Fee-only Registered Investment Adviser Basavaraj Tonagatti runs one of the most popular personal finance blogs called www.basunivesh.com.
What were you doing before becoming an adviser? What inspired you to become a financial adviser?
I hold a Diploma in Automobile Engineering. Before my foray into financial advisory, I worked as a mechanic in Mumbai. Subsequently, I took up a job at a business processing outsourcing (BPO) firm in Bengaluru. During this period, I was attracted towards the mutual fund industry. I also completed certified financial planner course in 2011.
How did you go about acquiring clients in your initial days of practice?
For me it was easy as I already created my blog where I have a readership base and I showcase my financial knowledge. I get a majority of clients through my blog.
What was your business model before RIA regulations? Did you charge fee back then?
Even though I had work experience to register myself as RIA, due to my qualification (undergraduate), I stayed away from fee-only model. Hence, immediately after completing my CFP, I was busy blogging (www.basunivesh.com) and selling mutual funds. As I was not SEBI RIA, there was no question of charging a fee. Therefore, my only earning source was through blogging and mutual fund commissions.
Why did you choose to become an RIA?
I know that the future is fee-only advisory. Also, I know that the RIA model is conflict-free. Hence, without thinking twice, I adopted this model. When you become an RIA, you completely concentrate on clients and this makes me proud that I am doing my best for my clients.
Have you found any aversion among clients to pay fee? How do you convince them if they do not agree to pay? What kind of fee model do you have?
I have never experienced a situation where clients are bargaining. My case may be different as I get all my clients after they visit my blog where I have already disclosed my fee structure. I am currently practising the fixed pay model.
How many clients do you manage and what kind of services do you offer?
As of today, I have acquired around 125+ clients. I have started fee-only model in June 2018. All these clients are signed in for fee-only complete financial planning solution where I offer them life, health, accidental insurance analysis and also make them aware of goal-based financial planning.
How did you get the idea of starting your blog?
It all started in 2011 when I completed my CFP. During those days, many CFPs had their own website or blog. Hence, I too thought of having a blog. However, I later realized that blogging does not mean writing a few articles a year. Thus, I took up blogging full time. I started writing 7-8 articles per month. Blogging is a great platform to share your knowledge and connect with your prospective clients.
How many clients do you typically acquire through your blog? You should be getting many enquires to invest. How do you screen investors that are your best fit?
A majority of my client acquisition is through blog only. Some clients come through referrals from Facebook groups and existing clients. I usually don’t take clients who are looking for stock tips, have unrealistic expectations, and those who feel that I can create wealth for them in a short time. This is why I insist my clients to learn things and implement the plan on their own rather than blindly believe someone.
How frequently do you update your blog and how do you come up with ideas for new articles?
I usually write around 7-8 articles a month. I’m following this schedule since 2011. There is no such process of identifying ideas. I write a post about whatever new things I learn, and feel may that be helpful for readers.
What would be your advice to advisers who wish to start blogging?
Blogging is a wonderful platform to showcase your knowledge and be in touch with clients. Honestly, what I learned from CFP is basic. However, when blog readers read your posts and comment when they not find answers, such comments help me expand my own knowledge. Each reader is unique and they expect something from our blog as a solution. If you offer them this solution, it is easier to convert them as clients. Also, blogging is not a part-time job. It requires a lot of your time and you must consider this as a full-time profession. Then only you will start to earn and attract clients. I know that many advisers have their blog section on their websites. However, they hardly update the same through frequent posts. Share your knowledge as often as possible. Clients always looking for simplified solutions rather than a complicated world.
How much time does it take for an adviser to start getting clients through blogs if they start one?
It is not an easy process. To showcase yourself as a thought leader and start getting decent traffic it takes at least 2-3 years. However, each day you spend on building your finance blog will reward you in the long run. Hence, never look for short cuts.
How do you see the RIA landscape developing in India?
As far as my experience of last seven months, I feel that people are ready to pay fee for right advice. Hence, using that opportunity with great knowledge and service is the responsibility of advisers. The future is fee-only. It is best to be ready now towards that rewarding wonderful profession.
Your future plans…
Currently I am handling around 20-30 clients a month. However, I am expanding my backend in such a way that I can handle around 100 clients a month with ease. Hence, my goal is to reach that 100 clients a month within a year. Along with that, I want to continue blogging as long as possible without any pause.