Fee Only India – a group of ethical advisors I could finally identify with!

Published: July 12, 2023 at 6:00 am

Fee-only India (FOI) is a group of SEBI Registered Investment Advisors (RIA) and Financial Planners who only charge a flat fee (independent of the client’s assets, aka fixed fee). The group meets once or twice yearly to help build the advisory service. The last meeting was on June 24th and 25th, 2023. SEBI RIA Swapnil Kendhe reminisces on his journey with FOI.

About the author: Swapnil is a SEBI Registered Investment Advisor and is one of the sought-after advisors on the freefincal fee-only financial planners’ list. You can learn more about him and his service via his website, Vivektaru. His story: Becoming a competent & capable financial advisor: My journey so far.

As a regular contributor here, he is a familiar name to regular readers. His approach to risk and returns are similar to mine, and I love the fact that he continually pushes himself  to become better, as you see from his articles:

There wasn’t any Fee-Only-India (FOI), and I wasn’t a SEBI Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) when I attended the first FOI meeting in Mumbai in September 2017. My Investment Adviser application was under process at that time.

Pattabiraman Murari made all the arrangements for this meeting. He called it a “Fee-only SEBI RIA meet”. The meeting was in a small room in a small hotel in Dadar that could barely accommodate ten people. It was enough for 9 of us; Melvin Joseph, Sukhvinder Sidhu, Shilpa Wagh, Chandan Singh Padiyar, Piyush Khatri, Vikram Krishnamoorthy, Swapnil Kendhe, Pattabiraman Murari and Ashal Jauhari. We founded Fee-Only-India that day.

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Founding members of Fee-only India
Founding members of Fee-only India. Chandan Singh Padiyar, Piyush Khatri, Sukhvinder Sidhu, Swapnil Kendhe, Vikram Krishnamoorthy. Sitting from L to R: Shilpa Wagh, Pattu, Ashal Jauhari, Melvin Joseph

Of the first seven advisers who attended the first meeting, four remain members of FOI to this day. Sukhvinder Sidhu and Shilpa Wagh surrendered their RIA registrations. Piyush Khatri left FOI. FOI was Piyush’s idea. He took the initiative for this meeting. Piyush also arranged the second FOI meeting at his rented apartment in Hyderabad.

This was the first time in my life as an adviser I attended an adviser meeting where nobody considered me impractical. I had always found it difficult to speak my mind with other advisers till then. I did not have to dilute my views in this group to fit in.

We have come a long way since that small beginning in Dadar in 2017. A few of us have struggled, persevered, and grown together. Melvin Joseph and Vikram Krishnamoorthy had already done their share of struggle and were established by the time we formed FOI. This helped because we had examples of RIAs for whom the fixed-fee financial planning model worked. This kept some of us motivated through our respective lean periods when we did not have much work.

Many great advisers joined FOI, who made it better and stronger. A few left, but our tribe kept growing, though slowly. Today, we are a diverse group of 23 fixed-fee financial planners with different professional and personal backgrounds. The belief in the fixed-fee financial planning model is what brought us together.

The fixed fee is not an easy model to work on. All of us are sacrificing some income to work on this advisory model. Other advisory models offer much more money to equally competent and hardworking advisors. But virtue is its own reward.

Unlike other adviser communities, which are much more professional, FOI operates more like a family. We try to do a two-day physical meeting every year. We just did one in Bangalore in June 2023. Every such meeting brings us closer. Though technically competitors, we genuinely care for each other’s success.

SEBI RIA Members of Fee Only India June 2023
SEBI RIA Members of Fee-Only India June 2023

Sitting From left to right: Upsana Mondal, Priyadarshini Mulye, Ashal Jauhari, Akshay Nayak, Melvin Joseph. Standing from left to right: Vikram Krishnamoorthy, Avinash Luthria, Basavaraj, Tonagatti, Swapnil Lendhe, Vivek Sulegai, Sudheer Variar, Ajay Pruthi, Gursimran Singh, Preeti Zende, Satheesh Kannan, Salma Sony, Shashi Singh, Venkateshwaran Subramanian, S R Srinivasan.

We have differences of opinion on a few matters, but it’s a lot easier to deal with differences when you trust and respect each other.

We are also fortunate to have Pattabiraman Murari and Ashal Jauhari with us. Both have no monetary benefit from any FOI activities, but they put their heart out to help us. They still take as much interest in the well-being of fixed-fee financial planners as they did when we started in 2017. I wouldn’t have believed ten years back if someone had told me that people like these two exist worldwide.

It is a privilege to be part of a group like FOI. May FOI keep attracting advisers whose hearts are in the right place. May the tribe of fixed-fee financial planners keep growing in India.

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About The Author

Pattabiraman editor freefincalDr M. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He has over ten years of experience publishing news analysis, research and financial product development. Connect with him via Twitter(X), Linkedin, or YouTube. Pattabiraman has co-authored three print books: (1) You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) for DIY investors. (2) Gamechanger for young earners. (3) Chinchu Gets a Superpower! for kids. He has also written seven other free e-books on various money management topics. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India,” an organisation promoting unbiased, commission-free investment advice.
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