Women Money Managers: Sangeeta Jhaveri on putting safety ahead of returns for investors

From selling liquid funds to corporates through her MF distribution firm, she started offering other financial products to retail customers as well

March 03, 2021 / 04:01 PM IST

In December 2020, Moneycontrol had profiled five extraordinary women who had made their mark in selling financial products across India. In the process, they ended up creating wealth for their customers. But the bigger picture was that they demonstrated amply that women could take charge of money matters – theirs and those of others, too.

Ahead of Women’s Day on March 8, we bring you stories of five more such women financial advisors and distributors who continue to spread financial literacy and bring more people into the world of savings and investments. Yesterday we had profiled mutual fund distributor Jennifer Mendes from Goa. Today, we catch up with Sangeeta Jhaveri from Mumbai.

A chartered accountant by profession, Mumbai-based Sangeeta Jhaveri had no idea that she would go on to become one of India’s largest mutual fund (MF) distributors. For a decade until 2000, she worked in three non-banking finance companies, in areas such as leasing, hire-purchase, debt syndication and bill discounting.

But the financial sector crisis took a toll on many non-banking finance companies (NBFCs), many of whom had downsized by then. Jhaveri decided to quit her job. With sheer grit to make it on her own, she set up Prescient Financial Solutions in April 2000, from a 100 sq ft office in Mumbai.

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The turning point

A chance meeting with a distributor drew her attention to the Indian MF industry, which was in its infancy then. But, few smart advisors around her had sensed that this was an investment avenue that would only grow from thereon. Jhaveri held that view too.

She was also quick to sense an opportunity and realised that liquid funds were a good option for her corporate clients who had lost confidence in NBFCs after the scam. A few deals came her way.

Her big breakthrough came in 2003, when she clinched a Rs 225 crore investment in liquid funds from a corporate through cold calling. Her achievement amid competition from large firms was noticed by the MF industry. And Prescient Financial Solutions’ fortunes, too, got a boost. “The industry noticed me and my confidence grew manifold,” says Jhaveri.

A steep learning curve

Eventually, as the industry expanded to include more products, Jhaveri started expanding her product bouquet too. She started marketing insurance products, portfolio management services and alternate investment funds, to mention a few. Referrals kept coming – her network of satisfied company officials recommended her to their friends and families. Today, Jhaveri manages assets worth Rs 700 crore across 500 clients.

Times have changed since she entered the MF distribution business. Jhaveri recalls that, back then, it was not easy for women in the world of corporate finance. Women didn’t get their fair share of respect, even if they got big deals. “But I had a burning desire to succeed in my business and fight against all odds,” says Jhaveri, who hails from a business family.

She upgraded her skills through the Certified Financial Planner programme.

Volatile markets can cause panic among investors and Jhaveri has seen that closely. In 2013, when liquid funds suffered large losses on the back of US treasury yields rising due to the US Fed’s announcement that it would go slow in buying back treasury bonds, Jhaveri had a hard time calming her investors. Many of her clients were large corporations that park their surpluses in liquid funds. “It was a difficult period; liquid funds incurred mark-to-market losses at the time,” Jhaveri remembers.

Such incidents have increased her understanding of the debt market. The sharp fall in markets during the pandemic shook many an investor. To reassure them, one had to point to history of market crashes in India and the subsequent recoveries when market made new highs.

Jhaveri puts safety first, before returns. Thanks to her vast experience, she remains constantly in touch with managers and industry peers to keep abreast with developments. Along with an active nine-member, all-women team, she is constantly striving to expand boundaries and strike long-term relationships.

Tips for women investors

Her tip for women savers? “Financial security is a womderful feeling,” she says. Women must not leave financial affairs to their husbands. Even if they are not involved in active management, they must be aware of the family’s investments.

The process of planning itself is a rewarding experience. It makes a person think about her future, question assumptions and consider alternatives and possibilities, which she may not otherwise.

Jhaveri’s secret formula for her clients: Income less Savings = Expenditure. “It is not ‘Income less Expenditure = Savings’. Put savings before expenditure, she stresses. Be disciplined and consistent in your approach to build long-term wealth.
Vatsala Kamat is a freelancer. Views are personal.
first published: Mar 3, 2021 02:41 pm

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