One of the youngest deputy CEO in the wealth management industry, Feroze Azeez’s journey has been a series of calculated risks which has resulted in continuous success over a span of 17 years. His meteoric rise has seen him build a reputation of being the most successful architect of Structured Products since 2007. At Anand Rathi Wealth alone, in the last one year, he has ideated over 1,000 Structured Products, of which, half of them have matured and generated an alpha of over 8% p.a. with half the risk of Nifty.
Feroze’s association with risk started when he was 17-years-old and stood in front of the Editor of the Star of Mysore – an Indian English language evening daily newspaper published in Mysore. With nervous energy, passion in his eyes and fearless determination, Feroze proposed what many would call an unusual proposal – a free half-page advertisement for a tuition centre that he was about to open in the town. A proposal coming from an inexperienced 17-year old young engineering student was rejected instantly. But, Feroze was unperturbed by the rejection, because he kept knocking the doors of the Editor repeatedly. Finally, the Editor caved but with a condition of his own – Feroze must teach students for free in its starting stage.
With the help of that half-page advertisement, Feroze enrolled 28 students and started the MESCO tuition centre in the city of Mysore. The Academy flourished, and Feroze’s risk paid off. He was teaching over 300 students and earned about Rs. 80, 000 a month. An engineering degree and an enterprise in his hometown would have made for a prosperous future for most of us! But, Feroze was way ahead of his time! He understood the concept of calculated risk and applied it to his own life!
First, the teacher turned into a student – Feroze spent a large sum of his savings to do an MBA from one of the reputed management institutions in Mysore. And, then he chose to take his second big risk in life – to leave well-paid teaching profession in lieu of a private banking job that was going to pay him only Rs. 9,200 per month initially. While his friends and family felt this decision was incongruous, Feroze was certain of the risk he was taking. He knew that his threshold limit as a teacher would be Rs. 2.5 lakh a month and that too, at the peak of his career. But, as a private banker, the potential was unlimited. The best teacher in those days had a salary of Rs 2.5 lakhs, but he calculated that the best private banker made 100 times of that! The way ahead was clear for him!
Feroze’s entry into the banking and finance industry was a huge risk, but he was determined to succeed. He started advising clients on Mutual Funds from the lobby of ABN Amro and soon transitioned into doing R&D for innovating new products. In 2007, he started designing Structured Products which came as a huge comfort for investors who lost their savings during the 2008 market crash. From then on, there was no turning back and the rest, as they say, is now history.
“People become stuck up with what they want to do in their life. They will not change with the change in time and will compromise their long-term goals for their short-term achievements,” says Feroze reminiscing those days of hard work. The testament of taking this risk is that at Anand Rathi Wealth, Feroze has been instrumental in scaling the asset under management to Rs. 20,000 crore from Rs. 4,500 crore in the last seven years.
“We have done a few things that nobody in our industry has been doing. For instance, transparency was something that lacked in the wealth management industry. At Anand Rathi Wealth, our portfolios get audited, we measure risks numerically, and we develop and execute on what customers value.” As an innovator who believes that mathematical logic will always prevail over opinions, Feroze has redefined the concept of wealth management by standardising the company’s wealth advisory to over 5,000 clients, in India and globally.
Feroze’s analytical agility and ability to bring in a new perspective through data has enabled him to mathematically construct Anand Rathi Wealth’s Model Portfolio, which has been developed after using various research tools and running it through the simulation of mathematical methodologies. “More people are trying to get sales and marketing to a money management job. But we brought more finance people and mathematics to our tables. It has helped us immensely in improving our revenue,” shares Feroze.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a dark cloud over the investor sentiments, but Feroze opines that there is a silver lining. “Our clients have completely come to terms with virtual meetings. Before this, if I wanted to do a meeting with a client in Kolkata, I will always think about taking a flight to Kolkata. It will not be the case anymore,” he adds. While this unprecedented global crisis has stressed the financial markets, Feroze says, “There are no challenges, and there are only situations. If you do not act properly in those situations, then it becomes a challenge. Today, we are in a bad situation. We can convert it into a challenge or turn it into an opportunity. It all depends on your action,” opines Feroze.
Volatility in the financial markets and uncertainty in the economy arising from the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted every sector, including investment banking activities. But, tactical decision making has opened windows of opportunities. “April 2020 is going to be the best month ever in the history of AnandRathi. Compared to April 2019, my revenue would go up to 50 per cent this month,” claims Feroze.
While his team is adapting quickly to the pandemic’s new normal, Feroze believes that being positive and motivating your team is crucial to get the best productivity. “If you are a relationship manager of 900 people, and have 300 private bankers under you, then to motivate this group of 300, you must be a private banker yourself. I am one of the top private bankers of the Anand Rathi Wealth, not just a Deputy CEO. There is no second way to motivate people to do something than doing that job by yourself,” explains Feroze. However, like any individual, Feroze is not immune to mistakes.
“Extensive innovation is one mistake I did. We did several products about 8-10 years back, and we realized that only 3-4 were relevant. Innovate in smaller canvas, that too when it is necessary. Do not innovate to simulate your mind,” says Feroze. With over a decade of experience in the capital market, Feroze has learnt many lessons. He adds, “Assuming that a person will behave similarly at different points of time is wrong. During a good time, they will listen to you completely. They may stop listening to you in bad times.”
Despite his successes and challenges, Feroze’s passion has continued to show him the way forward. He says, “I think about work when I am not working.” He is the sole advisor for many of his clients, who have traversed the journey of over 17 years with him. “You need to have a good heart to manage someone else’s money. If you cannot feel for that money, then you cannot manage it. Every rupee that you manage has a story behind it,” believes Feroze.
In his entire career of wealth management, the one aspiration that Feroze continues to achieve is educating investors and creating financial awareness. He may be the deputy CEO of one of the fastest-growing wealth management firms in India, but, he still carries his roots with him. ‘Investors must be able to clearly understand and make prudent investment decisions about their hard-earned money and it can only happen if we take the time out to explain it to them,” says Feroze. He has actively partaken in over 1,000 investor educative shows in the last few years to demystify the concepts of the financial markets, which has benefitted investors across a large spectrum.