Sanjeev Kumar Gopalakrishnan talks about setting up a digital financial advisor through his startup Progno Financial Planning Systems, a Hot 100: Race to Grace 2017 winner. By Satyaki Sarkar
Sanjeev Kumar Gopalakrishnan has been in the financial planning sector for the last 15 years. He’s worked with the likes of Advice America, Bajaj Capital and JRG Securities and is one of the only two Indian international affiliate members on the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, USA. It was during his stint at JRG Securities that he realised that there’s a massive demand for affordable financial planning services. That’s when the idea for Progno Financial Planning Systems first came to him.
How it works
“Seeing such an incredible demand for financial planning in the market, I realised that I could easily start providing these services myself, on a more structured basis,” says Sanjeev. “So in 2012 I started Progno Financial Planning Systems (P) Ltd. Initially, financial plans were prepared using a spreadsheet and through manual processes. As more and more people started coming for financial advice we thought of scaling up. That’s how Progno Advisor (https://prognoadvisor.com) was born. It’s an online financial planning platform designed to analyse personal financial situations and provide appropriate advice. After signing up, users provide their financial details, such as income, expenses, assets, liabilities, insurance, etc. We immediately provide them with a detailed analysis of the state of their finances, and how it will change with their current lifestyle, including income growth possibilities, change in expenses, growth in assets, etc. Additionally, the report highlights specific problem areas. The financial diagnosis is provided for free, but creation of a detailed financial plan that addresses the problem areas and is optimised for financial management is chargeable. The service fee ranges from Rs 7,999 to Rs 15,999.”
“One of the things that sets us apart from other Indian financial planning service providers is that we provide multi-currency support, because of which even NRIs who might be earning in dollars or dinars, and setting up savings in rupees, can easily avail of our services. They can select the currency to be used for each and every aspect of their financial management, from savings to income to expenses, and so on. Secondly, there’s also the option of global data, so those users who have shares in international companies can also enter their data and Progno Advisor provides them with real time valuation of the companies. As a company, we have taken a decision to stick to a fee only practice and not sell any financial products. It is founded on the fiduciary principle of acting as the trustee of the client. We do not receive any kind of commission or income from any of the mutual funds or insurance companies or stockbrokers or banks. This is something rare and unique in India.
“At the moment there are very few enterprises providing these kind of solutions in India, and Progno Advisor is the country’s very first digital financial advisor. A digital financial advisor is a combination of a RoboAdvisor and a conventional financial planner. It provides comprehensive analysis of your finances through the digital medium and is complimented by a dedicated advisor. It obviates the costly and time consuming traditional wealth management service available to HNIs and makes it affordable for the masses. While we use algorithms and artificial intelligence, we also have a human interface to see that the plan does not lose the emotional content. The use of technology helps us in standardising the advisory process, reduces time for planning, makes it accessible for clients from anywhere anytime, makes it easy to monitor plan progress and handle large number of clients across geographies.”
Challenges and future plans
“As with any startup, raising funds has been one of the biggest challenges. But we’ve been able to overcome that through constantly adopting smarter strategies, by restructuring our priorities and streamlining our operations. Additionally, being a small company, acquiring the required talent has also been an issue. Despite all the challenges we were able to launch our services in March 2017 after a 10-month beta run. In the last three months we’ve grown our user base from 600 to 2,000, out of which more than 100 are paid users. So far we’ve generated Rs 8 lakh in revenue and are aggressively focusing on building our conversion rate to make it grow rapidly. Within the next six months we are working to increase our user base to 50,000, out of which at least 2,500 will be paid users.”