2nd Financial Talent Summit (#FTS2) – CFA Society India: Highlights and Learnings

Contributed By : Udai Cheema

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Eric Sim in conversation with Jitendra Chawla at FTS2

Recently I attended the 2nd Financial Talent Summit organised by CFA Society India on 27th April 2019 at The Leela Palace, New Delhi. Through their high-quality content, these events have been able to build a fine reputation amongst the participants which was evident from the full house at the venue. What was special about this particular event was its unique theme and the ‘pain point’ it addressed by providing guidance to the young professionals trying to build a career in the world of finance.

Here are some of the highlights and learnings from the various speakers at this knowledge cum networking fest;
Topic 1 – Conference opening and welcome

Anil Ghelani – Vice President CFA Society India  & Senior Vice President, DSP Investment Managers
  • CFA Institute provides a platform where the investment professionals can engage and continue to share even after they have progressed to doing bigger things in their respective careers after attaining CFA Charter. It’s like an alumni platform where candidates can come back from time to time in order to connect with their alma mater and also give back to the society by way of providing guidance to the younger members.
  • The CFA Institute members come from various facets of the finance world with years of experience adding value to the community. CFA Society India is a platform run by volunteers which in itself is an amazing feat as the society has been doing so much in terms of events, awareness and so on. He urged more members to volunteer in order to take this endeavour forward.
  • Anil stressed the importance of enrolling on the career portal of CFA Society India. Updation of their CV on the career portal could potentially open a wide range of opportunities for the candidates and the charter holders as they will get exposure to a large number of employers from the finance industry already present at the portal. It provides tremendous networking power to the candidates as well as the employers. Job alerts feature at the career portal helps you get real-time updates if anything has opened up which matches your desired criteria for a job profile.
  • Even candidates can become members of the CFA Society India, it’s not mandatory to have a CFA Charter to become a member. You simply need to register as a member at the CFA Society India website and pay the annual membership fee. Members have the privilege to attend most of the events organised by CFA Society India for free and they can get access to all the digital content created by the CFA Institute such as the career portal etc. Candidate members are not permitted to write CFA in their title and they cannot vote, rest all facilities are equally accessible to all the members regardless of the type of membership.

 

Vidhu Shekhar – Country Head, India, CFA Institute
  • Vidhu urged the candidates to utilise all the free resources that the CFA Institute has made available for the candidates and also use this platform to network, find guides/mentors to help them on their journey as finance professionals.
  • Introduced the term ‘intentional career management’ which simply emphasises that one needs to actively manage one’s career and look for the right opportunities to make it a success. This one quote from him was instrumental in driving his message home;

When you are ready, you will find teachers all around you!

Topic 2 – CFA Institute career services and tools
Arati Porwal – Director, Society Relations, CFA Institute
Sachin Naik – Manager, Institutional Partnerships, CFA Institute
  • Ingredients for a successful career: Mastery of technical skillsMastery of soft skills & Intentional career management.
  • Technical skills: what the CFA curriculum teaches i.e gathering, understanding and analysing data.
  • Soft Skills: technical skills might get redundant over time or fall prey to automation. It is the soft skills that can be the differentiator in that case. These include communication skills, leadership skills, networking skills and so on.
  • Intentional Career Management: this entails acquiring the skills, experiences which will get you closer to your goals. These decisions cant be left to destiny, they must be intentional.
  • Live learning tools: Monthly webinars, Live events like FTS2, workshops, masterclasses and conferences. Attending live events such as this one is the best way to network with the community and expand your horizon.
  • Online learning tools: Career tools, videos & podcasts, curriculum/refresher reading and articles, advocacy and thought leadership, India career guide and career centre.
  • India career guide and career centre are the specific tools which can help bridge the gap and create awareness about what’s out there and what skill needs to be acquired to achieve the desired positions/roles in your respective field of specialisation.
  • The career guide is a compilation of the journey of some of the eminent charterholders in their respective areas of expertise. 12-13 verticals are covered under this year’s career guide with a goal that it will act as a roadmap for the candidates while navigating their careers.
  • These career success tools help in three ways: they help choose a direction, help customize your resume which aligns with the direction that you wish to take and help receive personalised coaching as a number of global & local coaches are being added to this platform to help out the young talent.
  • CFA Asia Pacific Research Exchange: It is a global platform where you can find research reports and can publish your own reports. Various industry organisations, educational institutes and CFA charterholders are already using this website actively for research purposes.
  • Career webinars organised by CFA Institute can be of great help to young professionals stepping into the world of finance. Also, every fortnight on Thursday 5:30 – 6:30 pm ist, there is a practitioner insights webinar that is conducted regularly.
  • Click [Here] to watch an insightful video on career services and tools by the speakers, uploaded on the CFA Society India youtube channel.
  • Some other useful links are [link 1],[link 2],[link3].

