Categories Interviews

Interview with Ajit Banerjee, Chief Investment Officer, Shriram Life Insurance

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Good day everyone. Welcome to another episode of our Fund Manager series. And today on this auspicious day, I’m lucky to have Mr. Ajit Banerjee on the show. Ajit is a seasoned professional with close to 30 years of experience in the finance and investment sectors. He’s currently serving as the Chief Investment Officer at Shriram Life Insurance. He’s based out of Hyderabad and he has a diverse background that includes significant roles at renowned organizations such as Bharti AXA, Royal Sun Alliance, etc. 

His journey through all these organizations has equipped him with a wealth of knowledge and expertise that I’ll try to tap in today in areas such as investments, financial control, management, accounting, etc. Mr. Ajit holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration with a specialization in Finance and he’s also a fellow Cost and Management Accountant and also a CGMA and CIMA from UK. 

With that brief introduction, I would like to tap into Ajit’s vast knowledge base and I would request Ajit to start with how you got into the fund manager industry and your journey so far in brief. 

Ajit Banerjee: So thanks Radha and Happy Janmashtami to to you as well as the future viewers who will be viewing the site as and when as per their convenience. It seems a good coincidence to talk on this day. 

So mine has been as you rightly said — and thanks for the introduction as well. So my journey as a fund manager started in 2006 when I got into insurance industry and into a company called HDFC Chubb which is now as HDFC ERGO.

Prior to that, I was in the more hardcore accounting side as well as management accounting also in companies like Phillips Carbon Black as well as Asia Bond Bowery [Phonetic]. And then where actually I got into the various other aspects of accounting, which in turn, actually helped me to have a broad-based understanding that how the accounting also works and how it reflects into the financials of the company also, which now when I actually look at during the analysis or review of the various investee companies that we do, so that point of time, this comes very handy to me. 

For example, because I have worked in chemical companies, in the manufacturing carbon black as well as adhesives also, so naturally when we understand those specialty chemicals, chemicals, that industry, because I am quite familiar with the seasonality as well as their raw material, supply chains where they have an advantage, where they don’t have an advantage and all that, so that actually becomes a ready referral point for me. So having a diversified experience for that matter gives me a lot of, I would say, firsthand experience to tap upon when I need to.

So initial period, as I said, was mostly in the accounting side of it and then when I moved in 2006 to Bombay and I joined HDFC Chubb, so that is where my journey into insurance sector started. So from 2006 and naturally getting an entry into HDFC Group companies itself gives a direct exposure to the best-of-class standards, controls as well as reputations. So if you are working in a company which has stalwarts like Mr. Deepak Parekh, Mr. Keki Mistry, so naturally you have to live by the standards, right? And naturally, those organizations and those persons are legends by themselves. So each and every action, whatever role that you are in the company, you represent that brand.

I remember my CEO at that point of time, Mr. Shriram Samanth [Phonetic]. I was writing a — sending a letter to the regulator. And that letter, the ink did not come out that well in the printers, so then — I was quite ignorant of that. Okay? But then my CEO gave me a very good lesson. He said that Ajit, this has been sent to the regulator. This piece of letter carries our brand. How would you think this will look to the reader that we have not taken care of that there was a blot of ink over there and we have not taken care of that. 

So small, small lessons, even one day actually because we are talking about fund management and I was yesterday incidentally speaking to students at NMIMS Hyderabad for a session where I told how to care about the fund. Another lesson which I picked up from my first job at HDFC is, one day I remember I missed out, say, sending FD maturity letter to the bank. And in those days, if you remember, there was high value clearing. And most of these banks and mutual funds, they had their offices at Fort area, okay? And those checks has to reach there by 10:30. And somehow I missed it. It was my mistake only. And as a consequence of that, so that day it loses out the interest part and all.

So naturally, my reporting boss at that point of time said this is not the way it should be and all that. And I was quite scared because for the two reasons. One, that I was new to Bombay and I was new to the industry. And I also knew it was my mistake. So then I went ahead and admitted my mistake to my CEO and I said that sir, I’m willing to take up this loss, whatever it is. He said that what are you talking about? Have you learned that where you went wrong? Did you pick up that? I said yes, I have picked up. What was it? I said I should have taken more care as for the timing is concerned and I should be aware that before the high value time it should reach the bank. This is a mistake from my side. He said that is more than enough. Our company may be small in size, because we were a small size company that time, but he said, no you should look after the money as if it is the way you take care of your own personal money. 

