Garrett Planning Network expanding to India

Platform will promote hourly fees, leveraging Indian regulators' push to distinguish commission-based and fee-based advice

Jan 14, 2019 @ 3:42 pm

By Jeff Benjamin

The Garrett Planning Network, which promotes making financial planning available to the masses by charging hourly fees, is slated to launch a version of the network in India early this year.

While fee-based advice is just catching on in the country of more than 1.3 billion people, and hourly pricing for advice is virtually unheard of, Sheryl Garrett, founder of the Eureka Springs, Ark., organization, believes the time is ripe for international expansion.

The India version of the Garrett Planning Network leverages a long-term friendship between Ms. Garrett and Partha Iyengar, co-founder and chief executive of Bombay-based advisory firm Life & Money.

Ms. Garrett, who founded the network in 2000 and has grown it to more than 250 registered investment advisers who subscribe to her hourly-fee mantra, plans to visit India for the official launch.

"The network is to launch in the March-April time frame, but a lot of things will be coming together about this venture between now and then," she said.

Initially, the network in India will focus primarily on providing a gateway for recruiting women to join the country's fledgling fee-based financial planning market.

Mr. Iyengar said they will be specifically targeting women who have been working in the financial services industry for less than five years, and women who have been out of the workforce for a few years.

According to Mr. Iyengar, who has subscribed to Ms. Garrett's fee-based philosophy since 2010, of the roughly 2.5 million financial service professionals in India, more than 80% work on commissions.

"We want to build a network just like Sheryl Garrett did," he said. "India just started charging for planning 10 years ago, but there are 440 million millennials here, and I believe hourly fees will happen here in five years."

While Mr. Iyengar estimates that there are less than two dozen fee-only planners in the entire country, he and Ms. Garrett plan to leverage the increased regulatory pressure in India toward distinguishing and separating commission-based and fee-based financial advice.

"Fee-based planning is on the rise here," Mr. Iyengar said. "We're even seeing insurance agents switching to fee-based."

Bob Veres, owner of Inside Information, a consulting firm for the planning industry, said he believes the Garrett model would resonate in a country like India.

'I would expect the Indian version to be successful," he said. "The financial planner as financial health service professional, working with people through a financial clinic, would be an instantly familiar model to people of pretty much any culture."

Mark Tibergien, chief executive of Pershing Advisor Solutions, said that while expanding globally can be a challenge for RIAs, largely because of regulatory issues, it might be a different story for something like the Garrett Planning Network, which is more of an educational platform for advisers.

"I think to the extent that she has a reproducible model, much like the franchise concept, it has application in many countries," Mr. Tibergien said. "This is especially true with financial planning at its core."

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