This time we write about Moneylife Foundation, our very own initiative to spread financial literacy and help investors
Nearly four years ago, when we launched Moneylife, a personal finance magazine, we wanted it to be different. At a time when media space is for sale, we were determined to put the reader first and provide unbiased information without easy compromises. It was tough; because when big and profitable media houses compromise, it is that much tougher for a tiny publication to hang on to principles. Incidentally, the pressure to compromise comes less from competitors than from the regulators, who are even more intolerant of criticism than industry.
Happily, Moneylife has rapidly gained acceptance among readers over the years. But it is not enough. We believe that far too many people are clueless about how to be smart with their finances, keep their savings safe, make prudent investments and protect themselves and their families through appropriate insurance. Many youngsters end up in a debt trap because they are unaware of the steep interest charged on cash withdrawal or roll-over of credit-card payments. Many don’t know that penal interest rate is triggered for all fresh transactions, when they have an outstanding payment.
Many senior citizens continue to be endlessly harassed over Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) and end up losing a part of their interest because of the callousness of banks over the filling up of a simple form.
Investors in the capital market usually operate on the basis of bad advice from a host of financial intermediaries. Broker and bank accounts are misused because investors are unaware of having signed a Power of Attorney in favour of brokers and often don’t read transaction statements.
Another vast grey area is the pathetic level of grievance redressal in India. An investor or consumer of financial services has to deal with lack of advice on how to complain or is unable to reach service providers.
Ironically, often investors and consumers are not to be blamed. Often it is the regulator who creates problems by framing stupid rules and procedures. India does not even have a clear assessment about the actual reach of technology and the extent of its acceptance among ordinary people for financial transactions.
With these issues in mind, we have launched Moneylife Foundation, a knowledge and advocacy initiative for investors and consumers. It is registered as a not-for-profit trust and is working at spreading financial literacy through workshops, round-table meetings and awareness campaigns. It will engage in advocacy to improve policies and bring about regulatory changes to protect investor rights and grievance redressal, counselling and research.
As a first step, we have set up Moneylife Knowledge Centre, which is a workshop-cum-reading room with a separate counselling centre at Shivaji Park in Mumbai. The reading room is stocked with some of the best books on business, finance, investment and economics; we also have biographies of companies and leading industrialists as well as magazines. This facility is available free of charge to anybody who wants to enhance their knowledge of finance. It is especially a boon for students. We are also in talks with experts to enhance the counselling facilities. Membership to Moneylife Foundation is free and we already have 650 members in less than two months of existence. You can register online at http://www.moneylife.in/register.html and get information about forthcoming workshops and activities. For the registration form, email: [email protected]. More details about the Foundation and its activities can be found in www.moneylife.in. Clearly, we have an ambitious agenda, and it will be fulfilled only if we the people turn this into a movement to assert our legitimate rights. Like all not-for-profit organisations, we depend on donations for our activities. More importantly, we need volunteers to take our mission forward. So do join us.
305 Hind Services Industries Premises,
Off Veer Savarkar Marg, Shivaji Park,
Tel: 022-2444 1060
A cool idea which makes a point and connects with the audience
Broking house, Angel Broking, has released a new TV commercial which we can all connect with. Their promise is single-minded: no more sharing. In other words, they provide each customer personalised attention and service. And offer investment advice tailor-made to suit each investor’s needs.
And I like the creative thought used to convey the message. The setting is what Mr Twitteroor would call the ‘cattle class’ section of an aircraft. Our man is stuck in the centre seat (my worst nightmare come true). A rather hefty passenger arrives and plonks himself onto the aisle seat next to him (always happens to me!). And what follows is a hilarious unspoken exchange in their battle for sharing elbow space. Aided by a ping-pong sound track. A common problem in the cattle class, something that at times leads to heated exchanges between passengers. At this point, a confession: I have been involved in a few such. Unless the person sitting next to me is a girl. In which case there’s no problem. No, not because I like banging my elbows into pretty maidens, but because women usually leave the elbow space vacant for us touchy-feely-smelly Indian men, hehe.
As I said, a cool idea. The problem with most financial companies and banks is that we get stuck with the call centre folks. More often than not, leave alone dishing out expert investment advice, these sods are ill-informed on even the most basic details. The HSBC girl, who calls me unfailingly every week from Hyderabad, claiming to be my ‘personal advisor’, isn’t even aware where the bank’s branches are located in Mumbai, no kidding! Imagine me trusting her with my hard-earned savings.
What works for this commercial is, one, that it is truly focussed and promises you just one thing. And that’s always a good route to take. And two, the cattle class metaphor works wonderfully. Makes the point immediately and with instant empathy. So all is well. But the true test of an ad is at the ground level, not up in the skies. Can Angel Broking deliver on the promise of personal service? Often, that’s where things go wrong. ICICI Bank promises their officers will not just indulge your kids, but also entertain your granny till the wee hours of the morning. And we know that’s not how it pans out. Some friends who bank with ICICI tell me the staffers speak rudely with them!
Also, all these promises get made when an organisation is small. And they get promptly ditched, the moment their size expands. And then they begin treating customers like, er, cattle-class clients.