So that is something which has stayed with me and I think till such time I hang up my boots, I think that will remain. And that’s the same message which I actually still pass on to my team members also. 

Another thing which I really carry in my mind is that which actually my father told me that generally mistakes are of two types. One is bona fide and one is mala fide. See, if it — and we are all prone to mistakes. We cannot pinpoint any single person who has not made any mistakes in his life. That is not possible if he’s saying, he’s lying. Right?

Radhakrishnan Chonat: True. 

Ajit Banerjee: So what my father told me that mistakes, if you work, you will make mistake. But if the mistakes are actually bona fide in nature, I think anybody, your superior or your team member whosoever it is, first admit it. And then I think that will be acceptable, but because you had no wrong intentions. But if it is a mala fide mistake where you had some other intent in mind, you cannot be spared and you should not be spared. 

So that is also something which I believe it and wherever in course of time, where even though I make some mistake, either in judgment or a call, even when I speak up to the Board, I generally say that, yes, this is something – because, see, end of the day, in hindsight many things you can feel that this should have been done in other way and all that happens. But I would have taken some decision based on the facts and figures, what is available to me and how I’m reading the situation.

 Radhakrishnan Chonat: True. 

Ajit Banerjee: Who can now say, for example, which way the interest rate will go one year from now. We can only predict, but then there can be so many — who had predicted five years back there will be a Ukraine and Russia war, right?

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Correct.

Ajit Banerjee: And who can also predict that nothing of that sort or higher magnitude will not happen again? So those are the things which, I mean, post the event, you can say [Foreign Speech], those things are all okay, that is fine. 

So maybe we are slightly diverting from the issue. But those are the things which generally — which governs me and I try to follow it in my professional and personal life also. 

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Excellent. Ajit, you come across as somebody who was lucky enough to be mentored by such stalwarts and I’m sure your team currently are lucky to be mentored by you. With that thought, with such a strong foundation, what would be one message that you would like to give aspiring finance professionals, right, who are listening to this, be it the insurance industry or fund — they are trying to crack into any of the industries? What are the basic tenets that still hold true in this fast changing world, per se? 

Ajit Banerjee: See, one thing is for sure that we should be open to reading quite a lot and connect the dots. That’s very important. See, I mean, suppose if I am a student of finance, I should not be thinking in mind that I should only be reading about what financial world is all about. There is so much of interlinking between politics, between finance, between economics. So everything is now so much interconnected. 

I mean, to give an example that if we would not have that proper international relationship what India has with the countries today, how on the earth we could have procured oil at the price which very few other countries have done in spite of the fact that there was a global disturbance and geopolitical crisis going on. So is it not economically linked to the prosperity as well as the financial condition of the country and therefore we as a consumer? 

So therefore, it is very much important to actually read on various subjects and also not have a myopic view on these actually. We need to have much more broad-based view to understand the interlinkages between that. That’s point number one.

Point number two should be that, while we definitely need to be intelligent enough, but we should also have the mindset to do hard work. There is no, actually I would say, substitute to hardworking but intelligent working also. We should be intelligent but at the same time hardworking as well. And I think it is also important that we be open to, again, say, follow the leaders who have actually established themselves very well, listen to their advices, as well as imbibe to the extent what also goes along with my natural flow of thought process actually, so that there is a proper blending which can happen and me, as a professional can develop well.

And also one small and last is that, see, I may have lot much academic attainments but even the small things also at work teaches us many large, I would say, large experiences which on the face of it may look a small work, why should I be doing it. But actually that has got a lot of ramifications. 

I’ll give you one small example to this. So again, yes, I was fortunate to have worked under bosses who have actually mentored me. And one such boss when I was working in Phillips Carbon was Mr. Monojit Mukherjee, so who had one day assigned me and you know for Bengalis, Durga Puja is a very important event, okay? And somehow we get so carried away and emotionally we are so charged and in a festive mood, we don’t want to work on those four, five days. And that was just after my pass out from the college and when I joined Phillips Carbon Black directly from the campus.

