Hush-hush tales from the world of stock markets, banking, corporate world and corridors of power
Last Updated: August 08, 2022 / 08:52 AM IST
WE HIRE LIKE THIS ONLY
When a celebrated fund manager took over as the CEO of one of India’s largest fund houses around a year and a half back, part of his plan was to build a succession strategy in the team and also bring in diversity in fund management styles. Every fund house worth its salt would like to see some or the other fund in the top quartile at all time. But more importantly, diversity in fund management styles is healthy for both fund houses and investors. It results in more choice. The question was how to attract talent in a highly competitive market? The CEO instructed his sales staff to fan out across India and reach out to distributors, financial planners and investment advisors. The idea was to get their opinion about who they like. The fund house’s human resources division might have a database of potential candidates, but nothing works better than ground reporting. And distributors, financial planners and investment advisors talk to several fund houses and their managers to decide whose schemes to recommend, whose to avoid, who is a good or average fund manager and so on. The tactic worked. A list of all such potential candidates was prepared and the CEO, core team and the HR deliberated upon the names and started reaching out. A look at how this fund house has quietly built its army of fund managers over the past year is remarkable. Among its latest recruits is a manager who is known for his large-cap picks. Apparently, multiple rounds of meetings happened to finally convince him to jump ship. The game is not yet over. Word is that the fund house is talking to two more fund managers to bring them on board.
2022: A GPS STORY
Sticking to the world of fund houses. And in the case of one, the wrongdoings of a few seem to have led to stricter monitoring for the whole team. Yes, that is what’s transpiring at one of the leading fund houses in India. It was in the news recently for all the wrong reasons when a couple of its fund managers were found to have used their position inappropriately, had allegedly built a nexus with a large number of brokers and in turn had diverted the gains made on investments to their own accounts. This had resulted in the market regulator scrutinising the books of the fund house as well as the brokers associated with it. Well, now in a quick clean-up act, we are picking up that the fund house has given GPS-enabled tags to its 70-odd employees who manage its various funds. With the help of these tags, the fund house aims to keep track of the physical location/movements and meetings of these employees during office hours from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm. It is also said that the tags might include a timer or alarm system which will alert authorities if the GPS location of the employee outside of office does not change beyond a set time limit. Talk about keeping a close watch!
A quick check on the action in Deal Street led us to some spicy chatter about a key transaction apparently brewing in the chemicals and agri space. Word is that two players in the segment are brewing a merger and if the chemistry stays strong, this one may be just round the corner! Shifting to equity capital markets, we pick up that a clutch of real estate IPOs are on the cards. More details in our next dispatch.
UPGRADE, ACQUIRE, MOVE ON…
Continuous upgrade is the need of the hour, whether it’s a business or an individual and with technology changing day in and day out, it becomes even more imperative to keep upgrading oneself so as not to be left behind the competition. It is with this aim in mind that one of India’s top private lenders is breaking its own tradition and scouting for technical talent not only within India but also outside. It plans to beef up its tech infrastructure significantly so as to become one of the most advanced banks in the segment and give stiff competition to the advanced fintech companies which are eating away the share of traditional banks with their new product offerings. The buzz is that in addition to building a team of specialists, the bank may also be zeroing in on a fintech company for an acquisition. Peeps with knowledge of the matter also suggest that, in the next 2-3 weeks, the bank will be making some big announcements regarding its growth plans.
THE ALL-OR-NOTHING APP WARS
'All's fair in love and brand wars' could be an eternal truth. At a recently held shindig hosted by a celebrated film producer, the founder of a vaunted homegrown new-age company was seen resorting to some interesting tactics. Smack in the middle of the gathering, the founder and CEO made another guest at the party delete his rival's app from his phone and even promised to give invitations to a festival the company will be hosting soon. As they say, every drop or, in this case, uninstall counts. Having said that, we can't help but wonder whether the guest reinstalled the app after the dust and party settled.
REALTY TEST TIME
A real estate firm down south is apparently going through a rather rough patch and is allegedly on the verge of bankruptcy. The company has been unable to pay its employees salary for 3-4 months now. We hear even a large group of labourers that was hired for a new residential project left for home, when they didn’t get their pay for three months. The only respite for the company is its sales partner and investor that has acquired two of its under-construction projects and has been giving the employees of the realty firm 50 percent of their salaries.
BAILOUT TIME BECKONS?
This crisis-ridden cooperative bank has been in the news for a while after a big financial fraud was unearthed putting hundreds of crores worth of deposits at risk. A series of depositor-distress stories in local media has subsequently triggered a major political protest in the state. A recent case of borrower suicide had made things even worse. Under pressure, we hear a state-sponsored bailout is on the cards. Buzz is that an announcement is likely within the next few days.
MIS-SELLING MONSTER IS BACK
Investment advisory and distribution of financial products is often a lucrative but tough profession to be in if you aspire to grow your practice meaningfully. Many of them will tell you that 90% of their time goes into managing their clients’ (investors') behaviour and just 10% goes into their money management. One large distributor counts this senior vice-president at a Bengaluru-based information technology company as a client. Two years back, the client came to him for the first time in the hope of restructuring his finances. His main goal was to retire in 2-3 years time. He was in his late 40s at the time. Knowing how rich the client was and given his high salary, that ought not to have been a problem, right? The advisor dived deep in his portfolio and realised that a few months prior, he was sold 7 insurance policies. These were traditional money-back policies where premiums were high because the insurance company would pay a sum of money back to the policyholder at the end of tenure. These are investment-bundled insurance products that give a mere 4-5% returns annually. The advisor also realised that the client was paying a sum of Rs 19 lakh as premium annually. What’s worse: The tenure of the policies was such that the policyholder -- the client -- will need to pay Rs 19 lakh annually ever year till he turns 65. The early retirement dream went out of the window as it wouldn’t be possible for him to keep paying Rs 19 lakh annually if he were to retire early. In fact, forget early retirement, he would now need to push back his retirement as the policies run deep until he turns 65. Unless, he surrenders these policies, after paying surrender charges. Just one of the many, many instances of mis-selling of insurance products that has been rampant for years.
GETTING THE MONKEY OFF YOUR BACK
Still licking its wounds from the earlier onslaught of Covid-19, the Union health ministry now has to deal with an all-new menace -- the global monkeypox outbreak, which has led to detection of several cases in India too. Learning from the past, the ministry has however decided to adopt a different media strategy when it comes to disseminating government response to the infectious disease. Unlike COVID-19, when the government left no stone unturned to publicise the measures being taken to combat the pandemic, the tactic this time is to work hard but stay behind the curtains. Not a single press conference has been called so far on the disease, nor any has been planned for the near future. Our sarkari birdies tell us the government does not want to create panic in the country though efforts are being taken to create awareness and sensitise states.
BITTER PILL TO SWALLOW?
One name on the 16 member-advisory panel of ‘AtmaNirbhar Madhya Pradesh’ for growth and development of the pharma industry has sparked a controversy. The panel to be headed by the chief minister himself interestingly features the name of a jailed director of a company who was arrested by CBI in June 2022 in an alleged bribery case involving a top CDSCO official and a top pharma company executive. His appointment has raised a few eyebrows in the pharma and drug market as industrialists felt that "there was no point in appointing someone who is serving a jail term in a bribery case". State officials are keeping mum on the controversial appointment.
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