Where wealth management becomes handy with tech inclusivity…
The hype is all about startups and their respective promises. Shoving the needle in their targeted markets, several entrepreneurial ventures are able to create value to the people from different walks of life. InfinityPool Finnotech Private Limited is one such name that is straining every nerve to change the current scenario across Wealth Management, Financial Education and Technology segments.
Under the visionary leadership of the founder – Akshay Kunkulol, the venture is scaling greater heights empowering individuals to reach a better state of financial freedom. As we held a one-on-one virtual interview with the founding head of the company, we touched on various aspects of the overall business portfolio. We firmly believe that the financial literacy spread by him via this narrative would help individuals all over the globe. Here are the excerpts of the conversation held with Akshay Kunkulol-
The foundation of InfinityPool was laid on the vision to empower people in the direction of gaining financial freedom by democratizing better access to wealth-generating financial products. With its flagship offering- SHANKH, the company has created waves of beneficial change in the wealth management segment. This AI-driven product is quite an innovative approach to managing the investing process in today’s digital ecosystem.
The unique name- SHANKH is derived from the traditional Indian belief system where ‘shankh’ signifies wealth and prosperity, resonating with the motto of the AI-based product itself. As per SEBI regulations, InfinityPool now provides HNIs with investable amounts of 1 Cr+ with Alternative Investment Fund (AIF Category 3). Investments are diversified across a variety of asset classes, including listed stock, equity derivatives (Options, Futures, Structured), pre-IPO equities, commodities, currencies, and gold, and are based on suggestions from cutting-edge AI algorithms.
Moreover, they provide advisors with a digital platform that enables them to assist their customers with incidental investing advice. The platform’s Portfolio Doctor tool is a standout and well-liked feature. The provision of APIs and integration to other fintech, small banks, and cooperative banks that do not have their own Wealth Management service is something they are actively working on.
THE EPIPHANY TO START THIS ALL
Akshay described the epiphany that led to the establishment of the company in this segment.
He said that his career trajectory has been all about the banking and investment industry where he spent a substantial amount of time in the USA and Japan. When he returned to India in 2020, he saw that while per capita income and wealth had substantially expanded, there is still a dearth of understanding among the populace about efficient money management and investment practices.
In the past, investing in gold or real estate was the standard due to the lack of other possibilities. Notwithstanding equity’s rising popularity as an asset class, there is still more that needs to be done to ensure that everyone has access to financial products with greater returns and appropriate risk management. While some mutual fund firms perform exceptionally well, many are pricey and do not offer holistic financial solutions.
The majority of investments in direct equity in India are made based on random tips, which is a significant concern. Furthermore, a sizable fraction of people mistakenly think that intraday trading would make them rich rapidly, which results in substantial losses of hard-earned money. “On the other hand, I saw that India’s startup environment is thriving. By democratizing access to financial instruments, more Indians would be able to benefit from this growth, which would result in a more equitable distribution of wealth. But, there is a sizable gap in financial literacy that, if not handled, might get worse.
As a result, I embarked on a journey with the goal of democratizing access to financial products that create wealth and encouraging financial awareness among our customers. We are on a mission to make sure that everyone has a piece of the economic pie as India strives to have a 30-45 trillion dollar GDP by 2047. We are more certain than ever that we can create our own BlackRock” elucidated Akshay.
InfinityPool’s most sought after product that has created a spur in the industry is SHANKH that encompasses several unique features that differentiate it from other AI-based investment options available in the market. Akshay asserts that for any startup to thrive, it’s critical to focus on innovation of at least one piece of the puzzle – product, service, business model or distribution.
At InfinityPool, R&D plays a vital role to incorporate innovation in the product development cycle. Providing value streams to customers eventually yields success, he claims. First off, its offering diversifies across many asset classes such as equity derivatives, pre-IPO shares, commodities, currencies, and gold. It is not simply restricted to equity or stock market investment. Compared to alternative investing solutions that could be restricted to only one asset class, this provides our customers with a stronger risk management plan.
