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Can you tell us about yourself?

Sadique Neelgund, is the Director & CEO of Network FP – a Pan-India professional membership organisation for personal financial advisors. He started his career with Financial Planning Standards Board India (FPSB India) in 2005 and was designated as the Asst Editor and managing the editorial of Financial Planning Journal. He holds MBA degree from a leading institute and is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).

 How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

I am often asked by my friends, family and associates how did I venture into this new field of financial planning. Unlike many in this profession now, my entry into Financial Planning has been by chance rather than by transition. While undergoing my MBA program in 2003-04, I grabbed a summer project offer from HDFC Bank (Private Banking Desk) at FC Road Branch in Pune. I was selected from the 20 odd people who were interested in this project (or should I say in the name ‘HDFC’).

I was told to learn about mutual funds and since I was a good student, I mugged up the AMFI booklet and also cleared the exams. Then real circus started, as my academics had only thought me how to handle and succeed till here, but no further. The task given to me was ‘find prospects for mutual funds’ and my boss (HDFC RM) did the easiest thing he could do – hand over a directory of industrial firms in Pune! I went through one of the toughest times of my life – knocking door to door in the industrial belt of Pune. I was talking about mutual fund features with everyone I could get hold of, but never really understood its benefits to the investor or relate the product to them.

To my boss’s surprise at the end of two months project, I couldn’t help him get even a single client. ‘Shame on me’ I thought. I was supposed to be a smart chap and that’s why they had selected me among the 20 other aspirants.

There was something wrong – either I was not good enough (which I didn’t want to believe) or there was a different approach to this game of financial advisory. Once back to MBA classes after the summers, I started digging for term ‘financial advisory’ on the internet and discovered the term “financial planning” and “CFP”. “Wow… this is the solution to my woes, why is no one in the bank following this approach, everyone is just busy pushing mutual funds” I said to myself. I was too naive to understand the bigger picture of sales targets, commissions, foreign trips, regulations and all. Financial planning approach seamed more easy and logical to me. By now I was genuinely interested in financial advisory career and pursuing FP looked like a good option.

In the next four months I studied more about FP and fortunately landed up at Citibank for my winter project. HDFC Bank RM had moved to Citi and I guess he either liked my enthusiasm (I had cleared a few more NCFM modules by now) or was betting on his luck. This time the product given was Birla Sunlife’s ULIPs. I never understood the product structure though a big manual was given to mug up. I never understood why only 40-60% was invested in the first year and where the remaining money went. I had to go through the same cycle of prospecting and failures. And I was left with a deeper belief that I can’t sell any financial product. In search of an alternative, by this time I had become a fan of FP and wanted to seriously take it up as a career without knowing the job prospects. I told you I was too naive.

How did you find a job in CFP?

But all this while I had also realized one thing, what these bankers were doing by pushing the products to clients with their great skill sets (amazingly smart chaps) was not the right thing to. This situation had to correct with time and I believed that Financial Planning would be the answer to this. After my studies, I was fortunate to be placed with Financial Planning Standards Board (FPSB) India. Well I approached many seeking a career in FP with a letter showing my super enthu, none except FPSB India responded. To my surprise, later I came to know that actually nobody in India was into real financial planning – so I guess it was a right decision joining FPSB India.

What is the career potential in CFP?

I am thankful to HDFC Bank and Citibank for exposing me to the concept of Financial Planning and making me believe in it. I don’t know how many years will FP professionals take to get recognition like CAs, doctors, lawyers, but I am 100% sure it will happen and those of us who will take the first lead will be paid off handsomely both professionally and with a personal sense of satisfaction in helping our clients achieve their goals.