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The Ultimate Finance Boutique by Soumya Rajan

This could be the woman one day deciding how much a family office will invest with VC funds betting on Startup India

Waterfield Advisor’s MD and CEO Soumya Rajan

This isn’t your typical boutique, at least not like the ones the rich and famous frequent in Bandra or Beverly Hills. Definitely not the type one associates with a woman. Soumya Rajan is a former Standard Chartered exec running a boutique financial advisory firm for Ultra High Net Worth families (UHNW). She calls her exclusive wealth management firm ‘Waterfield Advisors’.

Merrill Lynch, The behemoth wealth management institution to many a billionaire, classifies an UHNI as an individual with liquid assets of at least 30 million dollars. So these are the clients and their families numbering around 4000 to 5000 around the world, with 3 to 5 percent of them housed in Asia Pacific, that Soumya is aiming to bring under her fiduciary guidance. Who knows one day Soumya could be the woman deciding how capital from family offices could be invested with venture capitalists betting on Startup India. 

"The Wealth of an UHNW family comprises of the holdings in an operating business and other investments. Each family is quite different in terms of the ratio between these two holdings. It makes sense for a family to consider working with a multi-family office where the investible assets as  greater than 100 million dollars," Ms Rajan said.

This is Waterfield Advisor’s MD and CEO Soumya Rajan on her vision to capture 5 billion dollars worth of assets under advisory in another 2 years.

Let’s begin at the beginning (no better place, is there?). What inspired you to start Waterfield?

I started my entrepreneurial journey at the age of 40 after having been in the corporate sector with a large multi-national for over 17 years. I saw a gap in the market for multi-family office services with a national presence. Banks and many financial institutions were compromised by a conflict of interest in terms of investment advice. Besides there was no institution addressing the delicate and discrete matters of a family owned business regarding succession planning, business advisory and tax planning, philanthropy, educating the families ‘heirs to the throne’, and of course their investment portfolios.

Waterfield Advisors was a pioneer in providing all these services as an integrated offering to families, recognizing that each of these issues are sensitive in nature and need to be looked at holistically.

Are family offices actually looking out for professional financial guidance?

Yes they are. There is a growing acceptance and traction for advisory services amongst family offices.

Families are looking for professional firms, whom they can rely on to manage the end to end requirements of their financial wellbeing. Time is at a premium for these individuals. At Waterfield, our endeavor is to ensure that we help free the time of family members so that they can spend time on the aspects of their lives that are most important to them.

Tell us more about your vision to institutionalize family business advisory services

Waterfield has an aspiration to be India's largest boutique multi-family office known for the highest standards of service and excellence. Our aspiration is to be the go-to institution for family office services; we see ourselves servicing over 100 families and managing assets of 5 billion dollars by end 2019/2020.

And how close are you to achieving this $5B vision?

Let me tell you about our proudest milestone so far. We now have 1.7 billion dollars worth of asset under advisory from 30 of family office clients since launching our services in 2011.

What’s the biggest dilemma Waterfield helps solve for its ultra high net worth families?

The biggest challenge for Indian family businesses is succession planning. Indian promoters have founded great companies, but how do you ensure that the business continues beyond your lifetime and that family legacy is preserved? Addressing this issue is the single most important challenge families in India and Asia are addressing.

Waterfield helps families put together a governance framework for their family offices by looking at all aspects of their financial well-being. Every family is unique, but many of the underlying issues for each of these families is the same, varying only in degrees of complexity. Our role is to work with families and share domestic and global best practices to raise the bar on what they can expect from having a world class family office.

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