VNDIRECT’s New MD for Wealth & Asset Management on Building a Full-Service and High-Quality Platform for the Future
In mid-2021 VNDIRECT, the second-largest securities company in Vietnam, made its own major splash in the region’s financial markets when Maybank Kim Eng Securities in Singapore arranged a syndicated loan that the lead upsized from USD50 million to the final USD100 million, provided by some 11 banks. It was the first entrance into the offshore capital market from VNDIRECT, which had in 2020 won some one-third of newly opened stockbroking accounts in the country that year. The Hanoi-based company is also well known for its digitalisation initiatives, for example being the country’s first brokerage firm to have applied electronic Know Your Customer (KYC) standards. Today, VNDIRECT boasts the equivalent of roughly USD8 billion in AUM, over 750,000 investor accounts and a staff of around 1500. The firm is clearly highly ambitious, and from the January hiring of Gauraw Srivastava as the newly appointed Managing Director of the firm’s new Wealth & Asset Management operations it is evident that there are exciting plans afoot in the wealth & asset management spaces. Hubbis ‘met’ with Gauraw recently to learn more of his mission to build a high quality and full-service business.
In its literature, VNDIRECT reports that the firm’s vision is to become an investment ecosystem with easy and proper investment choices, empowering investors on the pathway to financial wellness. Their mission is to offer inclusive financial services, not only for the wealthier customers, but for everyone, helping towards the sustainable development of the economy. To achieve this, the firm has embraced digital technologies with the aim of making investing simple and helping everyone gain equal access to investment opportunities.
The firm promotes its DNA driven by ‘IPAM’, which are Insights, Passion, Action and Mindfulness. Every member of their teams should demonstrate and promote these attributes, according to the website.
When Founder and Chairwoman of VNDIRECT, Madame Pham Minh Huong, commented on the USD100 million breakthrough funding in the offshore loan market last year, she was eager to stress the character of the firm today. “VNDIRECT operates under the principle of customer-centricity and has deployed an extensive range of financial products to meet the needs of all customer segments,” she stated. “This deal will help VNDIRECT deepen its collaboration with other regional and global financial institutions, which will be working along with us in our mission to provide relevant and impactful financial products to the Vietnamese consumer.”
She said the mission now is to build VNDIRECT into a trusted financial institution providing transparent and reliable investment products which is supported by a team of integrity and professionalism as well as a multi-utility technology platform for all types of customers.
Building from the ground up
Gauraw runs the wealth management business, which includes the asset management arm known as IPA Asset Management (IPAAM).
“We are a full-scale investment management firm here in Vietnam,” he reports. “The mandate that I have is two-fold, with the big picture mission to build a viable wealth and asset management business.”
Two core missions
The first mission is on the Securities and Wealth Management offerings of VNDIRECT. “We are aiming to re-shape our capability as a complete investment management operation, rather than just being a trading service provider,” he reports. “That means we broaden the product suite across trading, margin, fixed income, and wealth management, we build our advisory capabilities with financial planning, goal-based investing tools, and we expand our team of wealth advisors catering to high net worth individual and corporate clients. Besides, large number of retail clients are active through our digital platform, and we want to serve them remotely and virtually.”
Secondly, the firm wants to scale up IPA Asset Management company (IPAAM), established in 2008 which is now a 100% owned subsidiary of VNDIRECT. “We plan to develop IPAAM into a full-scale asset management company from what is a relatively small base today,” he reports. “We have an ETF, we have an actively managed equity fund, a bond fund, a portfolio management service, and limited distribution reach, but from that start we want to expand and strengthen to become a leading asset management company in the market.”
Bringing an experience hand to the tiller
Gauraw himself is a seasoned business leader in the field of Wealth Management and Retail Banking with approaching two decades of experience in Asian markets, and several years in Vietnam.
He moved to VNDIRECT in January this year  from VP Bank, where he had set up and headed the Affluent Banking and Wealth Management business for the leading joint stock bank. He brought with him to Vietnam many years of experience as Head of Investments at ICICI Securities in India, the brokerage and wealth management arm of the second largest bank in India, ICICI Bank, and he had before that worked for a decade with Standard Chartered’s private banking operations in India.
Building, not replacing
The background for the new thrust is pure expansion, rather than the replacement of strategy “Actually, there are decent profit on stockbroking,” he reports. “Moreover, the margin lending business is healthy and produces great returns. And the capital market here is enjoying positive tailwinds for the past 18 to 24 months, so things are pretty good. But the firm wants to boost its wealth and asset management business as a natural expansion of its proposition and its reach.”
He explains that this will allow the VNDIRECT to take the next step, to offer clients financial planning, engage in long-term investment conversations, and lead the clients to the ‘solutions’. “We have in-house products and platform and we will increasingly be open to building eco-system for products and distribution to strengthen our business and improve the offering for clients.”
