Hemant Beniwal – My Story

Hemant Beniwal - My Story 1Name: Hemant Beniwal, CFPCM

Designation: Principal Financial Planner

Name of practice: Ark Financial Planners

USP of the Practice: Understanding people, before numbers. We are a boutique financial planning firm and believe that financial planning is not only about number crunching. At Ark, we ensure that whole process is very interactive and the client is fully involved.

Number of Employees: Total of 5 employees including 3 planners

Can you tell us about `Ark Financial Planners` and its mission & services? What services do you offer?

Ark Financial Planners is a fee based financial planning firm which is serving Indian clients across the globe. Our priority is to help clients achieve their goals. Not only fulfillment of their goals is our responsibility, but we also make sure that this entire process is independent, comprehensive and competent.

We ensure that our clients get an understanding of the investments and use resources in such a way that they get the most from their life stressing over financial matters. We focus upon comprehensive financial planning only as we believes that financial planning is the only way through which people can achieve their financial goals.

How long have you been in the financial advisory business?

I am in financial advisory services since the last ten years. I started in the sales function for a leading financial distribution house. Here I got exposure to all third party products. From there, I moved to asset management companies, where I remained for six years and after attaining the position of a regional head, I moved to start my own practice in 2009. All these years I was advising clients directly or indirectly.

What made you get into this profession? How did you start?

Mis-selling was rampant and the common man found it was very tough to differentiate between what was right for him and what was not. My job involved days when I saw investors suffering at the hands of the so called “advisors”. I was astonished to see that the Regulator completely ignored the quality criteria for the product sellers. Even today, those who are competent enough to give advice on personal finance are few and far between. With the agents, even manufacturers were trying to milk naive investors. It was really painful to see when a client was mis-sold for minor benefits. Then the day came when I read a book “The New Financial Advisor” by Nick Murray where he shared that financial planners do great work for society. He says ‘The whole population is sick. You have the power to cure it.’ The name of my firm “Ark” is also inspired from the same book. I think the unbearable pain faced by clients and motivation from Nick Murray forced me to start my own practice so that I can bring some change.

What challenges did you face which the CFPCM certification helped you overcome?

In the early stage of my career I faced a very big problem – everyone was talking about only investments be it my employers or even the clients. I realized something is wrong and there is a big gap between what clients should get and what they are offered. Few companies and agents started coining the terms “Financial Planning” and “Financial Planner” but it was misused to push their products. The planning part was completely overlooked and that further added to confusion in mind of clients. But as I was not having any formal education/training about financial planning – I never put the cart ahead of horses. Once I completed my CFP there was a sea-change in my thought process. My practical experience of the investments and firsthand experience of client communication, when combined with the CFP certification learning made me a more comprehensive financial planner. At this point, I would say that the challenges have not stopped. We still interact with clients who are confused at what we do. But the CFP education helps us a lot to create our own place and bring recognition to the fraternity to which we belong. People who think that CFP course is only about calculations or learning few concepts are totally wrong. The course is designed in such a way that it starts with learning the overall process, establishing practice, soft skills and lays code of ethics which are important for a practicing financial planner.

How would you suggest a common investor ensure that their accounts are protected and not invested in dubious instruments?

Best way is one should have a written financial plan .This helps in two ways. First is that your focus moves away from – “What is new in the market?“ to “Will this product be helpful to achieve my goals?“ Secondly, it will eliminate the risk of mis-selling as the advisor is giving recommendations in writing.

Has the no-load regime affected your business?

Yes it has; but in positive way. This was a path breaking decision by the SEBI. It was very much required. Clients now know they have to pay for the advice but how much, is still a general question. Earlier in India fees for advice was an unheard word for clients. Once a person knows he has to pay, he starts looking for advisor who can guide him in a right way & at right price.

What is your take on current market situation? What are the key factors that will drive the stock markets in 2012? What is your advice to retail investors now?

