Making investments simpler help investors take better decisions, says Erik Hon

We provided the transparent solutions to the investors in India which in-turn helped them to make better decisions, says Erik Hon, Managing Director, iFAST Financial India Pvt Ltd, in conversation with Elets News Network (ENN).

Q: 1. How is it to be part of one of Asia’s largest wealth management FinTech?
The size and position that the iFAST Group has achieved in Asia today is a very strong validation of our belief in making investments simple, transparent, and accessible to investors, and empowering them to make better and informed decisions.

We started in the year 2000 as a B2C online investment portal in Singapore during the dot com bubble, before the term ‘FinTech’ was even coined.

We disrupted the mutual fund distribution industry by providing online transactions, a wide range of funds, transparent charging structure, comprehensive research and tools for funds analysis and comparison, educating investors with expert content and halving the sales charge.

In 2002, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the financial services regulator, legislated the Financial Adviser Act which gave birth to a new financial intermediary that can be independent and not tied to any product manufacturer. Our focus on transparency, investor education and research-driven solutions at that time helped to establish our market leading position in both B2C and B2B channels in Asia today.

We came to India in the year 2008 with the same belief and business model.

Q: 2. Give us an overview of your flagship products and services.

India desperately needs more professional investment advisers – we have just over 1,20,000 mutual fund distributors, and just over a 1000 SEBI Registered Investment Advisers (RIA) for 1.3 billion people.

In this context, iFAST Financial India’s portfolio of solutions addresses an adviser’s business journey at multiple touch points:

  1. Growth for the professional adviser:  Our proprietary iFAST WRAP platform offers fee-based advisers a comprehensive and seamless solution that includes capabilities and services for multi-asset financial planning, active portfolio management, automated fee recovery, compliance and research support, and more.
  2. Transformation for advisers/distributors: Our non-WRAP platform is for commissions-based mutual fund distributors who are looking to transform into fee-based advisers. This is a completely digital execution the platform, with built-in support for research, compliance, reporting and more.
    Our other offering for this segment is the RIA Network, which is India’s only RIA incubation service, with end-to-end support for licensing, compliance and marketing in the early stages of an adviser’s fee-based business.
  3. Succession for all advisers: The IFA Marketplace is India’s only exchange for the buying, selling and merging of advisory practices. By aggregating services for networking, identifying potential collaborations and business valuation, we hope to make retirement or inorganic growth a less challenging proposition for advisers.

Q: 3.  What are the major technologies you are deploying in your company?

We are working towards enabling Robo Advisory services with direct plans to help advisers provide low-cost automated online advisory services. This is in line with our focus on helping advisers to acquire and manage more clients efficiently and deliver world-class wealth management services to grow the business.

Q: 4. What are the new innovations the company is looking forward to introducing this year?

We want to make the “jugaad” solution less attractive not in terms of cost, but in terms of convenience and business growth.

Fixed income, especially the bond market, has been largely inaccessible to retail investors in India. Last year, we became one of only two Indian platforms enabling online access to corporate fixed deposits (CDs), and also enabled online purchase/bidding of NCDs and G-Sec Bonds. We are continuing our thrust in this area, and are working on an OTC Exchange for Corporate Bonds in Asia.

Our other area of focus is Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). Our strategy is to drive retail ETF volumes through fee-based financial advisers on our platform and focus on providing liquidity on a few large-cap ETFs that already outperform actively managed large-cap funds.

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