Engineers do it all the time i.e. leave their academic specialisation behind to move into unrelated careers. But it’s natural for eyebrows to get raised when you hear about someone who has excelled in her professional degree and then had second thoughts about whether that’s the career she wants for the rest of her life.
Financial planner, Manishree Gupta, narrates her career change story. Instead of helping people with their health, she now takes care of their financial health.
A big Thank You to Careerizma for finding me eligible for this opportunity to share my perspectives. Here you go!
One of the GD topics while preparing for my MBA interviews was “If variety is the spice of life, then why not marry twice?” While it did trigger a few laughs and I remember my stand on loyalty and variety being two ends of the spectrum, deep down it did actually ring in with me.
What I was doing was exactly the same. I had just got an all India single digit ranking as a Physiotherapist, was amongst the top 10% of my batch and here I was, trying to crack the MBA entrance exams. There’s something about leaving when you are at the peak – just like famous sportsmen announce retirement after their best timings/Olympic medals/World Cup wins!
Which brings me to another topic. I always wanted to play for my country one day, ‘earn’ my India jersey as Farhan Akhtar says in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. However, I chose academics over sports. It was a safer bet, at least in a country like India, where prominent non cricketing sportsmen and women live in extreme poverty. Though times are changing for good, which is fantastic!
So, I was born in this middle class Delhi household. Dad wanted me to be an IAS officer, a Government job which is just not me. Being a bright student (who used to play cricket / table tennis / football / tennis … you name it…for almost 2-3 hours daily) got me good marks in class X, and I was confused – Science, Commerce or Arts?
The unwritten rule is – People with good marks should take Science, the ones with decent marks opt for Commerce and those who can’t manage either are left for Arts. I realized how wrong this was after a few years.
I had my eyes on cracking the IIT JEE (because I learnt it is the most difficult exam to crack!), but fate had other plans. I finally settled to be a Doctor after a mutual decision with my folks.
I will be honest, had no clue what to do – and being a Doctor was prestigious enough!
Since I was a good student, I was up to the mammoth task of studying so much. I was a bookworm anyway, when I was not on the sports field. My aunt is a Doctor, so I had an idea of how life would look like as a medico. If only!
I got into a 4.5 year physiotherapy course after leaving B.Sc. at a top ranked North campus college. And that was the turning point in my life.
By year 3 I was very sure this is not what I wanted to do all my life. The diagnosis part intrigued the curious soul in me, but the treatment part did not resonate with my mind. Coupled with a super low salary for Physiotherapists, the entire satisfaction of treating people, making them mobile again and getting so many good wishes went for a toss! If only good wishes came in cash!
Call me materialistic if you want, but some things need cash to get done, and in this world that we live in, almost 99% things have a price tag, even love!
Now that the first 3 years of my Physiotherapy course were over and I was still doing well academically, though the intent wasn’t to continue it, three of us (from my Physio batch) started thinking about what to do next.
After calibrating for almost a year, we decided the best way to change streams was to do an MBA – as the basic eligibility requirement is to be a graduate in any discipline – ‘Any’ being the prized word which we loved!
Not that I did not face resistance from my own parents, friends and teachers. Why waste 4.5 years on Physiotherapy and then drop it all to do MBA?
My stand was very clear and practical.
If I wasted 4.5 years, should I waste my next 40 years to save 4.5 years, or should I invest 2 more years and be happy for next 38 years?
I had a hard time convincing my parents, but managed to do it finally. We went on to do our MBAs – and I chose Finance as my specialization because I was fascinated by numbers, investments and economics. Also, I have a knack of opting for the toughest challenge – The high that you get after conquering it is unparalleled!
Dad venturing into the stock markets at the same time and training me, mom and my siblings on it actually helped. Watching CNBC from 6:30 AM to 10:00 PM (we did miss our MTV times!) 7 days a week also helped immensely – an interest was developed in the world of finance, unknowingly! I loved it and knew what I wanted to do now – enter finance after a degree in medicine with no exposure to numbers for 5 years!
I worked at HDFC Bank phone banking unit after my graduation just to feel what it would be like to be in the financial industry – also that was the only non-medical job I got, everyone else felt I was too overqualified to work in a call centre.