So there was an important international delegation who came to our headquarter at Calcutta. And my boss told me that, Ajit, you have to ensure today, you have to accompany this person throughout the day, show him Calcutta, all about and all that. I said, sir, why me? It’s an export customer. I look after the domestic segment. And sir, I have to go home. He said, nothing doing. You have to go today and I’ll tell you why I’ve assigned you these responsibilities.

So not very much willingly, but I did that. And then that is the first time I got an experience how to handle an international client. Okay? And honestly, after the day went by, he said, so how was it? I said, sir, good. But he had so many questions about India and Calcutta which, honestly, I was also not aware. He said, what did you learn? I said that I should have been more educated. I should have studied about him and maybe taken some tips from you, that how he is so that I could have presented myself quite well.

And he said, that is certainly one part. Another part is that in your future, when you are actually working in an environment where to deal with people of various nationalities, you should be able to adjust to them and I mean basically be able to communicate with you in such a way that you are able to convince. So again, see, in a way it was totally, I mean, unrelated to my direct work. But then it taught me many things. 

So many such incidents happen and presently I come across some of the young guys, very intelligent. But they say, why to do this, sir? This is not related to my work. I will not like to do that. I’m a qualified person. Fine, you are a qualified person, no issues. But small things teach a lot of many things which will become helpful in life.

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Excellent insights, sir, very true, very true. We can always connect the dots backwards, as they say. Wonderful. Seguing a little bit. As the Chief Investment Officer at Shriram Life, I mean I’ve talked to people from the mutual fund industry. Now, this is the first opportunity I’m getting to talk from somebody who has an insurance component to it. So how different is the Chief Investment Officer role here versus, let’s say, alternative investment fund or a PMS or a mutual fund? 

Ajit Banerjee: See, the thing is again, because I worked as a CIO in a general insurance company also and in a life insurance company also, so the investment, while the process as well as the regulations, to a great extent, are similar between a life and a general insurance company, but one fundamental difference — I’ll start with first between the two sectors of insurance, how it is different and then I will try to relate it with actually mutual funds for that matter, what you have just now asked me.

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Perfect. 

Ajit Banerjee: So in a general insurance company, most of them are selling indemnity policies. Okay? Which means that if your car meets with some accident, it can be n number of times during the policy period, till such time the risk is covered, you have to pay the claim. You’re bound to cover the claim even if you run out of money. But you have to pay the claims, right? 

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Right. Right.

Ajit Banerjee: So which means that when you have to manage that with staying within the regulatory contours, you have to actually ensure that you are invested appropriately as per the regulation, at the same time, maintain sufficient liquidity so that you can liquidate your investments to honor the claims. Because end of the day, how we say the proof of the pudding is in eating, similarly, as insurance company, the proof of the entire moment of truth is that you are able to honor the claim.

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Right.

Ajit Banerjee: So basically, whatever you deliver as a return in a general insurance company, that directly goes into the — adds to the bottom line of the P&L actually. 

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Okay. 

Ajit Banerjee: So the key is to essentially ensure that your investments are invested as per regulation, you are following a proper ALM to the extent that you’re required to. ALM here means asset liability matching. 

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Okay.

Ajit Banerjee: And then you also have sufficient liquidity to ensure and that your credit quality of the asset profile is also very well maintained. That’s as far as general insurance company is concerned.

Now, when it comes to life insurance company, you have got various types of products. Say, for example, we have guaranteed return product, which is we call non-participating product. Then we have a participating product. Participating product in simple terms means the policyholder participates in the fortune of the policies. Okay? So the risk is borne to certain extent by the policyholders in terms of how the fund is managed and the insurance company has a stake of 10% in that, 90% goes to the policyholder. Then we have pure financial product, gratuity money and all that which we maintain. And then we also have pension and annuity products which is also a financial — mostly of managing the investment of the client. And then we also have unit-linked product which is akin to a mutual fund, except for the fact that mutual fund does not have any life cover whereas ULIP has a life cover.

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Right.

Ajit Banerjee: So these are the broad classifications of the funds that we manage in a life insurance company. And naturally, as from the name goes, that for a guaranteed return product, yes, whatever IRR you have committed to the customer, you have to ensure that whatever happens to the market, the customer is not going to look at it, but you have to deliver the return to him.

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Right. 

