Best for philanthropic services in India 2023
Soumya Rajan is one of the best-known private bankers in India, famous for founding Waterfield Advisors in 2011 as the country’s first pure financial advisory wealth manager. As chief executive of the multi-family office and wealth advisory firm, she oversees more than $4.3 billion in assets belonging to 150 or so of India’s most prominent business families.
Several things set Waterfield apart. Its model of collecting fees only from clients and not from product manufacturers, its open architecture platform, its focus on strategy over products, and its commitment to clients and society all hold it in good stead.
Its approach to asset allocation, its public and private market offerings and its emphasis on alternative investment options – including the launch of a fund-of-funds in 2022 – are also impressive. But for 2023, Waterfield takes the Asiamoney award for being top of its game in philanthropy in India.
The firm has a dedicated philanthropy and impact team in-house to provide tailor-made philanthropic services to clients – one of the few Indian wealth managers to do so. The three-member team, which works with the other divisions within Waterfield, accelerated its ambitions in 2022 to combine traditional philanthropy with corporate social responsibility (CSR) advisory, innovative finance and impact investing.
Bankers at Waterfield say this structure has been created with the understanding that many wealthy business owners know they have more money than they can spend in a lifetime. They want to take a custodian, rather than a customer, view on this wealth, and find that Waterfield is the natural partner in this process.
As part of its philanthropy services, Waterfield encourages families to chart their individual, unique philanthropic journey through one-on-one discussions and family meetings. The Waterfield team, led by head of philanthropic advisory Prabhir Correa, then helps them to set up the necessary vehicles or governing charters depending on the level of commitment from the family on their philanthropic endeavour, in terms of time, funds or expertise.
Waterfield also puts together thematic strategies for families; it helps to identify, vet and select the most ideal non-governmental organizations to implement the strategy; monitors the impact of the contribution; and offers opportunities to scale their philanthropic initiatives by leveraging its network of 500 non-profit organizations across all the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
In impact investing and social financing, Waterfield has plenty in store for its more veteran clients. Its 150-strong team is able to scope out suitable innovative social financing tools for families and can screen impact funds through detailed due diligence.
For the latter, Waterfield has its own proprietary impact analysis survey to evaluate a fund’s impact. This is analyzed not just at the fund level, but also at the investee level.
Waterfield has mobilized more than $1.5 million of client money for philanthropic causes so far. But the firm doesn’t just leave it to clients to walk the walk. Its own employees volunteer for various causes, Rajan mentors women as part of a structured mentorship programme, and the in-house philanthropy and impact team members belong to non-profit circles where they volunteer with NGOs.
It’s a story that puts Waterfield ahead of most of its peers – and deserving of the philanthropy award.