When Jennifer and Matthew Mendes decided to leave the hustle and bustle of Mumbai behind and move to Goa in 1987, everyone, including Jennifer’s parents called them insane.
But, this bold move kick-started Jennifer’s successful career as a Mutual Funds Distributor. She ventured into the MF industry in 1999 in Goa and now runs her own company with 6,700 clients around the world.
Talk about impressive numbers!
If you’re looking for some inspiration to kickstart your own path-breaking journey, Jennifer’s story will offer more than enough motivation.
When you entered the industry, what was the toughest part of selling?
I started by selling postal recurring deposits at first. They are five-year schemes with an assured rate of interest from the Government of India, making it a very comfortable option for the risk-averse population of Goa.
However, when I began exploring mutual funds, I realized it was a win-win situation for everybody involved. I felt that it was where my clients should be, so I started trying to gradually switch them over to mutual funds. This proved to be very difficult because, although mutual funds offered better returns (and were tax-free at the time), they did not offer assured returns. Persuading clients was my biggest challenge.
Customer attitudes have changed a lot since then. Now, people are more financially literate and prefer purchasing their SIPs online. Do you think this will hamper the role of in-person meetings in the sales process?
See, there’s Facebook, and then there’s face-to-face.
The comfort level of face-to-face interaction is much greater than any digital interaction, especially for women. When you’re meeting someone in person, you can feel their vibe and determine whether they are the right person to manage your finances. I myself feel more comfortable meeting the person I am dealing with and even encourage my clients from other parts of the country to visit me when they come to Goa!
In an interview, you had mentioned that it’s important to speak the language of the client. I’m sure this is how you convinced your clients to switch to Mutual Funds in the first place. Any advice for sellers on how to do this?
When you have a strong relationship with your client, a lot of business flows from that, it builds confidence. When I talk about speaking in the language of the client, I mean explaining things in a way that they can easily understand. For example, if I’m explaining the transition from bank FDs to mutual funds, instead of using the term “equity,” which some clients may not understand, I would use “share market”. Sellers need to spend time understanding how their clients speak and tailor their approach, you can’t pitch to a 60-year-old woman the same way you would to a millennial.
As a business owner, do you have any advice for women entering the Mutual Fund industry?
When it comes to mutual fund distribution, money, while important, should not be your primary focus. When you prioritize changing lives and having a positive impact, your perspective will be in the right direction, and everything else, including income, will fall into place.
A lot of your work revolves around helping women take control of their finances. For young girls who don’t know where to start, which direction would you point them towards?
I would say get in touch with a distributor that you are comfortable with and have a conversation with her/him about managing money as soon as you can.
Any final words of advice?
When I moved to Goa from Mumbai, it wasn’t to set up a business, it was just for a better quality of life. It was a gamble, but we took the plunge. I quit my banking job and uprooted my entire life. But, I have NO regrets.
So, take the risk even if everyone tells you you’re crazy. If it feels right, it’s worth it!