Topic 3 – Building your online presence and brand 

Eric Sim, CFA – Founder, Institute of life
  • Deepak Mundra, who was anchoring the event, posted a great question to the audience before Eric took the stage. The question was;

Is social media a product for us or are we the product for social media?

  •  Eric shared his unique and inspiring journey that took him from being a hawker on the streets to an investment banker, a teacher, an entrepreneur and a social media sensation that he is today. This session was focused on how we can maximise the power of social media especially LinkedIn to our advantage rather than the other way around.
  • Shivani Chopra, CFA has already written a succinct summary of Eric’s session at the CFA Society India’s blog. So, I would recommend you to read the article as it captures the important points from Eric’s talk quite nicely. Click [Here] to read.
  • From my personal interactions with Eric at the event, I could gather that the key to him being able to successfully juggle so many things at the same time (investment banking, teaching, business & social media presence) is his ‘extreme focus on time management’ by eliminating needless small decisions that are to be made during the day which can easily by automated instead. Much like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, Eric wears only white shirts. He wears shoes without laces, has multiple pieces of same coloured/designed suits, wears no tie, buys his quota of daily non-perishable supplies once for the whole year, at all times he has his travel gear packed and ready to go, stays at the same hotel at each destination in order to reduce the time wasted on choosing an accommodation. He keeps no meetings before 2:30 pm as he believes that the morning hours are for himself and for doing creative work. He schedules everything on his calendar and then makes sure that he sticks to it. He likes to bunch his meetings which increases productivity. In a nutshell, it is this intentional effort and mindfulness that sets Eric apart in terms of productivity and gaining the most out of his day. As I see it, its a snowball effect as one life hack leads to another then another allowing the column of achievements to keep on growing.

Think big, Start small, Act now – Eric Sim

 

Topic 4 – Building a successful career in financial services

Radhika Gupta – CEO, Edelweiss Asset Management
  • The best lessons that she learnt as a professional have not been from the finance world but from her travels and that was the theme of her talk.
  • Her father was into Indian Foreign Services(IFS) which meant that he was posted for three years in a country in the better part of the world and the subsequent three years had to be served in a not so privileged nation, he was aware of this fact when he signed up for the service. Radhika used this analogy and extrapolated it to the markets, if you have decided to invest in equities, that means you have signed up for bull and bear market both as they are inseparable then why fret over the markets going down as they will eventually go up.
  • Italians love their coffee and till today they don’t have a single Starbucks or a Pizzahut in Italy. Italians are quite laid back as a country but the important thing is that they know themselves and what they want very well. This is precisely the reason why none of these big pizza & coffee MNCs have been able to set up shop in Italy as Italians like to have their pizzas and coffee in their own traditional ethnic way. The lesson to be learnt here is that in your profession, there is something that you extremely good at, you need to identify and run with it. Cherish your uniqueness and make it your strength. First, you need to recognise those one or two things that you are exceptional at and then the world will too in due course. Women inherently bring a unique skill set to the financial industry. They need to realise this and go from strength to strength.
  • Nigeria exports oil to the world but there is perpetually a shortage of oil for it’s own citizens who need to stand in lines for hours to get some if they are lucky and there are plenty of other problems that the country is facing as we keep reading in the newspapers but at the international airport in Nigeria, a sign reads ‘welcome to the happiest country on earth’. Ironically, their claim of being the happiest is true and it has been proven by a number of research studies. Why is it so? It’s because of the strong sense of community that prevails in Nigeria. Communities create a lot of happiness like the one we belong to at CFA Institute. So, one of the most important aspects to look at before taking up a job is the culture and the community of the organisation because you must seek happiness in any career you choose, this can come from a dream job but equally, it can be derived from working with great people. At the same time, try to build culture/communities that value people where ever you work, so that people are happy to work with you and freshers feel delighted to join your organisation.
  • From her experience of going through the global financial crisis while being employed at a hedge fund in the USA, she learnt the power of coming back stronger from adversity. Her firm laid off plenty of people and the fund itself lost billions of dollars from being a 40 billion dollar fund at its peak. Regardless of so much global turmoil, the fund today stands at 200 billion dollars. Her observation from her experiences in the US has been that no matter how hard they are hit by adversity such as 9/11 or GFC 2008, the Americans possess tremendous strength to bounce back stronger than ever. Finance is a profession where we need to constantly adapt and come back stronger, plenty of doomsday kind of events have come and gone but the world doesn’t end, does it? Infact, there is a lot of wisdom in the quote she mentioned;

