Amar Pandit’s Happyness Funda
For Amar Pandit, founder and CEO of “My Financial Advisor,” a private wealth management firm that caters to surgeons, celebrities, corporate executives, business owners, and NRIs, the world should be a prosperous place where happiness plays a crucial role. How does he plan to achieve this? He recently set up ‘Happyness Factory’- which he claims to be the only online goal based financial planning website in the world by a private wealth management firm to help millions of people reach their financial life goals and experience happiness. In this exclusive chat with Swati Soni, Pandit, who is also a renowned columnist with popular dailies and a well-known author of four books, reveals his ideas about money and happiness and the interlink therein.
What’s the roadmap for Happyness Factory.in?
My first break at TCS, right after my engineering, provided me with a much secured job and an exposure to the world of finance. As I moved to the US, post TCS, and started working with Infrasoft Technologies - a banking and financial software firm, I knew my true calling was finance. When I was leaving the firm, I did a lot of introspection as to the life and career that I wanted and the only thing that I could think about was financial planning. This was something I was truly passionate about and never considered as work. I initially thought of starting my practice in New York but then something within me, said, “Why not India?” No one was offering fee-based financial planning in a very structured way in India back in 2004.
I launched ‘My Financial Advisor’ (MFA) in 2005 in India. Over the last 12 years, we have made a happy difference in the lives of more than 500 affluent families. However, we always had this desire to reach out to people who did not have access to even basic financial advice. Thus we thought that what has worked for the wealthy and affluent will now work for every Indian family too. This was only possible through technology as well as advisors (Hi-Tech and Hi-Touch) that empowered individuals ,families and their advisors to have a meaningul dialogue about what’s really important for a family. And that’s how the seeds of Happyness Factory were sowed.
In a market flooded with plethora of financial services providers, what makes your company stand out?
The philosophy is what really differentiates us. Most people today just want to know one simple thing “Am I doing ok?” However what is thrown at them is Large Cap, Mid Cap, Benchmark, Products, Returns and so on. Over an individual’s lifetime, there will be good times and some bad times. The challenge is to do well in bad times as in good times everyone does well.The only way to achieve this was to manage your risk and focus on things that you can control- “Your Goals”. The purpose of our life is to live a life of purpose and thus it is very important for every family to set goals. With a goal-oriented approach, we wanted our clients to find their happiness by taking purposeful financial decisions.
No advice is given without setting any goals and the most important part is that we ensure that families are able to stick to their goals and achieve it. Every family has a financial coach (who is like your accountability coach and does not change every two years or so.) We take care of our client’s money just as we take care of our parent’s money with a lot of diligence, respect and responsibility. Hence our process is completely induced and driven by emotions and the personalization that is required for every family.
Will this concept work in a country like India, largely driven by financial returns?
We have proved over the last 12 years that this concept works in India but it’s a lot of hard work. The easy thing is to just check the bank account balance and call the client you need to invest but doing initial discovery meetings (two-three in number) with complete focus on the client and his requirements take a serious commitment and is tough. You don’t even know whether the client will sign up. However you will be surprised to know that people who don’t believe in shortcuts really appreciate this approach.Our concept has brought in clarity about what they were really seeking in life, their goals , their current situation and then figuring out the best way to help achieve their goals.
How’s your work den and working style?
We normally see people in suits and ties in the financial services field. However, we can be serious without a suit. We have an amazing culture and workplace which we also call “The Happyness Factory” and it does not even resemble like a financial services place. We don’t use terms like employees, workplaces and so on. It’s hard to believe but we have no leave and travel policy. The designations at our Happiness Experience Centre are blurred and every team member is expected to enhance client experience and also empowered to do so.
One is responsible for one’s goals and targets. One could just take leaves and not necessarily ask for it. One is also free to decide her own timings.
And yes, we have a lop-sided women centric team with a ratio of 60 per cent women, 40 per cent men. We have had head honchos of different companies visiting us and praising us about the kind of experience we provide to our team members.
To me, our clients and team members' happiness is of paramount importance.
I seek passion as I am passionate myself. The rest just follows.
Any note for future?
My ultimate aim is to make the world a happier place and change the way the world thinks about money. As it’s important to start young to be aligned with our goals, I have penned two books for children named Bill and Penny’s Money Adventures and The Art and Science of Teaching Children about Money. This helps them learn the nuances of money and finance.
In fact, I feel each school must introduce finance as a subject and that could change the values and mindset at a very young age.
How do you perceive money and happiness? And how do you think they could be interlinked for greater good? Please put in your comments.