Ajit Banerjee: Okay? So naturally as a CIO or a fund manager, you have to ensure that after you — you have to work very closely with the actuary also more in the life insurance company, general insurance company also, but more in the life insurance companies because there are lot of assumption which goes on the mortality, on the — then again on the basically, persistency issues, many things actually gets into when you set your pricing also for the committed return and all that. So as a fund manager, staying within the regulatory norms as well as the risk metrics, risk appetite that you have been assigned, you have to invest in such a way that you are able to, A, first meet the returns to the policyholders and, B, you have to also add something to the shareholders also because shareholders are here to get money. So these two things has to be maintained. 

Same applies to a great extent on Par also as well as in pension annuity products also. So you have to ensure that whatever you have committed certainly is managed well. And when it comes to ULIP, which is again similar to the mutual funds, except for the life cover what we said. Now there, while the risk is borne by the unit holders, but then actually we also have a fiduciary responsibility as a CIO or as an investment team to ensure that the money is appropriately invested. You do not, for the sake of getting few additional points of — additional basis point of return, you just go berserk and invest into high-risk propositions.

That is something which we have to always ensure that. So that applies to the entire fund per se and also to again – see, the thing is one is, the biggest challenge, what a CIO of a life insurance company has to face is that to manage the book yield what is committed to ensure that the committed return to the shareholder — to the policyholders is met and also you have some residual money for the shareholders as well because they’re running the business. That’s one yardstick you have to maintain.

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Right.

Ajit Banerjee: Other one is you have to also maintain the asset liability mix because there are a lot of risks your profile — your portfolio is subjected to, for example, interest rate risk. Then actually there is a market rate risk which is going on, right? So you have to ensure that, while you cannot say I would say that — no, you cannot — you have to ensure that you are able to mitigate the risk to the best extent possible with the tools that is available.

For example, we have taken some exposure to some bond FRAs in our non-part portfolio which will help us to ensure that we are able to protect the downside of the interest rate risk and at least we are able to ensure that the committed rate of return is maintained. But then every mitigation also comes with a risk also. Then you have to see that to what extent the risk you are able to absorb within your appetite. That’s as far as life insurance is concerned. 

Now, typically going with the mutual fund, it is again managing the client’s money but again, while again, the fund manager and the CIO, there also, his main credibility and job lies to maintain the fund appropriately and deliver returns, but somehow the mutual fund policyholders would be aware because in very bold terms it is stated that you are investing in market instruments which is subject to this movement. So that way somehow, there is a bit of a difference in terms of the expectation of the customers is what I can say. To managing the expectation is the main challenge. I hope I was able to explain you.

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Yes, you articulated it perfectly. For any layman, he’ll clearly understand the difference. So one thing as you rightly said, the perception that – I mean I talk to my friends in general is, mutual fund risk capital, [Foreign Speech] insurance [Foreign Speech]. So the kind of perception, the psychological perception that I have is when I invest in an insurance company for my ULIP or market return, it’s like it’s safe and so that I believe adds to the burden for the CIO in an insurance company and I’m sure you’ll have your tug of war with actuaries and they’ll say no mortality rate [Foreign Speech]. So that’s why I wanted to pick your brains and understand how challenging, at the same time I believe it is very satisfying also, right sir?

Ajit Banerjee: Yeah, I mean, see, the thing is, end of the day, when actually – again, because I have managed the funds of a general insurance company and life insurance company also, I can feel the difference actually directly. See, when end of the day, you are able to deliver the returns, your company has been able to deliver the returns, the interest rate mismatch risk is also minimized, actuary says they’re fine, it is within – okay, we have been able to add incremental profit to that because of the mismatch risk is well within the appetite as well as the book yield is maintained. You as a function and also leading the function along with the team feels that okay, good that what we have done has fetched results and which is positive for the policyholders, positive for the shareholders also. So yes, there is a sense of satisfaction.

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Excellent. What are your views on the insurance penetration in India? We still see that the overall insurance penetration, especially the middle class, lower middle class is very low. If I were to ask you as a wish list, what would ideally be the mix? What are your views on how India can have a better insurance penetration? 

Ajit Banerjee: See, presently I think our penetration is 4.2% as per the last published number, 3.2% in life and 1% in non-life, if I recollect the number properly, which means that for a population of 140 crores, there’s a huge scope which is there, right?