Never waste a great crisis as great companies and great careers are built in a crisis.

  • In the business of investing and wealth management, the devil lies in the details. This business is not won in the plush board rooms rather it is won in the trenches. You also need to know your compliances, operations, marketing along with knowing your investments. The mantra for success in this profession is to build a broadly based skillset. Even if you are a specialist, know the details about other departments as well. With this quote, Radhika conveyed a critical leadership hack;

If you are the leader of a team, do the hardest part yourself

  • Denmark taught her a lesson in Simplicity. Denmark is one of the highest per capita countries in the world but everybody prefers to cycle to reach their destination within the city, no matter how rich they are. In fact, the traffic lights in Denmark are designed in such a way that they equally facilitate pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles but this might not be the case in some other countries where the man with the bigger car supposedly rules the street. So, one must retain a sense of simplicity and humbleness, no matter how big one gets. As AI and technology take over, the art of making things simple is going to be of tremendous value.

Keep yourself simple, keep your business simple and things usually work out

  • In this industry, we are quick to share our successes but we hesitate to talk about our failures but what we don’t realise is that people connect better to our human side which invariably makes mistakes rather than a window-dressed barrage of achievement displayed one after the other.  Every epic/saga has its ups and downs and the same is true for our lives, so acknowledge your mistakes, learn from them and be open about them because that’s what makes us human.
  • To learn more about Radhika’s journey, click [here] for another inspirational talk by her. She sure does practice what she preaches.

 

The networking session
  • This session was quite special as the candidates got an opportunity to clear their doubts and speak their minds on a one to one basis with the senior members of the fraternity present at the conference.
  • Each round table was hosted by one of the speakers at the event. Anybody who wished to have their personal or professional queries answered from them could do so by joining that particular table.
  • The plethora of questions that came to foray showed that besides academics, mentorship is the need of the hour. CFA Institute recognises that as it’s evident from the networking sessions like this one and the overall theme of the conference dedicated to creating awareness amongst their students.

 

Topic 5 – Panel Discussion: Future of work in wealth management

Ashish Kashyap – Founder & CEO, INDwealth.in, Soumya Rajan – Founder, MD & CEO, Waterfield Advisors, Rajendra Kalur – Management Consultant and Board Advisor

