Young and restless in some ways, mature and calm in other, India’s youthful fund managers 40 or under represent a new breed in the financial markets. They seem to have cut their teeth in difficult times, in which their mutual funds had to weather unpredictable economic weather in the form of a global financial crisis, high local inflation, and the eternal dilemma of picking the right stock or bond at the right price. Their styles vary and their hobbies straddle a range, but their focus is almost always on getting investors the right returns at the right risk. Almost all of them insist on researching to discover quality-- though the definitions on how they get to pick the right stock or bond vary. We profile some of India’s hottest young names in the mutual fund industry.
Gopal Agrawal, 40
Chief Investment Officer, Mirae Asset Global Investments (India)
Education: Chemical Engineer
A gold medallist in chemical engineering should be in a factory, but Gopal Agrawal dabbles in money. And how! He has been responsible for spearheading equity investment management initiatives for the India operations of global fund Mirae as chief investment officer. He was earlier fund manager at SBI Mutual Fund after starting out with Kotak Securities. His philosophy is to zero in on hot sectors based on growth prospects and then cherry-pick in a “bottom-up” way companies that come at cheaper valuations.
Agrawal, who cites Swami Vivekananda as an inspiration, is a sports-lover with a keen interest in international news and business insights, in addition to a broader interest in culture and commodities. “A fund manager’s success or failures depends upon the homework that he does do before he makes a stock selection,” he says.
Vinay Paharia, 34
Fund Manager, Religare Invesco Asset Management
Education: MMS, ICFAI
The management graduate from the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India (ICFAI) School is a value-shopper for shares who loves to relax with books or Bollywood movies when he is not busy spotting stock that offer sustainable growth at reasonable valuations.
Before joining Religare as a fund manager, Paharia was an equity research analyst with DBS Cholamandalam Asset Management Company. Paharia earlier worked for brokerages KR Choksey Shares and Securities Ltd and First Global.
“The stock market is a temple of capitalism where people have made and lost fortunes,” he says. “However, there is method in this madness and it is challenging and exciting to figure this out. The job of a fund manager involves a daily intellectual challenge which is what excites and drives me.”
This philosophy has apparently helped him pick stocks in a volatile market in a manner that helps him weather ups and downs with a sharp focus that keeps his priorities in mind.
Says an industry peer: “I have known Vinay for approximately over eight years now. One thing that is extremely commendable and something all of us could learn, are his work ethics. His dedication and sincerety towards his job proves that success has to be built gradually and there is no shortcut.”
Paharia’s fund-management instinct is driven not just by bookish knowledge but by wider considerations.
Lakshmi Iyer, 38
Chief Investment Officer (Debt) and Head Products, Kotak Mutual Fund
Education: Diploma in Business Management
Lakshmi Iyer has been with Kotak Mutual Fund since 1999, and has been heading the fixed income and products team since 2008. As chief investment officer, the assets under management on her account are in excess of `33,400 crore.
She says: “While managing a fund, an important thing to focus on apart from performance is the risk involved in generating that performance. Most of the Kotak debt schemes have been top quartile performers over the past few years, but without compromising on the risk parameters.”
Commenting about Iyer, Kenneth Andrade, Chief Investment Officer at industry peer IDFC Mutual Fund says: “Over the years that I have known Lakshmi, she has more than demonstrated the capability to drive business through multiple cycles and remaining in the top quadrant. Macros seemingly come easy to her. Her most positive facet has been adaptability to change her view on the environment whenever she has been wrong footed.”
Vinit Sambre, 38
Fund Manager, DSP BlackRock
Education: Chartered Accountant
The chartered accountant joined DSP BlackRock’s portfolio management services division, which manages and advises institutional client accounts, in July 2007 as a portfolio analyst after earlier stints in DSP Merrill Lynch, IL&FS Investsmart (later acquired by HSBC) and UTI Investment Advisory Services. Sambre looks for sturdy companies that have demonstrated cash flow generation and return on capital over a longer period to make his stock picks and loves to buy small-cap stocks (sub-`2,000-crore value) before they become big and bigger — although there is a risk in that. He fondly recalls a kitchenware stock that rose 300% in 18 months after he picked it up.
Sambre, who likes to play with his two children and spend time with family, regrets he has less time to pursue his passion for swimming, but makes up with daily morning yoga sessions that help him cope with market pressures.
“When seniors notice and reward your ability you fell very happy. I felt I have to live up to their expectations and keep improving. The bar keeps being raised daily,” he says.
Bekxy Kuriakose, 34
Head – Fixed Income, Principal Asset Management Co
Education: Post Graduate Diploma in Management
Bekxy Kuriakose joined Principal in 2012 as head, fixed income, after starting out as a dealer-cum-analyst with SBI Fund Management Co, and doing stints in Reliance Life Insurance, DBS Cholamandalam Asset Management and L&T Finance. The IIM, Bangalore graduate, who likes to relax with books, says volatility in stocks has underscored the need for her forte, fixed-income, to be managed prudently.
“High credit quality, liquidity of debt instruments and a balanced approach towards investing are all the more important now than ever before,” she says.
A former colleague says she is very good at timing the market as she seems to know exactly when to buy and sell her picks. “I don’t like taking huge risks and so now won’t like to move to equities anymore,” says Kuriakose. “I have also been able to put to good use my economics honours education in the debt markets field.”