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Right.

Ajit Banerjee: So that is something which is also actually driving so many foreign companies to tap the Indian market also. So I mean, each and every day we get to see that so many companies are interested to come to India knowing pretty well that each country has its own limitations. But India today stands out quite – it’s said that it is an oasis in the global desert. Of course, there are some sandstorm which is blowing. But at the same time, because we are now one of the most fastest developing economy of the world, at the same time, our size of the economy also has grown up quite significantly and I think in another few years, we would be third largest economy of the world.

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Right. 

Ajit Banerjee: With increased digitalization, which has happened, at the same time with government also has undertaken so much large reforms and then our skill set of actually resolving a critical issue like — a critical crisis like COVID, for that matter, how we have been — everybody thought that we will not be — because so much is our density of the population, it will — and also with diverse geographies, how will a country like us able to manage? But we have shown the world that I think we are much better equipped to handle such with our knowledge, our intellectual capital that we have and we have actually, I think, beaten the world in that matter. 

So that way there is a lot of positive views on India at this point and rightfully so. So naturally, we need to increase the density and penetration — not density, penetration of the insurance policies and for which the scope is there and that will happen through increased digitalization. We are also seeing one of the largest business houses who has also shown interest in getting into the insurance sector and there are many others also. 

So if that happens, which means that there is a potential which everybody wants to get into and of course, distribution plays a very critical part in increasing the penetration. So the companies have to focus on actually enabling, developing affordable products also. And, for example, our company also the main key focus is to ensure those who needs the insurance the most or the aam admi for that matter. 

So that is something which I think majority of the insurance companies have also to think that we cannot create a product only for the niche segment of the population because while there is a good shift of population from the below the poverty line to lower middle class or middle class, which is a good sign, but significance still remains uncovered or under-covered. Okay? So naturally, distribution has to reach out and there has to be collaborative effort made by other institutions like, be it MFIs or small-scale banks. And actually movements are happening, lot of tie ups are happening at the ground on those. 

So we can expect and there is so much of focus by the regulators in last four, five years, I would say, where they want to actually have insurance for all by, I think, 2047 is what is the target, if I’m not wrong. So there are certainly – I mean the intent is very much there. The distribution avenues are there. Just one has to again there also connect the dots and link it through. The products has to be made affordable as well as the engagement with the direct customer has to be made more. And at the same time, the awareness of having to be insured also needs to be developed more in the country. COVID has taught, to a certain extent, why we need insurance.

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Very true. 

Ajit Banerjee: Although we should not wait for another such — neither we want to, neither we wish that, that should happen to teach the other people also. But I think one should learn from these that why we need to have some amount of cover to the extent what we can. And I think that would be the way going forward.

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Excellent, excellent. As an additional question to the comment that you made, have you personally seen an increase in insurance penetration post-COVID at Shriram? And what is the unique distribution model that Shriram has? I believe Shriram has other verticals like transport and all. So is that also a channel that you use? 

Ajit Banerjee: Yes, so actually what we have certainly seen is that there has been increase in awareness about that and because we as a group are actually present in almost every nook and corner of the country through our other group businesses that we have and which is so much respected and relied upon and again by the aam admi persons for that matter, I think that is something which we are leveraging upon and our company is also trying to now stress more on the persistency issues also, which will ensure that — see, because insurance policies until and unless you actually maintain it and you continue it, otherwise the policy lapses, then it doesn’t help. Right? So we have to — the emphasis also has to be to cover as well as to ensure that the policy is maintained. So those are the two things which I think the entire industry and we as a company are also trying to focus upon.

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Excellent, excellent. Now, shifting focus on the industry verticals that you’re happy about in India, general, if you can talk about certain key industries that you see as the rising sectors or you’re heavy on and certain industries that probably you’re a little concerned about, that’ll be nice. 

Ajit Banerjee: So at this point of time, the key themes which are playing out for the country certainly is developing India into Atmanirbhar Bharat, which means self-reliance India, just literal translation of that. So what does it mean? It means that we are able to actually be self-reliant in producing the critical components within the country, not expose ourselves too much into the external volatilities. At the same time, naturally, by doing so, if you’re able to do it by scale, then not only will you be able to actually develop your own economy, you will be able to generate employment potential. At the same time, you can also become the next reliable supply chain partner to the world. Right? 