  • In a population of 1.25 billion, we have only 16 million active demat accounts, this itself shows how much underpenetration exists in this space and efforts must be made to reach out to more and more people to create awareness but there is a definite shift happening in the investor behaviour here in India in the last couple of years. People are moving away from saving in physical assets to financial assets. As more formalisation, policy changes, regulations, transparency are implemented, this trend change could turn out to be a structural and long-lasting phenomenon.
  • Key drivers for the rapid evolution of the Indian economy going ahead are the favourable demographics, GDP growth, technology adoption, scalable business models. If we continue to grow at a scale that China did since the early 70s, simply by growing at 7% the wealth effect will be immense, creating many more wealthy individuals in the economy.
  • We are at a nascent stage as far as the wealth management in India is concerned. Most of the market is created by institutional players and retail participation in India is much lower compared to the other developed economies. The democratisation of data and information has played a significant role in creating more transparency and investor awareness in recent times.
  • Painful personal experience with the handling of his investments by professionals, realising that there is actually a problem of data science i.e how financial raw data is processed, analysed and interpreted and the need to bring all the aspects of personal finance under one roof were some of the reasons that made Ashish setup INDwealth. In fact, it was the general inefficiencies in the current wealth management industry that were experienced by Soumya and Rajendra during their respective careers that inspired them to set up their own ventures in order to better the process of how we do things.
  • According to Soumya, one should strive to find the best solution for the client no matter where it is rather than recommending a product just because it is part of the approved list which can sometimes be difficult in an institutional setting. Today the industry is changing and clients are looking for good professionals, timely solutions, honesty, integrity and transparency in the way their wealth is managed. We as investment professionals should fundamentally try to stick to these values and try to keep things simple for our clients. Along with intelligence, employers are now looking for professionals who also possess a high EQ which makes them more client oriented.
  • According to Rajendra, we need to be cognizant of the fact that we are handling our client’s life’s savings which he has not only kept aside for himself but for his future generations as well. So, this endeavour deserves and requires expertise, focus and undivided attention from the professionals in the wealth management industry. With the kind of wealth that has been created and will be created in future, building and grooming the right kind of talent pool will be the most critical aspect that the financial industry needs to actively work on. The CFA program lends quite well to these basic fundamental pre-requisites for becoming a wealth management professional as the curriculum lays a lot of stress on upholding high ethical standards and a sense of responsibility towards clients.
  • Professionals aided by technology is the way forward. Use of technology creates time for professionals to work on softer aspects of wealth management such as working with the clients, understanding their needs, handholding them in tough times and so on. Advisory and Distribution, both the models will co-exist in India but we need to make sure there is no conflict of interest when we are recommending financial products to our clients.
  • Click [here] to read more about this session at the CFA Society India’s blog.
Topic 6 – Shaping your career, your own way

Deepak Sawhney – Executive Coach, Story Teller & Founder – Phrenimos
  • In order to understand how to build a career, one must be clear about the definition of a career. A career is much more long term, a job is a way to build a career. One goes through a series of jobs to build a desired career over time.
  • He shows an interesting video where people are stranded on an escalator which has stopped working midway and they sit there waiting for someone to come and fix it. With this video, Deepak wanted to convey the message to the audience that gone are the days when you could just step into an organisation and overtime your career was built by simply working within that organisation. In today’s world, you need to take proactive steps and climb those stairs yourself as the career escalators don’t exist anymore.
  • Some trends which are shaping up that might create career opportunities include blockchain related jobs, rising number of freelancers which is expected to reach 50% of the workforce by 2027 as per a study, ‘gig economy’ is on it’s way up where people with unique talents are hired by organisations for a specific purpose and once the job is done, the person moves onto a next gig. These freelancers are networking amongst themselves which allows them to work together on a project which requires two or more unique skillsets. Generally, when people find answers to problems themselves it motivates them to take action but that might not be the case if the solution comes to them in the form of advice from someone, so you must try to explore these trends on your own to make the most of this opportunity.
  •  The world is changing quite fast, changes that used to take 10-20 years in the past are now happening in 2-3 years. So we need to actively train ourselves to adapt to these changes. That makes training ourselves and continuous learning a must in this day and age. Deepak spends a substantial amount of time and money to keep upgrading his knowledge and advised the audience to dedicate at least 10% of their income each year to this endeavour. Education, as he puts it, is simply having a passport that makes you eligible for a job but a visa i.e proven proficiency in a skillset (like certifications etc) will actually help you land a job of your choosing. So the important question is;

What are the stamps available on your career passport

The thicker your career passport gets in terms of certifications, skills, experiences more it’s going to matter in making your career a success.