Here’s a little confession – I absolutely loved my call centre job! Not that it paid me 100 times more than a physio job (though it still paid somewhat better) but I was too interested in learning about the banking industry, how it works – So much so, it was a hard decision to leave it and pursue an MBA.
So, here I am, typing this as a Financial Planning Specialist at Ameriprise Financial for the last 5.5 years and loving every moment of it! My role has a comprehensive focus on all aspects of personal financial situation for our clients in the USA – be it their net worth, cash management including mortgage and other debt (my favourite!), insurance, investments, taxes or estate.
I work from 2 PM to 10:30 PM so as to have approximately a 4-hour overlap with my business partners in the US. We get the financial data for our clients which we analyse utilizing our software. Please note that we have the highest levels of security in our department with restricted access, no paper in/ out policy etc. Emphasizing this as confidentiality and keeping personal data secure for our clients at all times is very important for Ameriprise and the financial industry in general.
Would you like if your financial advisor tells your friends or the world about how much you earn, how many loans do you need to service, where you have invested or how much you binge shopped at Zara last week? No, right?
The best part of the job starts at 6:30 PM IST – when America wakes up, literally! I support the financial advisors in the Central and Eastern regions, which are 10 hours 30 minutes and 9 hours 30 minutes behind IST respectively. We get on WebEx/ camera based calls with our advisors to discuss the client’s situation, analyse it and based on client’s priorities – discuss solutions. It is an interactive call where various alternates and strategies are run real time to align on recommendations for the client.
I still remember my first call with a financial advisor having an experience of about 20 years in the financial industry and here I was novice in this field, all scared and excited at the same time to make best use of this opportunity. The advisor and I go a long way now – sharing the same passion of serving the clients.
We discuss and implement strategies in the tool like debt consolidation/ refinancing, pension maximization, investing in tax favourable avenues, exercising stock options, optimizing estate for high net worth clients and minimizing taxes at death.
Analysing scenarios in case of the primary bread-winner’s death or disability or a loss of employment, wanting to comfortably retire at a preferred age or saving for kids’ education, the next European vacation (Yes, even Americans are crazy about Europe – the falling Euro after Brexit and a general weak economic outlook did have a silver lining for the tourism industry), buying another car, managing the tax situation & insurance needs forms a major part of my role and keeps my brain cells alive and ticking.
I also lead a team of financial planning specialists in my current role, so solving their queries, skill mapping and being responsible for their growth path within the organization takes up a portion of my profile as well – All in all this is what makes up my day!
I have worked with some of the biggest advisors of the country for more than 1,500 unique clients over the last 5 years and it has been an exceptional experience! From a bricklayer who had a very good financial situation to a CXO couple who was badly in debt, had a deficit cash flow and none of the goals covered to a doctor couple who could not treat their finances as well as an average Joe could – I have seen them all and it amazes me to see sometimes little correlation between education and financial habits. Every client has a different story with different priorities and hence, there’s no question of being bored at work!
Getting into financial planning would require a basic knowledge and keenness in financial concepts and analysis, markets, saving avenues like mutual funds, insurance etc. Commerce graduates, people from Economics background, BBAs, MBA Finance are all welcome.
A CFP® degree from Financial Planning Standards Board India would definitely give you an edge. Ameriprise did get us certified from International College of Financial Planning, Colorado, USA for Chartered Retirement Planning Counsellor, CRPC® which is a prestigious designation to have in this domain if you are servicing Americans.
You can work in international firms as well as Indian firms – like SMC, ICICI Direct, HDFC. You might choose to be the face of your organization and meet with the clients or handle the backend analysing part, or both – It all depends upon your personality or preferences.
Basis the career path you choose the starting salary as well as growth path could vary. For the Indian market, you can do courses from AMFI and be licensed to sell mutual funds. Various banks, broking firms are also on a lookout for such individuals.
You can also venture on your own and have a consultancy advising people on various saving avenues and other comprehensive financial planning areas as mentioned above for a fee.
REMEMBER every financial plan is different because every client is unique so if you have the penchant toward bringing individual dreams to reality by providing them with right financial solutions then this is the job for you.
In the end as Ameriprise tagline says “Be Brilliant”, let’s continue to drive this motto every day in our careers.
Please let me know if you have any clarifications. Post them in the comments below and I would be happy to help.
All the Best!