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 profiled Sangeeta Jhaveri from Mumbai. Today, meet Shiney Sebastian, Managing Director, Affluenz Financial Services, from Kochi
Having been in the banking and financial services industry (in Mumbai and Kochi) for over 25 years has had a significant influence on Shiney Sebastian’s approach towards money. Shiney takes pride in saying that Kerala not only boasts of 100 percent literacy but also has communities whose inheritance laws are traditionally skewed towards women. Women in Kerala are typically more aware about money, as they are inclined to take up jobs. Due to fewer employment opportunities at home, many women also migrate to cities across India and the world. “That makes them financially quite independent,” says Shiney. Further, a lot of men employed overseas and in other states send money back home to their spouses for managing the household and helping build assets in real estate and bank deposits.
Also read: Sapna Narang on the need for forging long-term relationships between investors and advisors
Starting off with wealth management
She founded Affluenz, a Cochin-based financial services company in July 2007, and runs an all-woman firm of five to cater to managing wealth for institutions and families. Her tryst with finance was accidental though. A meeting with the late Parag Parikh in 1994 got her to join Parag Parikh Financial Advisory Services (PPFAS) in the Portfolio Management Services (PMS) Division for marketing PMS products. She fondly remembers her early learnings. “Even during the very early stages, Paragbhai taught us to be ethical and run the business the right way. His subsequent teachings on behavioral finance were another big takeaway for me.”
Making inroads into family finances
Apart from working in broking houses such as Geojit Securities, Kotak Securities and HSBC, Sebastian also worked at Franklin Templeton Investments for about two years. In 2006, she took the bold step of starting out on her own. “I decided to take the boss out of the equation and work for clients, directly, to serve them well without conflict of interest,” she says. She started founded Affluenz in 2007, distributing mutual funds, other financial products and PMS schemes.
Initially, Sebastian decided to focus on large institutional and high networth clients. As a woman – and having started her firm with two women staff – she says institutional firms took her more seriously than households at first. “We started with a few institutions and then built a network of high networth individuals and their families. We also started working with women who were professionals and needed a say in the family finances,” she says.
Apart from strictly imbibing the sense of maintaining an asset allocation pattern in her clients, she also stresses liquidity management. She says that is important, as it protects the family from shocks in volatile equity and debt market conditions.
Also read: Meet Jennifer Mendes who got Goans to shift from postal deposits to mutual funds
A say in household finances
She explains that women need to have a sense of ownership of family wealth. Women should have access to their own money to be able to create wealth and spend it without needing consent from a parent, spouse or child. “Among most couples, she is the one left behind as women have higher life expectancy, to deal with the needs of children and grandchildren as a powerful bridge between the past of the future,” says Sebastian.