  • We live in a ‘VUCA World’  these days where V stands for volatileU stands for uncertaintyC stands for complexity and Astands for ambiguity. It’s important to understand this term because the emergence of new trends and their adoption these days is happening so fast that it’s made the world VUCA. In order to adapt to a VUCA world, first and foremost we need to have a vision of our career i.e what and where do you want to be 4-5 years from now. So, sit back and try to define what success looks like for you one year, three years and five years down the line from a career perspective. While answering that question keep in mind that success should be determined by the amount of value you add to the people associated with you such as your clients, stakeholder etc. rather than simply achieving a higher designation in your organisation.
  • The role of mentors on our lives can’t be stressed enough. Everybody should have at least a minimum of five mentors. Once you have a vision in place, you will need a sounding board and these are those people who have done in the past what you are trying to do now. They know what it takes to be there. Multiple mentors help you get multiple perspectives, each mentor has his own unique strengths which makes the amalgamation of advice much richer. People are limited by their own experiences, so you may need a diversified group of mentors to guide you on your journey. Deepak requested the CFA Society India to initiate some sort of mentorship program where the seasoned professionals from the industry can help mentor the young talent.
  • Besides having a vision, another big question you need to ask yourselves is;

Are you discoverable?

  • If somebody is looking for a person with the skill set that you possess, can they find you? If the answer to that is no, then go out and make yourself discoverable. Meet people, put your profiles online but more importantly build your online presence. A lot of employers these days are looking at your social media profiles such as Facebook, LinkedIn etc. There is something known as the ‘law of weak acquaintances’, it is these people who actually help you land a job. One must strive to build a network of at least a hundred such weak acquaintances with whom you might be just exchanging season’s greetings or a message off and on but they are a part of your life in some way. The way to build this network is to go to a lot of conferences and events where these people come and you should be able to convey to them what you are looking for. Along with mentors, have advisors in your life. These are those people that have connections and can open doors to new and unique opportunities for you.
  • Along with mentors and advisors have coaches as well in your life. A coach helps you think better, coaches help you find answers to your problems and help you get rid of your own limiting beliefs. Deepak ended his talk with this thought-provoking quote;

Everything happens twice

By this, he meant that anything you wish to accomplish has to happen at two levels, once in the mind and then in reality. So, if it doesn’t happen in the mind first, it cant be turned into a reality.

  • Lastly, he shared a great growth/productivity hack that works by simply keeping our resume up-to-date. Once write your detailed resume and then every six months look at that resume and see if you can add anything new to it. If you have nothing to add to your resume in six months time then you are essentially not progressing.

 

Conclusion:

It is commonly said that there is a dearth of ‘skilled’ professionals these days in every field even though there are plenty of educated individuals around. But the irony is that no one is trying to find the reason for this. In my view, if an individual turns out to be unskilled even after passing through our education system then it’s not his/her fault rather it is the fault of the system and the lack of mentorship which has led to this helpless situation.

On the other hand, there are some organisations like the CFA Institute which recognises this problem and with such conferences, they are attempting to address this issue by creating awareness among their candidates about the possibilities that await them. Meeting the senior members from the industry makes it easier for the candidates to envision what their future might look like and what is expected from them as they pursue their journey as a professional. It was heartening to see the senior faculty members share their business cards with the young candidates if they ever needed help or guidance in the future. It is this level of openness and mentorship which will help create skilled individuals of the future and not the mindless rote memorization of textbooks that has become the norm at most colleges these days.

Right piece of advice at the right time has the power to change the trajectory of one’s career & life

 

A big thank you to all the speakers, volunteers and CFA Society India for organising such a high-quality event, both in terms of rich-content and meticulous arrangements. Cheers!

(This write-up was originally published on -https://www.investorsingh.com/2nd-financial-talent-summit-fts2-cfa-society-india-highlights-and-learnings/)

 

 

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