Launched in 2007, ASK Wealth Advisors (ASK WA) was part of the first wave of launches of private wealth firms.
The parent company, ASK Group had started in the early 80s and formed a joint venture with US-based Raymond James in the 90s to offer investment management services through a portfolio management service (PMS) structure. By 2007, ASK group had decided to buy out the joint venture and launch the wealth management division. While the group has expanded its asset management capabilities from the original listed equities (PMS) to alternatives such as real estate and private equity, the wealth management business seems to have grown slowly and consistently over the period.
Rajesh Saluja, CEO & Managing Director, ASK WA has been with the firm since inception. The rest of his management team has also been pretty stable. Asked about how strategic the wealth management division to the group, Saluja called it ‘the mother of all the businesses under the ASK Group since that’s where the relationships lie.’
Saluja was bullish on the private wealth industry, saying it’s still under-penetrated because of high initial investment, long period of time to make it stable and high cost of relationship managers makes it even more difficult to break even. But he believes the client segment is expanding since there are many emerging entrepreneurs qualifying under the bracket of HNIs and over the next 5 to 10 years not only there will be new players but also existing ones will do even better. He reiterated the importance of capital in this industry as the reason the firm had taken private equity capital from Advent International about five years ago, and is close to announcing another round of capital raise soon.
Client and service segmentation
Like most firms, new clients come mostly through referrals. The central business development team also helps in client acquisition through referral programs, cold calling through the list of potential clients and sponsorship of relevant business events.
Following the regulatory push to separate distribution and advisory services, the firm, like many others, has formed a subsidiary to offer the latter –
- Private Wealth Management services – offering mutual funds and alternatives under distribution license
- Investment Advisory & ASK Family Office – offering asset allocation advisory services under the RIA license
Coaching takes time to be effective
Saluja confirmed that their onboarding process is similar to industry practice of risk profiling although ideally he would like to conduct more systematic investing personality analysis. He agreed with academic literature about the client temperament being the most important factor in their investing journey, but currently their team builds up that knowledge of clients’ temperament over four to five years. Only after that is the relationship manager able to coach clients about their own biases.
Indeed, the RMs need to be coached themselves to become better client coaches. To that end, the firm has partnered with a Singapore-based training firm to provide sales and technical training over a two-year period.
Supervised conservative advice model
The advice model is conservative with each client portfolio being supervised and monitored centrally with strong involvement of the senior management (CEO / COO / Advisory Head) in each relationship. Driven by asset allocation principles, they take a customer-centric approach rather than a product-centric one. They aim to serve a niche clientele by maintaining personal touch and harnessing deeper relationships through customised solutions across investments, trust and estate planning.
“The biggest framework which we follow for all investments and for client portfolios is the philosophy of asset allocation” said Nishant Agarwal, Managing Partner and Head – Family Office. He described the process of strategic asset allocation with long-term risk and return expectation from each asset class and the liquidity as the key aspects for framing a client’s portfolio. It is then overlaid with tactical asset allocation incorporating market valuations.
The firm aims to provide the best-in-class products and services, as they believe in the philosophy of ‘owner-manager’ framework and operates independently with no conflict with other businesses of the group.
Describing the product selection process, Agarwal confirmed that a lot of weight is put on the experience of the manager and the institution behind the manager since “clients will be connected to an institution and not to an individual or a face.” He elaborated that 70 to 80% of investment recommendations are based on three filters like the longevity of the firm, the longevity of the product itself, and the experience that the fund manager brings in that product. They keep 20 odd percent to give chances to new managers.
ASK WA is not known for ‘innovation’ in offering products. Agarwal explains that this is intentional, saying “anything which is really too exotic wrapped in layers and layers of structuring is generally avoidable… (prefer) something which has a longer term history and quality is intact.”
Initiated in 2007, ASK Wealth Advisors (ASK WA) is a well-respected independent Wealth Advisory and Family Office firm and is registered under SEBI’s (Investment Advisers) Regulations, 2013 to UHNI individuals and families, both Resident as well as Non Resident (NRIs). It helps you invest wisely through customised solutions after reviewing your investment objectives and financial goals. It also offers a comprehensive, multi-family office service to families holding significant financial resources and help in smooth inter-generational transfer of wealth.