Already in IT, we have demonstrated that we are the best in the world. Right? So that IT in a way has played a big brand ambassador that how our intellectual skills are. So I think we can leverage on that and extend that to the manufacturing sectors as well. For that to happen, certainly we have to develop our technology as well as many work is happening at the back end for the R&Ds also, because end of the day, you have to make a product affordable and competitive and large scale enough. With economies of scale only comes — ultimately, you are able to generate much more volume, at the same time export as well. 

So those are the things, which certainly, at the back end has to happen. And now coming back to the sectors where we are actually bullish is basically the infrastructure sector, if I may say. Again it is linked to the PLI and Atmanirbhar. That is the reason I started with that. And then, again cement sector is something which is also — all infrastructure ingredients, so as to say, is something which is quite important. BFSI, our banking and financial service sector is possibly — it’s one of its best, what has been seen so far. The balance sheets are very much clean now. It’s quite adequately capitalized and at the same time with the insolvency and banking code which has come into play, that has also helped to improve the financial condition of the banks. 

Now that way, I guess, the banks are also willing to — in a position to lend it because they know that there are avenues through which they can recover when it comes to goes to the litigation mode knowing no people can just like that get away again wilfully. So apart from that, I think we are also focusing quite a lot as a country on developing the renewable and clean tech energies. That is something which we are seeing that major industry houses, be it, say for example, developing the new battery sets for a large [Phonetic] scale, specialty chemicals which will be used for those batteries, just to give an example. And then certainly, again metal sectors also, now at this point of time, since globally we are seeing a recession in the West, China is also not picking up that well, so this is a bit of an advantage from metal consuming countries like India who is emphasizing on infrastructure development at this point of time. 

So broadly this is something which we are bullish upon and also majority of the sectors who have, I think, primary customer base within the country or the home consuming — domestic-faced companies, if I may say, for the supply chain. And slightly, at this point of time, maybe to avoid would be the too much front — export-oriented industries at this point of time till such time the recession is getting out and we are able to see some global growth coming back. Till such time, I think it is better to take a minimal exposure on those export-oriented sectors.

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Excellent, excellent. Now, shifting gears a little. Can you share some insights or lessons you have learned from the guest lectures? You are most coveted speaker at many of premier institutes in India. What are the young India or young Bharat perspectives? What are their views and what kind of lessons do you impart for the next generation? 

Ajit Banerjee: I think there are tremendous opportunities which are being made available now and actually I think that has happened across the generations. The opportunities which possibly my grandfather had, my father had more opportunities and likewise for me. So this is not something which has not — but the magnitude of the scale of openings which is happening now. For example, when I got into the job sector, economic liberalization was happening. So that time, economy was opening up, right? So we saw so many foreign banks, foreign insurance companies and all that coming in. So many sunrise sectors started and it’s happening now as well.

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Right.

Ajit Banerjee: And with so much technological progression happening and also, I would say, disruptors coming into place, okay, who are challenging the big and mighties. So that way, I think the opportunities are tremendous and that also demands — everybody would go for the best, right? For example, whenever you are picking any item or even taking and seeking an appointment from the doctor, will you not look for the best doctor, the extent you are able to afford? 

Radhakrishnan Chonat: True.

Ajit Banerjee: Similarly, while the scope is enlarging but everybody would like to pick up the resource who would be the best for them. So naturally, that also makes it necessary for the talent pool and the young generation also, they equip themselves pretty well. And other thing which I would also recommend that, while today information is available in abundance, when we had to do projects, we had to go to the field and get it. But that gave us the firsthand experience of the customer experience for all that. While we can gather the data from the net or digital world, but we should also have that filtration criteria by checking it on the ground also that what is reality. Because today, nothing stops us from just expressing our views, right, which may be polarized as well. So if you rely on that, you will also form an opinion which is not a very balanced opinion. So I mean, excess information at time also is very confusing. So you need to pick up those set of information which is reliable and which will give us a balanced view. Okay? That’s one thing which my humble recommendation would be, that is very much important. 

