Ladies should take charge of their finance: Lakshmi Iyer

Sunoj Nambiar
Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Lakshmi Iyer is one of the earliest women to have broken the male bastion of the Indian Financial market. Coming from the small south Indian town of Palakkad in Kerala, Lakshmi Iyer is now one of the top 25 most influential women in asset management in Asia. She entered into the financial career when a woman opting for such a career was hardly heard of. Lakshmi Iyer was in Kuwait to attend a conference organized by the Kuwait Chapter of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. In an exclusive chat with, Lakshmi Iyer shares her journey and thoughts on why women should learn to manage their own finances.

IIK: Can you share your journey to becoming the CEO of Kotak Investment Advisors Ltd?

Lakshmi Iyer: I joined the Kotak group 22 years back. With over two decades of experience in managing money at Kotak Asset Management Company, I recently took over as the CEO-Investment Advisory at Kotak Investment Advisors Ltd. Now I enjoy various asset planning of ultra HNIs. Kotak Investment Advisors is a subsidiary of Kotak Mahindra bank. The tendency of people is always to be greedy when the market is fearful and be fearful when the market is greedy. So investors are always in a dilemma in the market. There you need someone like Krishna and Arjuna in Mahabharata to give guidance where your chances of going wrong is less. Here what we do is like a financial doctor. We cure their financial ailments.

IIK: You came to this career in financial services when a woman opting for such a career was hardly heard of. How did all these happen?

Lakshmi Iyer: In my entire educational journey, I have always had this liking for numbers. Math's was the subject I enjoyed. I have always wanted to be part of the financial fraternity. During my college studies, I started liking the Indian stock market and later, I got an opportunity to work with the Kotak group. The ups and downs of the market got me excited. It's then I realized the fact that women are a minority in this sector. What I felt is that typically women get intimidated by the numbers thinking that it is high pressured job etc. My only answer to all is that it is not rocket science. If I can do it, I believe everyone can do it.

Lakshmi Iyer visit Kuwait

IIK: When it comes to managing their own finance, ladies are often not serious about it and leave it to their husbands. What is your advice to them?

Lakshmi Iyer: I always tell the women to take charge of their finance. Involve in financial decision-making along with your spouse. When you are financially aware, you can be financially independent. Women always take different roles in their life. You are born as a daughter then you are a sibling to your brother or sister. Once you marry, you become a wife. Later you will be a mother, so your life cycle is like metamorphism. You are always giving back, and you also need to take something for yourself in this cycle. So I advise every woman to make a point to take this financial literacy as your 'Sthree dhan' in your life to take.

IIK: Most of the NRI ladies here in Kuwait are also working. What would you recommend to them about investing their money? Usually, it's a trend that the ladies tend to buy gold jewellery.

Lakshmi Iyer: The first thing I want to tell the ladies here is not to buy gold. Buy gold for whatever you are going to wear. Don't buy gold which you will tuck under the pillow or keep in your locker. My own view is gold is a dead asset class. It's not going to add anything to the productivity of the nation. Secondly, when you are going to plan your asset allocation, you must keep your risk appetite in your mind. Try to keep your asset allocation with a goal. For example, in the next five years, I want this amount for the marriage of my daughter, or in the next three years, I want to buy a home, etc. The asset allocation depends on your risk appetite. If I am okay with taking a risk and I want wealth creation over 10 to 15 years, I will have a higher allocation of 75 to 80% in my equity. Balance I keep in fixed income. Very little I will buy gold. Same time, if you are a person who doesn't have any other income for your living, then your portfolio should be balanced, and the aim is for wealth stability than wealth creation.

The most important thing is to give time to make money in the market. It's not timing the market but giving time to the market.

Lakshmi Iyer visit Kuwait

IIK: Another trend among the NRIs is to invest in real estate. How do you view this?

Lakshmi Iyer: I always tell my friends that if you are smart, you will buy one house. If you are rich, you will buy two houses, and if you are a fool, you will buy three houses. Real estate is an illiquid asset. So why do you want to invest in an investment when liquidation is very difficult? Instead of buying real estate assets for investment purposes, there are very good real estate funds like REITs which pay a consistent dividend. The best part of the ownership of REITs is that you don't need to buy the physical asset, but you can get all the benefits of it. They are also liquid.

IIK: Now coming to the youths, especially the Indian students here in Kuwait, when it comes to careers, they mostly focus on Medical or Engineering. What is your advice to them about a career in finance?

Lakshmi Iyer: The financial landscape is very huge. if you have a little flair for numbers and analytical minds, I would say go for it as a career. The landscape is huge and evolving. Now fintech is a big area where technology is integrated with finance. It's more like a mixture of IQ and EQ. These are the trends the students should take a look at from a career perspective.

And for their investment journey, I would say that the moment you start getting your first pay cheque, start your investment. The power of the compounding effect is the eighth wonder of the world. If you believe in the power of compounding and understand it well, you earn it. thanks Lakshmi Iyer, who is a big veggie food lover and an ardent movie buff, for sharing her thoughts on ladies and investments.


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