CFA Society India hosted its 5th virtual India Wealth Management Conference

Mumbai: CFA Society India, in collaboration with CFA Institute, the global association of investment professionals, hosted its 5th virtual India Wealth Management Conference from 27-29 August. This year, the conference brought together global and Indian experts to share insights and guide practitioners on ‘Wealth Management in a Post-COVID world’.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had serious and sudden repercussions on businesses, economies and lives of people across the globe. Events like these are a reminder that we are in a world of radical uncertainty, and a world moving faster than usual. As wealth managers, when you are in a world with such uncertainty, how do you handle the tail risk – of impact on portfolios, of events which have a low probability of happening, but have huge consequences on the portfolio. Another challenge faced by the wealth managers is separating signals from noise, as information now moves at the speed of light”, said Navneet Munot, CFA, Chairman, CFA Society India and CIO, SBI Funds Management Pvt Ltd.

The conference brought together many leading local and global investment management practitioners, experts, and economists to discuss the latest trends in the global investment management industry. The 5th edition of India Wealth Management conference included sessions on changing wealth management canvas, the impact of COVID-19 crash, challenges for wealth practitioners, radical uncertainty in wealth management and so on.

In his ‘Keynote talk on the changing Wealth Management Canvas in India’ Amitabh Chaudhary, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Axis Bank believes that with 20 vaccines in the works, there’s a sense that the COVID-19 pandemic might be almost behind us. There’s a sense of positivity or at least less negativity, which will boost the economy. He advised those planning retirement and banking on fixed deposits for a regular income to save more, as with a system that is flushed with liquidity, one might not earn the kind of returns that one was expecting. He suggested industry to develop a financial ecosystem as like the ones in China, which can effectively attack/capture the tail, and believe that it might create the Ecosystem which was missing till now in India. He observed that future generation would have a great amount of information on their fingertips and technology would fundamentally change how the investment services work currently.

Rob Arnott, Partner, Chairman of the Board of Research Affiliates shared his insights about the long-term implications of COVID-19, in his session titled ‘The Impact of the COVID – 19 Crash on Investors’. He observed that the resilience of the developing markets is impressive when you compare it to the developed world. Hence the impact of bailouts is likely to be staggering and when you engage in fiscal and monetary stimulus, it can cushion the economic shock on a short-term basis. Speaking about India he mentioned that just because India is going to have 4-5% real GDP growth in the next few years, don’t expect 4-5% in stock markets. He believes, competitor startups will grow fast too, in an entrepreneurial hotbed like India.

Margaret Franklin, CFA, President and CEO, CFA Institute, in the session ‘Opportunities & Challenges for Wealth Practitioners in a Post-COVID world’ shared her views on how post-COVID is going to be a rich period of creativity for the investment industry. She believes that on a global scale, those who don’t use technology innovatively, those whose cost structure doesn’t show value, and those who can’t scale are going to have a hard time. She believes that Innovation, AI and Analytics will drive decision making in future, as technology is getting better, and it will help create more customised applications which will make portfolios client friendly. She also believes that a way forward for the industry is to increase team diversity. The reason for this is as most Wealth Management teams are homogeneous – which creates problems when they deal with diverse clients if they’re untrained. Speaking on regulatory response, she said that all governments have rather opened the spigots. It will be interesting to see the results and how well-trained wealth managers will ethically work in the new reality.

Sharing her views in the session ‘Opportunities & Challenges for Wealth Practitioners in a Post-COVID world’, Soumya Rajan, Founder and CEO, Waterfield Advisors said that margins in the wealth management space in India are tight, because of regulatory pressures and otherwise. For smaller companies, this could be difficult, which may result in consolidation in the industry. However, she believes that it’s an extremely exciting time for India as people are moving into liquid wealth and so wealth practitioners have good scope for growth themselves and their clients. She observes that clients and employees will probably also have a lot more choice, and so may not be as loyal to the firm.

Nathan Sheets, Chief Economist and Head of Global Macroeconomic Research, PGIM Fixed Income spoke about tectonic changes in productivity and efficiency due to the pandemic in his session on ‘Key Themes that will Frame the Post – Virus Economy’. He was optimistic that the post-COVID era will be a period of challenges, but also opportunities. He believes that it’s likely going to be a period of low growth, low inflation and low rates, much like after the ’08 crisis. But he also thinks that this pandemic will trigger a highly volatile political environment. He stated that anything associated with technology is likely to be a winner. Technology was important before COVID-19, but we now see the capacity it has to transform the way we come together. He also shared his insight on witnessing a shift from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce.

Michele Wucker, Founder & CEO at Gray Rhino & Company in her session on ‘Gray Rhino lessons for the Wealth practitioner’ mentioned that in India, the big upcoming gray rhinos are probably water, corruption, infrastructure and adaptability. Worldwide, the biggest gray rhino is failing to recognise these gray rhinos. Demystifying ‘gray rhino’, she said it is a looming risk that we don’t pay attention to and is more active than an elephant in the room and hard to plan for even though it’s so obvious. She believes in each Gray Rhino crisis, there lies an opportunity… and vice-versa too. She is fairly worried about the risk that when we in the financial industry are addressing one gray rhino, we may create the next.”

Speaking on the success of the 5th virtual India Wealth Management Conference, Vidhu Shekar, CFA, CIPM, Country Head, India, CFA Institute said, “We are delighted with the positive response from people joining the sessions from all over the world. This is the 5th year of the Wealth Management Conference and it was virtual due to the current situation everyone has been facing globally. It is very important for all our members to re-invent themselves and we could not imagine a bigger change right now. We had organised this virtual conference so that everyone can take something from it as practitioners and wealth managers. This conference has helped us to shed some light that we can bring in our industry and profession as wealth practitioners.”

The three day-long 5th virtual India Wealth Management Conference had stellar line-up of global and Indian speakers including Amitabh Chaudhary, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Axis Bank, Rob Arnott, Partner, Chairman of the Board of Research Affiliates, Soumya Rajan, Founder and CEO, Waterfield Advisors, John Kay, Economist and Author, Rajesh Gupta, Managing Partner at SNG & Partners and Michele Wucker, Founder & CEO at Gray Rhino & Company among others.


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