At the same time, again, nothing substitutes for the hard work, smart hard work, I would say. You have to work hard in a smart way. And again, everybody will look for the best. So naturally, within the available resources that we have, we should try to prepare versus — and you get hardly one hour time to present yourself to the companies who are looking for the resources. So you should be able to present yourself so well that you can sell your story. There’s no point in acting oversmart. It will get picked up. Experience will help you to pick it up that he’s trying to outsell yourself. But one should be genuine, but at the same time smart also

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Excellent. Excellent advice. One should work hard in a smart way, what a way to put it. So Ajit as a person, when he’s not crunching numbers, when he’s not looking at investments, how do you spend your time. As a Bengali, I’m sure there are multitude of ways but I would love to listen from you. 

Ajit Banerjee: So I like to listen to songs and that is one of the way which I relax. Slightly, I would say light music. We Bengalis we cannot live without Tagore. So that is part and parcel of our life. And because you can refer to all situations of your life when you can get some inspiration from Tagore. That’s one. Other thing is, I also like to go for a long drive to unwind myself, which of course nowadays doesn’t happen that regularly, but I do that. And I also picked up the habit of reading some books of mainly either Swami Vivekananda, at the same time, Holy Mother Sarada and the Holy Trinity, what we say? I get a lot of inspiration and mental support from that and I also keep in touch with my friends whom I don’t need to talk anything about my professional work or with my relatives and all so that I can unwind myself because sometimes I feel a bit irritated. See, on a holiday also, you get messages, market is this and that irritates me actually.

So after the office, generally, I just want to try to stay away from it because that’s my way of relaxing actually. 

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Perfect. Perfect. So you actually have a switch, off work. Switch it on and switch it off. 

Ajit Banerjee: It is very much necessary. It is very much necessary, otherwise it just gets into your mind and you will finally suddenly end up losing sleep about it.

Radhakrishnan Chonat: That’s actually quite profound. True. Ajit, you mentioned about you being a prolific reader. Now, this is something that I normally ask all my guests, books or articles or anything in general that you would recommend as a must read? Earlier question, you just mentioned about a couple of books. Anything in general that has actually helped you? Now, I know it’s very tough for me to ask you to limit it to three, but that’s a challenge that I’m throwing. Three books or articles or something that my audience would love to read.

Ajit Banerjee: See, I think I have come across a book Psychology of Money, I like that. Also that Black Swan Event. That is something which I also liked. And apart from that, others are, as I said that I’m developing the habit of actually reading some books on the spiritual side also. I don’t know how many would like to read it, but when time permits I think Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna is something which one should read. And that’s on the — I would say to settle you or rather to calm your mind. That is, increase your spiritual or soothe your spiritual quotient, you can read that. 

And apart from that, I generally, say, rely on actually articles from some — as I said that nowadays we are getting lot of polarized views which generally one has to avoid. So sometimes I refer to articles written by research houses. I do not want to name as such, but we should be able to — because naming other –I mean, my preference would be that one which has got an extensive research support to justify their findings. Some MNCs, which they present good reports. Economist is a journal which I read regularly and then also news articles and the papers, business papers is something which I read and also sometimes read some blogs in the LinkedIn of professionals who are from our field, whom I find it quite balanced in their views. But I would not like to name because that is not something which I would prefer.

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Excellent. Excellent. Well, Ajit, it’s been an absolute pleasure to catch up with you and I’m sure the life experiences that you shared is going to be a treasure trove for all the listeners of this Fund Manager Insights. And I must say that your team is very lucky to be mentored by you.

Ajit Banerjee: That I cannot comment upon. But yes, generally I try to be honest and transparent. That has been my way of working. And also another thing is that what has also helped at maintaining good relationship with the peers in the industry and I’m fortunate to have very good peers in the industry in the insurance side. And because of the relationship that we have, whenever even I also need some guidance and help and I can just call up that what is the best way to do about it. Sometimes on regulator side also I’ve got a lot of guidance. And so maintaining relationship in the industry, professional and personal is very critical because everybody — it’s like a concept of reciprocally we should be available for each other so that we can guide the one who needs the help. At the same time, when we are in trouble, we can also get some professional guidance. That is very critical and that helps me a lot. So another tip. Thank you so much.

Radhakrishnan Chonat: Networking. Yes, absolute pleasure. And I look forward to more such interactions in the future. And thanks for taking the time out on this auspicious day, Ajit. It’s a pleasure. Thank you. 

Ajit Banerjee: Thank you. All the best. 

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