Manju Mastakar | Director | Armstrong Capital & Financial Services Pvt. Ltd.

Manju Mastakar: Meticulous Approach Towards Business

It is about time when you need to start thinking about your finances. So, what do you do? You could try doing some online research, but you will end up with a million different options. And, when you turn to friends and colleagues, they would give you 100 different advice. All you need is a good financial advisor.

‘‘Get better before getting bigger.”

A financial advisor is someone who sketches the financial plan for you. A financial plan is made taking into consideration all your financial responsibilities like investments, kids’ education, loans, and finally moving towards a peaceful retirement. If this is what you expect out of your financial advisor than meet – Manju Mastakar – Director at Armstrong Capital & Financial Services Pvt. Ltd. and get started on your financial plan. Manju is very structured and spends a lot of time understanding individual goals and coming up with a plan based on the individual. She is passionate about building investment plans and driving financial independence for her clients. She works with the affluent young salaried professional and helps them to deleverage their investments and gear up the portfolio to see good post-tax returns. In the last 18 years of Manju’s career, she has worked on Direct Equity Advisory, Equity Derivative Strategy, Commodity Derivatives, Fixed Income Products, Private Equity Fundraise, Equity and Mutual fund research, Currency Derivatives and Corporate cash flow management.

How it all Started?

Manju’s entrepreneur journey started in 2009, when she was working in an Investment Advisory firm. Soon after the subprime crises, it had a layoff in the organization, and the clients that she worked with were left without any advisor. So, she decided to start on her own in a small way, to which she would call freelancing. She had set up her home office, do her calls and execute market trades. She was also carrying at that time, so motherhood and entrepreneurship both started at the same time.

In 2010, Manju met up with an investment banker who gave her the idea that he would fund her and that she should start in a more professional way. Her family was very happy with this as she didn’t have time restrictions, she didn’t have a boss to report to and she could take off whenever her baby was sick. So, she started operated out of a co-working place with initially only 1 employee who would set up calls and handle the back-office work. The initial 2 years were full of struggle and multitasking. She had 10 years of corporate experience working at various levels in a Securities firm but entrepreneurship in the initial day was different. It was all about – do it yourself and at the minimum cost. Later from 2014, the organization grew rapidly; the company had a good client base, and she had more employees to delegate work. After that Manju never looked back, all the stories of hardship that she went through summed up into 1 word that’s call “Struggle”.

An Open Communicator with a Great Attitude

Manju likes this quote and follows it – “Leadership is not about Titles, positions, or flowcharts it’s about one life influencing another”. As a leader, she continues to spend a lot of time mentoring her employees. The industry she works in is all about advisory and to give advice the employee must have very good knowledge.

Manju has started an upskilling program at Armstrong called “I don’t know” where every employee makes a list of things that he/she doesn’t know and floats it. Then the company has a monthly meeting to discuss these topics, problems, and fine lines. In the early stage of the career, a Junior Relationship manager would have a lot of “I don’t know” questions, but later as they grew or better to say they got the grind, then the number of questions would come down. Once she sees that a particular employee answering other employees “I don’t know” questions quite often, then she considers it a right time to promote him to a senior advisor role.

Clientele judge Armstrong by the knowledge it has in the area of investment. Its people are the face of the organization and they make the brand stronger.

Always Open to New Ideas

Armstrong inducts freshers to work for the company and the baseline remains that it encourages face to face interaction to mentor, collaborate, share ideas, knowledge and learn together. While it encourages most of the staff to come to the office and work however, employee who uses public transport are given work from home option.

The pandemic had a drastic impact on the way it executed transactions, the move from offline to completely online happened almost overnight when India announced the 15- day curfew lockdown. The company embraced change and moved the entire back-office as well as front-office operations online.

Clear and Straightforward Dealings

Armstrong spends a lot of time and energy clearing off preconceptions. With so much information floating all around the clients also read few things, hear a few advices from friends, and then when they meet, they have some predefined mindset of how to go about.

Armstrong gives out a lot of knowledge, Research, and Data to prove and its clients also appreciate it. At Armstrong, 70% of the standardized investment structure is built in, and 30% is the innovation that an individual advisor brings in.

Understanding of Market Forces

As a startup, Manju had very low seed capital. Initially, she worked out of home, and thus, all she needed was a desk and a phone. Then she moved to shared office space and hired an assistant who would fix a meeting and take care of the paperwork required for onboarding clients. Later she worked on a very lean structure for almost 2 years.

Her competition was the big multinational bank wealth management team. She had to compete against big brands and had to put in a lot of effort to convince clients that her advice was based upon thorough research and data analysis. She had to build her credibility brick by brick.

Another challenge Manju had to deal with was untrained resources. Since Manju was a startup, it was difficult to get resources, so she would hire freshers / unskilled resources and train them. A good amount of time and energy would be spending on this which would pull down her productivity. She also had to do multiple roles like initiating connect, customer service, managing accounts, managing PR.

Besides, a startup has to be a very lean and tight fist. In the initial days she would work out of the shared office having only 3 workstations. She would use public transport, and word of mouth was the only way of advertisement. She would be very cost conscious so that the company breaks sustain over a period of time.

All this has made Manju understand every aspect and build her to become stronger.