, professionals, innovators - each at the top of their game. Their attention to detail and discernment ensure that we do our best work each day. Their charisma and optimism motivate us to be better people. To top it, we get paid for learning from them!

Even the way we dealt with lows was also unique. Analyse what went wrong, don't pass the blame around, and don't repeat the mistakes. And always, look at the brighter side. The positive attitude and attention to detail was a masterclass in handling failure.

This culture, along with the motto of continuous innovation, are what set IIFLW apart. In fact, unknown to us, we were not only creating a new business, we were shaping the industry. Thanks to IIFLW, the clients and the industry are better off for having more choices, newer processes and superior talent.

This is the true inspiration we derive from the journey we have been on. Not just improving the financial lives of our clients, but also setting a benchmark for the industry is the true north. A benchmark that improves the offering for everyone.

Partners in crime

There's something else IIFLW helped me find - my co-founders! The three of us couldn't be more different, and yet at IIFLW we found an umbrella to flourish under. As peers, we have had our intense competitions, and yet when the curtains closed, we ended up being friends with tremendous respect for each other. For Sahil, Vaibhav and me, this forms the foundation of the way forward.

Entrepreneurship is crazy, but it's crazier still when it takes leaving IIFLW. But does IIFLW really leave you? I would think not.

Stay tuned for more from the team at dezerv.

Author : Sandeep Jethwani

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