A country on the rise
Gauraw comments that the strengths of Vietnam’s economy, demographics and the clarity of the government’s mission to expand and diversify all sectors of the economy and financial markets are well documented. “I will summarise all that by saying the macro situation is very promising here. Vietnam stock market is having sustainable growth, companies are having greater access to capital and reporting remarkable earning growth,” he says. “In addition, since the pandemic hit the deposit rates offered by the banks are increasingly low, enabling greater demand for investment products to generate additional return. Together, it’s a favourable environment for the expansion of the wealth and asset management business, catering to rapidly growing clients with higher disposable income and investment needs.”
He also reports that the corporate bond market investment activity is getting increasingly limited to accredited investors, whereas retail investors had participated before. “So, as the fixed income sector becomes more regulated, more professional, there is a great opportunity for firms such as ours to filter and intermediate for investors in the future, thereby giving us further tailwinds for our expansion.”
Envisioning your goals
Another key trend he identifies is the growing need for more professional financial planning.
“There are plenty of uncertainties everywhere, and clients need a hand in helping them navigate markets and plan properly for their futures,” he says. “The stock market here is currently not that broad or deep. So how do clients plan their financial futures effectively? This is a major whitespace opportunity, and we are building capability to deliver advice and solutions.”
For the moment, the offering is fairly simple yet powerful, Gauraw reports, and includes online and offline trading, margin products, a financial planning tool that allows the firm to profile the clients and then offer tailored portfolios. On the asset management side, they have an active equity fund, the bond fund, and an ETF. “And we have individually managed accounts wherein we can offer discretionary and non-discretionary mandates,” he explains. “Although this is quite a good base starting point, we will build and expand significantly in all areas – investment management, digital systems, and distribution channels. We aim to strengthen our funds distribution network, domestically and internationally. Vietnam is emerging as good geographical diversification for foreign investors, and we want to be right up there with our ETF and active funds. As a firm, we have strong institutional business, and we will cross leverage to strengthen both sides of the businesses."
These are early days for Gauraw in his new firm and new role, but he already has good clarity on the direction he wants to pursue.
“For this year, we are first strengthening our product suite to meet the demand for the future,” he reports. “Our products are quite good, and we have been building clients, but there are nuances we want to address, so we are taking a deep re-look at our product offerings and making sure that we are both innovative and competitive.”
The second big priority is boosting the quality and range of the wealth management services. “We have a personalised advisory for high net worth individual and corporate customers in our Private Wealth business that we are building by hiring more talent and training up from within, so that we deliver what we believe our brand should offer,” he says. “On part of retail clients coverage, we are boosting the digital infrastructure to be able to deliver more of a remote advisory proposition to a lot more young and new generation investors who want to be digitally serviced.”
The third mission is to elevate the digital capabilities of the platform, thereby offering an entirely seamless customer journey. “We are therefore looking carefully at the whole user experience to both meet the demand and make sure we exceed the clients’ expectations.
“Finally, we are one of the pioneers in offering educational and informative contents on internal and social platforms for our clients and community. As we call it, DGO, sharing knowledge and helping clients in the right asset allocation and product selection to meet their important life goals, remains core to our values and high on priority.”
He closes by commenting that he is already enjoying the new challenges and leveraging his experience in India and also since early 2018 in Vietnam. “This market has enormous potential, and we plan to be one of the real leaders in our fields,” he says. “The firm offers a wonderful platform, and we have a clear vision of what we want to achieve.”
Getting Personal with Gauraw Srivastava
Gauraw is now running the wealth and asset management business at VNDIRECT, having previously been Head of Affluent Banking & Wealth Management at Vietnam Prosperity Bank, better known as VPBank from February 2018 to the end of 2021.
He has worked in private and retail banking for almost 20 years. His previous role was in India as Head of Investments and Client Relationships at ICICI Securities. Before that he was with Standard Chartered for 10 years, where he had various roles in Wealth Management and Priority Banking, and was Director of Priority Banking, India in last role there.
He has a degree in Business Administration and Economics, and is an MBA in International Business. He did an Executive Management Programme at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
Married with a daughter aged eight and a half, Gauraw says his priority outside work is time with the family, enjoying home life and the simple joys of helping their child develop her skills and hobbies. “Travel has been limited to within Vietnam since the pandemic, but we have enjoyed some of our favourite places such as Nha Trang with its beautiful beaches, as well as Phú Quốc, Da Nang, Sapa, and more recently Mui ne. The whole of Vietnam is exceptionally beautiful.”
“I have also tried to keep fit with daily exercise, yoga and meditation,” he said. I also love quiet times at home reading, especially on behavioural economics, evolving client and business trends. I have been enjoying the challenges of working in all my past assignments and current role here in Vietnam and believe we will be able to build a significant franchise at VNDIRECT and IPAAM.”
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