If you’ve watched the 1 Finance ad film or found us through it — welcome on board! If you haven’t yet, you may want to watch it before proceeding.
What you see on screen is the unfortunate reality of India’s personal finance advisory industry today — a toxic, sales-oriented machinery that drives wealth managers to sell the highest commission-earning financial products to clients, and leaves these financial advisors with no choice but to tolerate or propagate this culture. In the initial years of my career as a wealth manager at some of India’s leading banks and financial services companies, I witnessed first-hand how the high-stakes, high-pressure environment encourages — and heavily rewards — dishonesty and insensitivity towards the people they claim to serve. I was very much a part of the problem.
In the mid-2000s, I was an ambitious and starry-eyed postgraduate hoping to make a mark in the BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance) sector, much like our protagonist in the film. Banking had only recently been privatised in India, and I’d just joined what is now one of the country’s leading banking and financial services companies. I was determined to prove myself. The first sale I ever made was to an acquaintance — a man in his 40s who’d opted for early retirement. He had ₹5 lakh to invest and asked me to recommend some mutual funds. What I sold to him instead was a unit-linked life insurance policy. The policy came with 90% premium allocation charges — which meant that the bank received ₹4,85,000 as commission, I got 10% of that as an incentive, and only ₹15,000 of the total amount actually went into investments. I had earned around ₹50,000 in a single day, and was high with praise at work for the deal I’d made.
Later that night at the dinner table, when I shared the news with my father, he seemed alarmed by the blurry line between selling a product and cheating a person. His concern was my first wake-up call — the system I was a part of had values that I had no regard for. I knew I had to leave the banking sector. Over the years, I switched several companies within the financial services space, hoping to find an institution that paid heed to the interests of its clients, but wherever I went, the problem remained. The celebratory culture of swindling a prospective client, within the purview of law, was pervasive. Each company nurtured its employees, keeping them hooked on a steady supply of rewards and incentives. The disregard for customers was sanctioned by the processes and hierarchies in place across the well-oiled industry.
Eventually, I landed up at a brokerage and financing group where I met Jeet Marwadi, who introduced me to the legacy of the Marwadi Chandarana Group. Here was a company that had seen remarkable success, without compromising on the principles that I’d been searching for in the industry all along. Together, after many meetings and in-depth conversations, we were determined to carve out a space that would be rooted in the ideals and values we believed in — that our user’s interests would come first, that commissions wouldn’t drive financial advice, and that honesty and transparency would be the foundation for the ecosystem of personal finance that we built. We do this by ensuring that our advisors are not constrained by any conflicting interests driven by sales targets, and have the autonomy to offer unbiased recommendations purely in the interest of a member’s financial well-being. Their earnings come from the subscription plans we offer our members, instead of more prevalent commission-based incentives. They’re also assisted, at every step of the way, with a dedicated individual from our team by way of our Financial Concierge Desk.
With 1 Finance, we are keen to reimagine this fractured ecosystem so that all our stakeholders can experience a sense of fulfilment. This is the message that we wanted our first ad film to convey.
We know that our message is simple, but we’re also confident that it will reach its intended audience. We hope it will succinctly communicate our thought behind building 1 Finance to people who need help with managing their finances, and those who may have had a bad brush with the financial services industry in the past. But we also hope it resonates with people who work in the industry and who want to be a part of a long-overdue shift towards higher standards of honesty and integrity in personal finance advisory. There’s a lot more to come, but I believe this is a good place to start — one with your interests.
Keval Bhanushali is the CEO and co-founder of 1 Finance.