We work on asset allocation model & hardly concentrate on day to day market ups and downs. Even we ask our clients to keep their eyes on goals rather than markets. Timing market or checking its direction is futile exercise which is not actually worth anyone`s time & energy. India is a growing economy and its equity markets can easily deliver twice of actual inflation figures in next 20 years. Equity gives returns in long term but will investor will be able to get it? Investor`s financial behavior will answer this question.

What is your outlook towards Practice Management?

We believe in any business if you have integrity, nothing else matters and if you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters. Ethics & integrity are of immense importance for the financial planning profession and it is the core of our practice. Our practice management is evolving every day and the direction is towards building more trust with clients. On technical side of practice management we are trying to use the best technology available be it for data management, CRM, risk profiling or investment research.

Client Segment

  • Occupation: Almost 80% of our clients are salaried
  • Age: 80% of the clients are under age of 40
  • Location: 40% of our clients are NRIs and the remaining 60% from metro cities in India

We prefer working with young salaried people as they want to learn and respect advice. Also we are advising a lot of NRI clients; this has helped us in understanding their requirements and we have developed a smooth process to service them.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

We wish to say that financial literacy is very important as we miss this in our education system. We dream for a day when investor will be financial educated before he reaches his financial advisor. Financial literacy is the key to financial freedom. Being financially aware means client will understand his questions and will also understand the solutions. It is really painful to see when a client is mis-sold for penny benefits. And best way to avoid mis-selling is to get armored with financial literacy.

Above questions are from my interviews for Financial Planning Journal & Myiris. If you would like to know more about our financial planning practice visit www.arkfp.in

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Hemant Beniwal is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER and his Company Ark Primary Advisors Pvt Ltd is registered as an Investment Adviser with SEBI. Hemant is also a member of the Financial Planning Association, U.S.A and registered as a life planner with Kinder Institute of Life Planning, U.S.A. He started his Financial Planning Practice & TFL Guide Blog in 2009. "The Financial Literates" is a dream & mission to make Indians Financial Literate.

42 COMMENTS

  1. Hello Hemant,
    It is very long since i have used this forum. Its been a busy new year since Deepawali, and i find it good omen.
    It is nice to see that your journey as a financial adviser and planner has seen so many shades. It reflects in the advises you give to the readers on your blogs like this and your in-the-face and blunt advises standout against many who do more of sweet talk.

    • Hi Mudit,
      Be frank – I don’t do sweet talk even with clients. I definitely have empathy for my clients but I am not a YES man. But the problem is most of the people who are looking for advisor is actually looking for someone who can agree with them. 🙁

  2. Hi Hemant
    I have read- Top 12 Financial Planning Strategies for 2012
    I found the following four useful.
    1 Get Started Today
    2 Spend Less. Save More
    3 Keep Your Cool
    4 See a Financial Planner

  3. Hi Hemant
    I found your following take on the current market situation and your advice to retail investors very useful.
    We work on asset allocation model & hardly concentrate on day to day market ups and downs. Even we ask our clients to keep their eyes on goals rather than markets. Timing market or checking its direction is futile exercise which is not actually worth anyone`s time & energy. India is a growing economy and its equity markets can easily deliver twice of actual inflation figures in next 20 years. Equity gives returns in long term but will investor will be able to get it? Investor`s financial behavior will answer this question.

  4. Hi Hemant
    I find the following two statements of your story very significant :
    1 Understanding people, before numbers.
    2 I faced a very big problem – everyone was talking about only investments be it my employers or even the clients. I realized something is wrong.
    Here I would like to share something which I have read recently in this context.
    Who are you?
    The correct answer to the question “Where should I invest?” should always begin with this counter-question. Far too often, we, as well as our readers are guilty of focussing on investments. We talk about fund categories and returns and ratings and fund managers and sectors and benchmarks and the rest of the jargon and the paraphernalia of mutual fund investments.
    Nothing wrong with this-each of these play an important role in choosing good funds. However, they do carry the danger of making us forget that investing is less about the investment and more about the investor. The biggest factor that decides what kind of investments you ought to be making has less to do with the investments themselves and more with you.

