This Apeejay alumnus is soaring high in the world of financial services

Bajaj Capital Limited Chief Business Officer and Apeejay Panchsheel park alumnus Uttam Agarwal says young professionals must develop the saving habit through SIPs as soon as they get their first pay cheque

– By Aasheesh Sharma
School Panchsheel Park alumnus Uttam Agarwal is Chief Business Officer with Bajaj Capital Limited. Having completed his MBA from the Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Management in New Delhi, he has soared high in the world of financial services and has been associated with Bajaj Capital Limited for more than 25 years including a successful stint as a senior wealth manager in their La-Premier division. In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Agarwal shares some investment tips for young professionals, how he toyed with the idea of a career in aviation, the attributes of being a successful wealth manager for high net worth individuals (HNIs), how investing in cryptocurrency with little knowledge can be risky and fond memories of the time he spent in the chemistry lab and football field at Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park. Edited excerpts:Please tell us about your education and professional journey.I studied at Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park, or as it was called Apeejay Sheikh Sarai, from standard 8 to 12. After my class 12, I pursued my Honours degree in Economics at Delhi University, from Zakir Hussain College in the North Campus. After that I did my post-graduation from the Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Management, RK Puram. Having completed my MBA, I ventured into the world of finance and   joined Bajaj Capital Limited, where I have been working for the last 25 years. It was my first job and I am still with them for more than a quarter of a century.Did you always want to work in the financial sector as a child?To be honest, when I was doing my graduation, I flirted with many ideas at that time. After my class 12, I also wanted to become a pilot. One of my close friends, Rajat Rana, who is also from Apeejay, was pursuing flying. I tagged along with him and for a few months, I was moving from one airport to another. For those six months I thought of a career in aviation. Then, during the time I was pursuing my Economics (Honours) degree, I thought of many career options including Mass Communications. But after my MBA I decided that it was better to pursue a career in the financial services sector.You indeed have soared high in the world of financial services. What should young professionals who’ve just joined the workforce keep in mind while investing?For young people obviously, it is important to develop the habit of savings and investments. That is most crucial. You have to make a beginning. A lot of people think about savings and investment at a much later stage. As a result they lose out on the power of compounding. The biggest learning is to start early. My advice to them would be to begin as soon as they start earning. Start saving a small amount, whatever you can do, from your first salary onwards. Most youngsters I’ve seen have the capability to save but they don’t have the inclination to save. My advice would be, start saving from day one and invest that money into mutual funds and open a systematic investment plan (SIP) account. Once you have learned the ropes of investment then you can get into markets directly or through other investment options. But to begin with, opening a SIP account will go a long way.Bajaj Capital was one of the first companies in the country to offer Wealth Management services. As its Chief Business Officer, what do you think is the secret of being a successful wealth manager?I think the biggest attribute of being a successful wealth manager is to be a trustworthy advisor to your clients. It is very critical because somebody is investing his hard-earned money through you. The biggest thing is that you should be completely trustworthy to the client. Secondly, think from his or her point of view. Understand the client’s needs, objectives, current portfolio, current financial situation, current portfolio and overall background before you advise the client something because every client is different. You can’t have a one-size-fits-all solution for everybody. Put yourself in your client’s shoes and then offer your advice accordingly.How rewarding is investing in mutual funds for those with disposable income? What are the other options available to them?Mutual Funds are definitely a great option because they offer multiple benefits. The mutual fund option gives you diversification, it gives you professional fund management expertise, tax efficiency, liquidity and much more. It is a great option for those who have less time and are seeking a complete comprehensive investment bouquet. Having said that, the other popular investment options are mainly fixed deposits, bonds, stocks, ETFs, Portfolio Management Services, Unit Linked insurance plans and Post Office savings schemes. That is where your customisation comes in. Based on one’s risk profiling and circumstances, one has to decide which option to invest more in. Asset allocation between debut and equities, of course, depends on an individual’s risk appetite.Cryptocurrencies are a new-age investment option. They have received both positive and negative publicity as of today. So, my advice would be that unless you understand something, don’t get into it. Don’t invest in crypto only because somebody else is doing it or just to emulate your neighbor. Unless you have complete conviction and complete knowledge about something, don’t get into it.  In my view a majority of people in India don’t understand it as yet. Even the complete details of where it has originated, who is managing it and who is running it are unknown in many cases. It is a different ball game altogether and I would recommend retail investors to stay away from it. Only people who understand it well and those who have a very high risk appetite and are very aggressive investors should go for it because it is a highly volatile product.What are your memories of the time you spent at Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park?I have very fond memories of Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park. Wherever I have reached in my profession, I owe everything to Apeejay. I have very fond memories of Mr Ved Prakash, our class teacher in class 11, who used to teach us Physics. I remember playing football with my friends in the school grounds and lessons in the Chemistry lab, since I was a Science student.

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