Binal Gandhi, CEO, The Learning Curve Academy

Saving and investing habits should be developed early in life. We work with colleges as well as corporates to reach out to millennials.

Oct 08, 2018 05:10 IST India Infoline News Service

Binal Gandhi, CEO, The Learning Curve Academy
Binal Gandhi, CEO, The Learning Curve Academy, prior to founding The Learning Curve Academy she worked for close to 20 years, in the areas of Corporate Finance and Mergers and Acquisitions, at companies like GE Capital and Wells Fargo. Binal is visiting faculty at NMIMS, where she teaches courses in Corporate Finance. 
 
In an interaction with Shweta Papriwal, Editor, IIFL, Binal Gandhi, CEO, The Learning Curve Academy, said, “Our online platform helps people with their personal financial plan and addresses any questions on financial planning..”
 
Brief us about the Finance Gym programme of The Learning Curve Academy.
The Finance GYM (GYM stands for Grow Your Money) programme is a full financial workout that increases financial fitness. We have gamified personal finance so that program participants can improve their money management skills through games and activities. The program does not just focus on the concepts of money management but also motivates the participants to start handling their finances proactively.
 
For individuals who have financial knowledge, Finance GYM provides a set of financial exercises that increases their financial fitness, with a focus towards lifecycle financial planning. For individuals with low financial awareness, the programme starts them on the journey towards financial fitness.
 
India is rapidly transforming. There is an increase in spend on both essentials and non-essentials.  With inflation rising at over 5% and saving account rates at banks below 4%, real rate of increase in wealth through bank saving accounts in negligible. Further, cost of essential services such as healthcare and education is growing at almost 10% annually, hence, the need for programmes to manage personal savings is a necessity. Finally, there is a marked increase in discretionary consumption spends like vacations and luxury items. With availability of easy credit, we are entering a phase where individuals and families are taking on debt burdens at high interest rates to finance these non-essential consumption spends. This makes understanding of personal financial goals a critical aspect for our society.
 
One of the key aspects of this programme is the Finance GYM simulation game. The participants choose various financial products to create a virtual portfolio to achieve various financial goals. Over the course of the game, participants are exposed to a long period of time and experience multiple events that create changes in their financial profile. As the simulation game moves ahead in time, the participants have to manage their portfolio through various market conditions. The simulation game helps answer key questions like “Should we pay off our loans or should we invest?” or “Why should we invest now, if the markets are falling?” Basically, it is simulation of real life, so that the participants are ready for the stresses and strains when they occur and are prepared to deal with rainy days.
 
What is your strategy to spread awareness regarding the importance of financial knowledge?
Our strategy is to engage the audience and stimulate them into action. The idea is learning by doing and then implementing what you have learnt. We have created a community around money management and investing. We use both online and offline platforms for this.
 
Our online platform helps people with their personal financial plan and addresses any questions on financial planning. We regularly conduct online competitions with investors from across the country competing with each other.
 
Our trainers conduct in-person Finance GYM sessions across the country, in large and small cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Dehradun, Rajkot. Our approach is community centric. One of our goals is to develop investment clubs across the country to help people invest wisely.
 
Who are your target clients?
Financial fitness just like physical fitness is a necessity for everyone. However, currently there are two main segments that we work with, the millennials and women.
 
Saving and investing habits should be developed early in life. We work with colleges as well as corporates to reach out to the millennials.
 
Premier business schools like SPJIMR, NMIMS, and Welingkar and other professional colleges like Tata Institute of Social Sciences and Thadomal Shahani Engineering College have been thoughtful about the future of their students. They are ahead of the curve and are very proactive when it comes to personal finance and ensuring that their students take the first steps towards a secure financial future. Over the course of nearly 3 years, we have completed over 60,000 hours of financial training with these and many other premier institutions across the country.
 
Even corporates recognize the need for financial fitness of their employees and have started investing in financial wellness programs. A Willis Tower Watson survey showed that 52% of employees in Corporate India feel that financial problems are making them less effective at work and 57% of the employees want their employer to encourage them to save for retirement.
 
Another big target segment is women. Financial independence is a very important aspect of women empowerment. We were in Rajkot recently at one of the local colleges. Most women there were focused on achieving financial independence. Finance security with the help of a husband or other family was not a preferred option. The Finance GYM Investment Club helps women take their first step towards investing. Again, the idea is not just learning but also implementing what they have learned.
 
Do you have different course modules designed keeping in mind the diversified client group?
We work with people from different backgrounds across the country. We have different modules designed for different segments. For business schools, where the students are already familiar with many financial concepts, our focus is on teaching them advanced concepts in personal finance and motivating them to implement these concepts in their life.
 
For audiences that do not have a finance background, the focus is on simplifying financial concepts so that there is no fear of finance. Our approach is inclusive, community-centric, and based on recognising the needs of our audience and working with them to achieve their financial goals.
 
What according to you is the best investment option in the current market scenario?
Financial planning is about having a long-term investment strategy. Short-term events should not dictate long-term plans. I recommend individuals and families to have a defined asset allocation strategy based on their risk profile and where they are in their own life cycle. We encourage investors to adhere to their asset allocation strategy and train them to have a focus on their financial goals over time. Most investors panic when the markets fall, and follow the herd and start investing when the markets are rising; therefore, they tend to buy high and sell low. We would like them to stick to their financial plan and maintain discipline so that they can enjoy better results over the long term.

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