Second, we use the Chicago Booth method of investing, which combines several schools of thought to provide various viewpoints on investments. The two main streams are the factor-based model of Nobel Laureate Eugene Fama and the behavioral finance-driven model of Nobel Laureate Richard Thaler. Based on these models, we have created data-intensive quant models that take advantage of market opportunities.
Our back testing has demonstrated that this strategy provides improved risk management and a sizable alpha. Lastly, its AI models can examine decades’ worth of historical and real-time data to generate forecasts in the present, enabling financial professionals to make wise trading choices. In comparison to other investing alternatives that might not have such powerful AI-based models, this feature helps to manage risk better and provide better profits.
Tracking the career trajectory
“I have consistently worked to give my all and remain dedicated to my job throughout my career, and I credit this for my success. I was lucky to have a supportive boss early in my career who saw promise in me and motivated me. This provided an opportunity to use cutting-edge techniques on a challenging initiative in Japan, which sadly was abandoned after six months.
This ended up being a blessing in disguise as I was recommended for a position with UBS Investment Bank in Chicago despite my somewhat inexperienced background. Why did UBS choose a leader with only two years of experience when they had options with 10-15+ years of experience?,” remarked Akshay regarding his working experience. He has written more about reasons on his blog. https://akshaykunkulol.me/blogs/corporate-diary-power-of-right-questions
Akshay gained essential managerial, financial, and communication skills while working at UBS Investment Bank, which enabled him to go to Bank of America, where he spent the majority of his career. He obtained expertise in technology, product management, strategy, operations, and leadership from some of the finest in the business while working on one of the bank’s largest derivatives trading platforms.
He was doing an evening MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Management at the time, which broadened his viewpoint and taught him how to analyze from several angles. He commenced working at Options Clearing Corporation, a mid-sized fintech that serves as the clearing house for all equity options in the USA, after receiving his MBA. He was thrilled to be a part of the company’s technical, operational, and cultural transformation.
However, he finally came back to India to look for his in-laws and parents during COVID-19. During his stay in India, he happened to accept the position of the Director at Deutsche Bank India as he found their India Head to be highly inspiring and their vision for India to be quite similar to his own!! He eventually came to the conclusion that he could have a greater impact by founding a business, and with his family’s encouragement, he made the daring plunge to become an entrepreneur himself.
Quoting the experience working with IBM
Referring to his journey with IBM which is a Fortune 500 company, Akshay enunciated, “I had the good fortune to spend a significant amount of my professional growth working at IBM. It was actually my first job after graduation. At the time, our family was facing a challenging financial condition, so I realized I needed a job to assist me to provide for them.
Yet I also understood that a little trip overseas may greatly improve our financial circumstances. I made the decision to join IBM since the firm was statistically more likely to deploy someone on-site within the first two years.” In the nutshell, he learned a lot during his time at IBM, and it also helped him build a solid reputation as a skilled and dependable expert in the financial technology sector.
What sets him apart as the leader?
When it comes to leading the company at the forefront, Akshay indeed is a leader with a difference. He explains his personality as a versatile one that serves his vision for the company as well as his people. People with knowledge in technology, business, and product management were traditionally assembled by financial institutions in order to alter the industry. Yet, having a single individual who is knowledgeable in each of the three fields may simplify things, remove any doubt, and expedite delivery.
For him, he gained a lot of business knowledge and expertise in the financial markets due to his keen interest in those fields. People should, in my opinion, identify their own passions and concentrate on developing a variety of talents. They can become more adaptable and valuable in their jobs with the aid of this strategy. He also became a keynote speaker on this topic concerning IT Careers at Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Technological University, Lonere in 2006.
He also wrote about it in his blog, where he discussed the rise of the versatilist. “I believe that being a versatilist, which means having a diverse range of skills and expertise, is becoming more important in today’s job market. By being a versatility, you can bring a unique perspective to the table and solve problems in a more holistic way,” he affirmed. Akshay made it clear that information and people are what drive the sector he works in. And as a leader, he values each person’s knowledge, regardless of their position or level of experience.