    • Hi Anil,
      “Understanding people, before numbers” is punchline of our company & we mean it from the day we started our practice.
      And this is true “investing is less about the investment and more about the investor” (will be using this in weekly mantra)

  5. Dear Hemant,

    Your articals are always very insightfull. I am following your blog from last few months and in fact after reading your articals only i have started investing in PPF and SIPs from last few months :). Today i am writing to you to seek an advise, hope you will spare some time to send a reply. I am planning to buy a second house with bank loan + selling gold + PF withdrawal. It will make my monthly budget very tight and it would be a near hand to mouth situation. I am expecting a rental income from that house which i have not taken into consideration. Please let me know if it is a good move or will it be better if I choose to protect my current investments (Gold+PF) and increase my SIP with the amount I intend to pay as emi for housing loan. Hope to hear from you soon.

    Regards
    Rajendra

    • Hi Rajendra
      It is clear that you yourself have serious misgivings about your proposed investment in your second house. It does not make any sense to make an investment which puts a strain on your budget and forces you to live from hand to mouth.

      • Hi Anil,
        as i mentioned i have not taken into consideration the rental income that it will genearat and additioanl tax benefit i will get. that will ease my budget. Over and above the value of property will also appreciate.

        • Hi Rajendra,
          My answer is “data insufficient” but agree with views of Anil.
          PS: Tax benefits may or may not be there after DTC.

  6. Very interesting..Good to know more about the man behind this website and for his philosophy.
    Best of Luck for you new endeavor.

  7. Good to know about you and your practice. You definitely sound like a person whose best interest is in the financial wellness of the clients. I wish you all the very best for your career ahead.

  8. Sir I’m in confusion what to do and not to do actually I’m 23 years Old and belongs to a small town in Bihar. last year I was passed the LIC Agent Exam with 94% of mark but can’t make business so I’ll be terminated in next month. Yet I have not any Job any Earning Sources so I think to be a Financial Planner so what to do for it. plz Suggest me

    • HI Neeraj,

      It is not easy to sustain as a Financial Planner that too @ 23 years. Its required lot of experience. Based on that experice one should have a passion which comes from the inner heart like Hemant Beniwal. It is very difficult to handle the client because they are more experienced then you. Better to settle down in other carrear & bresh up your qualities as a financial planner. it will give you better result.
      Sekhar

  9. hello sir ,
    i m also agent of lic agent
    i want to talk to you about some important topic personally
    if yu wish to listen them
    thank you 🙂

  10. I want to know what is wealth management. Can a low income person like me invest in wealth management in the SIP way.

  11. Hi Hemant
    I am really impressed with the information and knowledge you are sharing thru your website.
    I have little sour experience of Financial Planners
    1) They pressurise their views without supporting / convenecing explanations.
    2) No options are given to client if he is not agrreable to one or two proposals.
    3) The personal information may not be immediately but sometimes later is shared with some agencies who keep following for the invetsments.
    However I will like to know your methodology followed for financial plaaning advise.
    If husband is salried and wife is running small business do you consider it as “one ” cilent or “two”
    Where ( which city ) you are based at .
    Thanks & Regards

  12. Dear Rahul
    if you are not more than 30 year invest in equity mutual fund
    HDFC TOP 200 is best option for you right now.

  13. I am pleased to read this post and to know more about you Hemant.
    No doubt you have in-depth knowledge of financial planning and it is a pleasure to be in contact with you 🙂
    Thanks for sharing all the valued articles with us.

    Regards, Nishi

  14. Hi Hemant,

    I am looking for a term plan for 30 years .Currently I am 35 years. Please advise me on a good term plan.

Comments are closed.