Dilshad Billimoria | Age 45 | Managing director and principal officer of Dilzer Consultants, Bengaluru
Assets Under Advice Rs 550 crore
Practising Since July 2001
It has been 22 years since Dilshad Billimoria started out in the financial advisory space. Now, the Sebi-registered investment advisor and managing director and principal officer of Dilzer Consultants strongly believes that more women should choose this field as a career option.
“There should be more women in the registered investment advisory space. They are better listeners, more empathetic, and they speak to you more holistically about financial planning and are not just concerned about returns. I think this is definitely a great profession for women,” says Billimoria, also a member of the Association of Registered Investment Advisers (ARIA). Incidentally, out of about 300 ARIA members, there are only 20-25 women members.
As part of an initiative of ARIA, Billimoria reaches out to women in colleges and educates them about the RIA industry and the benefits of becoming a financial advisor, either independently or by working with an experienced advisor.
The Case For Women RIAs
Women often face the need to balance work with family life and this profession can help them do that. “One common link between women is that they take a lot of breaks in their careers. There are maternity breaks and women also take breaks to look after their parents. But in this industry, women can work flexible hours,” she says.
She feels this is a profession where investors do not judge women, at least eventually. “If you are able to prove that you are competent, you are experienced, you have the knowledge and you are able to solve client problems as if they were your own, investors are agnostic about whether you are a male or a female,” says Billimoria.
An advice that Billimoria gives to women aspirants for becoming an RIA is that it helps to be a part of various associations in the area of finance. Initially, she became a part of the Council of Financial Planners (COFP), where she eventually became a board member. Later in 2013, she became a part of the ARIA board. She believes that being with a group of like-minded financial advisors, who are experienced and competent, can result in a lot of learning and support for newcomers.
“Also, at the end of the day, everyone faces more or less the same problems with clients. When you are able to reach out to a senior member in the group and get your queries answered, that sort of helps. Since I did not have a co-founder for my company or any mentor, it really helped me,” she says.
It is also important to realise that patience is the key to success. “It is important to move slowly. Today, youngsters want instant gratification. They feel that they should have so many clients and so much income at the time of starting off itself. Also, they feel they know everything. But there has to be a step-by-step process. There is no shortcut to doing well and growing big,” she says.
It is only with the passage of time that advisors can hope to build trust among their clients. Some of Billimoria’s clients have been with her for over 18 years and there’s a trust between them as she has helped them weather bad times. “That has happened through constant communication and by always being on their side, even when the times were tough,” she says.
Also, over a long association, one goes through various market cycles. According to her, if one shows the consistency that investors are looking for, then that inspires trust and confidence among investors.
Lessons From Her Journey
Talking about her own journey of becoming a financial advisor, Billimoria says it was not easy.
She started off with the distribution industry but felt the need to give the right advice to her clients and enrolled for the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) course in 2008.
The year became a turning point for her because she not just stopped selling products, but entered into the field of serious advisory.
“Initially, I didn’t charge a fee. But when the entry load ban happened in 2008, we realised that we still needed to run a business and be profitable, and so, we started charging a fee. At that time, I spent sleepless nights thinking whether clients would pay and whether I would be able to run the business.”
So, in 2009-10, her firm decided to start charging fees “for the advice and for the value-add we were providing”.
Initially, there was reluctance and non-acceptance from clients, but once they got convinced about the value she was bringing to the table, things started changing for the better.
Simultaneously, there were struggles on the level of infrastructure too.
When she started off on her own, after spending a couple of years in distribution, she had no office space. Fortunately, her father stepped in and carved out an office space for her in his own office. As her team grew, she moved to another office in the same building.
“It is lonely being an entrepreneur especially when you do not have a co-founder, because you have to take most of the decisions by yourself. There is also constant pressure because you are trying to help your clients and your employees. You are trying to run a business, a profitable one,” says Billimoria.
Then there is also the need to balance work with family life, which can be difficult for an entrepreneur, she adds. What helps, she feels, is prioritising the right things at the right time and making your spouse equally responsible for everything, including those on the domestic front.
In her long career, there have been several blips and difficult times, but Billimoria feels they have made her emerge as a stronger individual and professional.
“Such times make you believe that you can continue doing what you are doing. Pitfalls are very important to realise one’s self-worth,” she says.
Billimoria is actively working towards making women more financially aware and independent. The good news is she is leading by example.