He takes care to have empathy for the individuals he works with and doesn’t view them as resources. He attempts to break down organizational silos by adhering to the notion of communication traveling down the quickest route possible to complete the task. His keen ‘stewardship’ places a sheer emphasis on career development, and he takes ownership of grooming his team, giving them chances that align with their goals. He holds his staff to a high level and offers fast open feedback.
He respects recognizing and celebrating team achievements to keep their morale high. He also shared his insights into the topic of entrepreneurship by saying, “I believe that the concept of entrepreneurship has changed throughout time. In addition to starting a new business, we should always act with an entrepreneurial mindset. We must always look for ways to make things easier, less expensive, and quicker. It is about not settling for mediocrity.
In India, it’s critical to instill in our rapidly expanding youth a sense of morality, professionalism, productivity, and entrepreneurship at a young age. Then and only then are we able to envision India emerging as a superpower.”
Current sets of projects
As a startup, there are several things happening simultaneously. They all strive for the same underlying objective, though. He is thrilled about the advancement in artificial intelligence they are making, which might strengthen India’s AI capabilities.
Another project on the to-do list is the children’s YouTube channel “Shankh School,” where their favorite “Shan The Shankh” will impart fundamental financial knowledge that is appropriate for them at that age. There is now a teaser for this. Hence, keep an eye on this fascinating channel to aid in providing the greatest financial education for today’s youth.
The cultural principles
The foundation of any successful business, whether it is a start-up or a global conglomerate, is its workplace culture. The work environment at InfinityPool is more casual and adaptable, and the founders and early employees have a bigger say in determining the culture. For instance, they support a flat structure where everyone’s ideas are recognized and stress creativity, cooperation, and openness.
Each of them also has a clear mission and feeling of purpose that directs their work. The startup’s culture may change and solidify as it expands and brings on additional staff. Thus, it is crucial for founders and executives to purposefully create a productive work environment that is in line with its beliefs and aims, as well as to promote and reinforce that environment through a variety of channels, like onboarding, training, performance evaluations, and company events.
Feathers on the cap
It goes without saying that within a short span of time, InfinityPool has made an exemplary mark on the industry. Certifying this claim, it was recently recognized as a startup by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) which falls under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. This is a testament to Akshay’s vision to advance Artificial Intelligence and democratize Wealth Management. All the team members take immense pride in being a significant part of India’s growth story.
Indulgence in CSR
Two CSR activities that the corporation is currently engaging in are consistent with its vision for India in 2047. In order to help smaller retail investors minimize their losses and get ready for the next stage, they are first trying to establish a free platform. To help the younger generation make better financial decisions, they also teach financial literacy in schools.
Every leader in the firm needs to engage in or promote CSR initiatives, shares Akshay. He added that Tata Sons has been an excellent illustration of a company that places a high priority on improving society as a whole, and they serve as an inspiration for the futuristic CSR plan for InfinityPool.
The future roadmap
In terms of curating an effective future blueprint, the InfinityPool team brainstorms at every possible level. They are manufacturing roadsters before they can make the Model 3 available to everyone, in keeping with the adage that “progress is a journey, not a destination” (for the uninformed, follow Tesla’s product range). In five years, it would be great if they could change 10,000 people’s lives such that they are making better financial decisions and/or investing better.
A token of advice to all aspirants:
Before signing off from the conversation, the dynamo shared a short message to be delivered to our readers, “I am brought up in a very small town with schooling in regional language medium however focusing on excellence and learning, hunger, hard work can take you far. I would like to tell this to all aspirants out there, don’t self-censor yourself, believe and take that leap.
Be ethical, and empathetic, and keep doing good work. Not everyone aspires to become an executive or start a business and there is nothing wrong with that. Whatever you are doing, give your 100%. It could be sports, arts, social service or anything you love. It could be being a good kid, spouse, or parent. Make a difference.”
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