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Asia Private Banking Awards

Best for UHNW in India 2020

Waterfield Advisors

Soumya Rajan, Founder and CEO, Waterfield Advisors.jpg
Soumya Rajan, Waterfield Advisors

Soumya Rajan may be India’s best and best-known private banker.

Before founding Waterfield Advisors in 2011, she spent 16 years at Standard Chartered, where her last assignment was as head of onshore private banking.

As the CEO of Waterfield, she brings to bear a quarter century in financial experience that also spans consumer banking and risk management.

Waterfield’s well-heeled bankers serve clients with, on average, $40 million to $50 million in assets under management. But if there is a group that Rajan and her team specialize in serving, it is a demographic she describes as India’s ‘emerging UHNW’.

Predominantly young, and with between $10 million and $30 million in financial assets, the demographic had long been underserved. Seeing the opportunity, she grabbed it a decade ago and never looked back.

The firm describes itself as India’s ‘leading independent multi-family office and wealth advisory firm’, but definitions rarely do a financial institution justice. This is no boutique operation: Waterfield manages $3.5 billion worth of assets on behalf of more than 60 of India’s wealthiest and most prominent business families, from four offices including Mumbai and Chennai.

It has branded itself carefully, but it wears its mantle of exclusivity lightly. It sees itself as an honest broker of others’ services: it doesn’t make its own products, and it works with outside specialists including the likes of Morningstar and Pune-based Finaureus Technologies, to assess the performance of funds run by everyone from asset managers to private equity firms.

Its aim, always, is to tap into unrealized potential and deliver that knowledge directly to its clients.

Waterfield is never afraid to try new things, and its boldness usually pays off. Its ‘Family Office Consortium’ brings together the principal members of family offices, enabling them to pool their knowledge, wisdom and capital. Such collaboration, increasingly popular in the US, is relatively new to India.

This kind of ability to think outside the box, and to be unafraid to try new things, is a key reason why Waterfield reported a 105% year-on-year rise in revenues in 2019.

It also leads in wealth transfer and succession planning. India’s wealth largely comes in two forms: long-standing multi-generational family wealth, and a recent surge of wealth creation in sectors such as healthcare, technology and logistics.

India’s wealthiest families are increasingly global operations: a patriarch or matriarch may live in Mumbai, but offspring may be scattered across the world, along with the family’s assets. Waterfield not only manages complex pools of assets held in multiple markets, but also helps to educate the next generation of family members as they decide what to do in life, be it follow in their parents’ footsteps, or pursue a different career in business, philanthropy or home-making.

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