In December 2020, Moneycontrol personal finance had profiled five extraordinary women from across India who had made their mark in the financial advisory space. In the process, they ended up creating wealth for their customers. But the bigger picture was that they understood money matters and demonstrated amply that women can take charge of their finances and those of others as well.
Ahead of women’s day that falls 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. Today is the first episode in this week-long series. Meet Sapna Narang, Managing Partner, Capital League.
Today, Sapna Narang is the managing partner at Capital League, which is among the country’s foremost all-women wealth management firms. The team of 17 women professionals manages assets of about Rs 1,500 crore and advises 250 plus families.
But Narang’s entrepreneurial spirit was kindled sometime during her 10-year banking career, the last stint being at HSBC. It was there that she faced a conflict while having to sell products that were mainly developed and distributed by it. This led her to explore the nascent field of ‘independent advisors,’ which convinced her of the need among investors for fair and unbiased advice, backed by excellent service.
Taking the plunge in 2003 to start Capital League was exciting, but not easy. She walked out of her high-paying banking career, with a home loan, car loan, a two-year old baby and meagre savings used as down payment towards rent for a small office in Gurgaon. Within a few years, two of her former colleagues, Vinita Idnani and Rajul Kothari, joined her as business partners.
Understanding the client
Like most financial advisory firms, Capital League does a detailed risk analysis of its clients at the time of on-boarding them. But Narang says that “excel sheets and financial ratios to map the risk-reward ratios are only a part of the job. Understanding them as individuals is the first step to drawing up an effective financial plan.” She is clear that longevity of relationship with clients depends on understanding them, their risk profile and only then making an investment plan to meet their unique needs.
Six of the 17-member team have client-facing roles, while the others take on operations and research functions. The well-defined organisational structure and its investment and service processes are learnings that Sapna and her partners have from their long years in banking.
Sapna says that word-of-mouth referrals are crucial in the financial planning field. Satisfied customers have referred them to friends and the chain of references has continued over the years.
Striving to excel
Narang’s journey has been a gratifying one so far. But how does it benefit to run an all-women team? After a couple of years, they found that the personal comfort level of team members and camaraderie were better in an all-women office. "Women understand women’s issues. Thus, there is greater empathy and strong team bonding.” Ultimately, she adds, business comes only on meritocracy.
At Capital League, there is a constant endeavour to upgrade skills every year. Time and resources are invested in attending conferences, training programmes and upgrading themselves on new technologies in the industry.
Narang and her team have navigated through some arduous patches too. She says the global financial crisis in 2008 coincided with a personal emergency. Both were unprecedented situations. But, even the business you manage has a bearing on someone’s life. Women at Capital League too grapple with business management and walk that extra mile to meet the challenges of being an all-women team. “It is always a tough balancing act between home and work for women,” adds Narang.
Advice for women investors
She urges women to actively participate in the family’s wealth management process. While she encourages women to be more active in her client family meetings, she feels that in the Indian context, decision-making still largely rests with the male family member.
What impact did the COVID-19 pandemic have on Capital League? First, it put the team on a steep learning curve. Overnight, they had to learn to work, communicate with clients and make investment transactions, all remotely. Adapting to new technologies, systems and processes had to be done in the backdrop of extreme market volatility.
Second, it reinforced their motto of putting clients first. The team worked diligently to hand hold clients through the volatility. There was regular and repetitive communication with clients about their individual portfolios and the need for maintaining asset allocation. And last, but not the least, it showed them the importance of leveraging technology in the world of personal finance.