No of RMs – ~50
ASK WA has two subsidiaries –
ASK Private Wealth Management – ASK WA – PWM division works towards identifying the best-in-class investment products across Equities, Fixed Income, and Alternate Products best suited to your needs. Analysts and product managers carefully scan and evaluate multiple managers and funds. Alongside that, the members of the ASK WA Investment Committee do a second level evaluation to approve a handful of carefully selected managers and funds in the recommended basket for your portfolio.
The multi-level product approval process involves a detailed due diligence including, scrutiny of disclosures and regulatory documents, process and operational audits, fund manager meetings, and evaluation of associated costs and fees.
While selection of the right product is one function of the ASK WA – PWM Division, assessing suitability of the same based on the client’s needs is equally critical.
ASK Investment Advisory & Family Office – ASK WA – IA & FO provide well researched and articulated investment advice on your overall portfolio, based on a risk-return profile that helps you to grow your wealth to achieve financial goals and to create a legacy that lasts for generations to come.
A SEBI registered advisory division of ASK WA, to provide one-stop solutions for all your financial needs. It is a comprehensive platform which plays the role of your ‘Personal CFO’ by offering end-to-end solutions for all your financial needs and obligations. This spans across investment management, performance reporting, tax, succession planning and philanthropic needs, and is delivered through a wide network of both in-house and external experts and service providers.
The Family Office proposition covers a wide range of services that enables you and your family with holistic financial planning with a single point of contact for all wealth management requirements.
- Financial Portfolio Management Services – Domestic and Global assets
- Direct investment opportunities in private companies
- Estate planning services
- Report and record keeping / Tax advisory
- Multi-generational wealth management
- Risk management and insurance
- Consolidated performance reporting
- Real estate advisory
Rajesh Saluja, CEO and Managing Director – Saluja joined ASK Group in December 2006 as Managing Partner to set up the Wealth Advisory and Multi-Family Office business. He has over 25 years of experience in the Wealth and Capital Management business. Prior to joining ASK Wealth Advisors, Saluja worked with Standard Chartered Bank as the Business Head – Priority Banking and Deposits for the wealth management business in India. Saluja is an Honorary Chartered Wealth Manager (CWM) from American Academy of Financial Management, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Maths and Economics along with a Master’s in Marketing Management from the University of Mumbai.
Somnath Mukherjee, Managing Partner & CIO – Mukherjee runs the Investment Strategy, Product, Advisory & International Wealth Management business as well as Operations and Client Service for the firm. He has over 19 years of experience in Wealth Management, Private Banking & Global Markets with Standard Chartered Bank across India and Singapore. He holds a MBA degree from IIM-Calcutta & a Bachelor’s degree from University of Delhi. He also holds the CFA & FRM charters from CFA Institute and Global Association of Risk Professionals respectively
Nishant Agarwal, Managing Partner & Head- Family Office – ?
Being stakeholders in the business, the ASK WA team works with a long-term approach. Believe in the philosophy of ‘owner-manager’ and align objectives with organisational goals. This ensures continuity due to retention and longevity of relationship managers. Additionally, each client portfolio is supervised and monitored centrally with strong involvement of the senior management (CEO / COO / Advisory Head) in each relationship. Have a long-term and disciplined approach to investments. Stay away from short-term and risky investments such as leveraged products, Futures & Options, commodities etc.
Driven by asset allocation principles. Focus on customer-centric approach rather than a product-centric one. Keeping needs and ambitions as first priority, and sharing a relationship built on trust. Aim to serve a niche clientele by maintaining personal touch and harnessing deeper relationships through customised solutions across investments and trust and estate planning.
It operates in an independent structure, and possesses no conflict with other businesses of the Group like Portfolio Management Services (PMS), NBFC, Real Estate, Private Equity or Banking, which helps to provide the best-in-class products and services with unmatched flexibility. Open-architecture approach helps to present the right product suited to a client’s financial needs.
MMI interview with Nishant Agarwal-Managing Partner & Head- Family Office, 2021
Summary of media…
Prepared By – Praseena Padmakaran, June 2021