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'I became a successful CEO at 30'

Anil Rego, CEO, Right Horizons
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December 03, 2007

How many of us can think of retiring at 30? And actually achieve it?

If you are Anil Rego, CEO of Right Horizons, an investment advisory and wealth management firm in Bangalore, now Bengalooru, then it is eminently possible.

"I'd always wanted to be an entrepreneur," says Anil, whose company with over 50 employees now manages Rs 75 crore for his clients, over the phone. Right from the time he joined Wipro [Get Quote], first as business planning manager and then in the merger & acquisition team, Anil was sure that one day he would build up his own organisation some day.

And that day came five years earlier than what he had targeted for. Being the smart entrepreneur he is Anil knew that starting his own business without keeping aside funds for his family would be a risky proposition. He was able to do that when he turned 30.

"My plan was to retire from corporate life and start on my own by 35 years, even before I joined Wipro. I had set myself a target of hitting a certain capital required for the family's monthly expenses, which I hit earlier and hence 'retired' and started 'Right Horizons' at 30 years," says Anil.

Anil considers the legendary investor Warren Buffet and Wipro Chairman Azim Premji as his inspiration. He admires Infosys founder N R Narayanmurthy for his ability to build a successful business. The Right Horizons CEO spoke to's Prasanna D Zore about his passion for investments, the challenges he faced while starting Right Horizons, and the qualities that are needed for a person to build a successful business. And, of course, how he retired at age 30!

Give us a brief sketch of your career in the industry and the company you worked with before you founded your own company.

My first job with Wipro happened to be my last job as well. I had a reasonably long tenure at Wipro -- of around 7 years. After my stint in business planning, I was part of the initial merger and acquisition team of Wipro. During that spell, I realised that we are so busy with our work that we tend to neglect our own financial management. That's where the thought of Right Horizons was born.

I am from Mangalore, though I was born and brought up in Bangalore. I did my pre-university and degree at St Joseph's Arts and Science College there.

Subsequently, I did my CFA/MBA from ICFAI Business School, Bangalore. My first job was in Wipro Infotech (now it is Wipro Technologies), as a business-planning manager.

Did you always have a passion for investments? When did you start investing?

Investments were always my passion. In fact, I started investing when I was studying in pre-university. I took money from my mother and started, after which, I never looked behind. When I took up my career, the only course I applied for was the CFA/MBA. However busy and hectic the schedule was at office, I used to keenly watch and invest in the market, with most of my research being done late in the night.

How did you succeed in retiring at 30? When did you decide to establish Right Horizons? Was it a struggle -- what disappointments did you have to cope with?

My plan was to retire from corporate life and start on my own by 35 years, even before I joined Wipro.

I had set myself a target of hitting a certain capital required for the family's monthly expenses, which I hit earlier and hence 'retired' and started Right Horizons at 30. This was possible because of planned and regular investments, right from the start. In fact, I had to plan for it in innovative ways, since there was no pension plan starting at 35!

I felt that there was a need for a one-stop-shop for all my financial needs. I spent too much time working with multiple players. I also found there was no one taking care of investors across financial planning, taxation, multiple investment avenues, tracking and providing regular and online reporting.

Most of the advisors did not have a financial background, which I felt was important even in insurance, which has evolved into market-linked instruments. I have tried to build those features and benefits, which I was looking for as an individual investor, intp Right Horizons.

I also believe that Indian equities should provide phenomenal returns and I saw this trend early and took advantage of the opportunity. Since I started at the right time, the journey has been fairly smooth. The biggest challenge we had in initial years was to attract good, quality talent, which is a prerequisite to success in any business.

When faced with a new challenge, how do you set about taking it on?

I have always set my goals first and then planned how to get there. We have taken up very challenging goals and have  achieve them in reasonable time. The most common reason for failure, in my view, is the low priority given to 'tracking' one's progress. When we normally set out, we also need to outline parameters that we will track.

What qualities set apart success stories like yours from the average?

The factors that have helped us achieve what we have are:

~ Always dream and work towards converting your dreams into reality.

~ Formulate a plan to achieve your dreams, and more importantly, track it.

~ Do what is right for the customer -- for example we have always believed in doing what is right for the customer even if it has a revenue impact on us. My view is that in the long term, this is what will create value for us, as the customer sees the difference and remains with us for life.

~ Have passion and focus in what you do -- when you know what you are doing, and you enjoy what you are doing, this comes automatically.

~ Hard work -- I am always on the job.

~ Work as a team: Alone, one can only do so much.

What kind of criticism have you faced in the course of your career, and how have you learned to deal with it?

There were a lot of skeptical people, who felt I was making a big mistake by moving out of a great company, with a fantastic salary and growth prospects. Also, the investment field was full of individual advisors, and many vendors wanted to meet up with me initially out of sheer inquisitiveness. In our business, competition comes at various levels -- from unstructured individual agents and advisors, from large banks and financial institutions, and at the high end from multinational banks. I remained focused towards building an organisation in a highly competitive environment, and that seems to have paid-off.

Did you have a mentor, and if so, how did he/ she inspire you to steer your career in the right direction?

There are a lot of people and companies that have inspired me. As I would think for most investment professionals -- Warren Buffet, Chairman, Berkshire Hathaway --  has been inspiring.  Mr Azim Premji [Images], chairman of Wipro, has also been a source of inspiration in terms of importance given to time, attention to detail, emphasis on process and quality, and his drive for cutting unnecessary costs.

I have admired companies like Infosys [Get Quote] for their strategic thinking and determining the course of the company a lot in advance, through great planning.  Also, Mr Narayana Murthy for building an organisation that is not dependant on any one individual and the wealth building across all stakeholders.

How has your career impacted your personal life? Do you feel like you've had to sacrifice a few personal pleasures in favour of your job?

Despite hectic work hours, I do spend quality time with my family. I come home a little early and spend time with them in the evenings and then start my 'second shift' work from 9 pm to about midnight.

Having come such a long way in your career in such a short span of time, what do you think remains to be achieved? Which dreams are yet to be realised career-wise?

At this time, I want to only focus on Right Horizons. In the future, I would like to set up a seed capital fund to help other entrepreneurs achieve their goals and work on social causes. Currently, we provide senior citizens free, tax filing, etc.  I would also like to work toward helping with the education of poor children.

What tips do you have for today's youngsters looking at wealth management as a good career opportunity?

It is great career path to take because the amount of learning it provides. Since it is across multiple areas like taxation, financial planning, etc and works across multiple products like insurance, mutual funds, equity, etc, anyone who has built up a good knowledge across these verticals, is difficult to replace. This provides great career growth, both monetary and non-monetary. 

What makes Right Horizons a great place to work?

Creating a common vision with the employee: Employees are part of decision making, sharing of company plans and strategies with employees.

Providing an environment of learning and providing challenging roles: High learning through continuous and in-depth training provided by top management on a regular basis, providing opportunity for leadership.

Compensation, reward and recognition programs -- both monetary and non-monetary: Competitive compensation, periodic recognition of outstanding performers, team parties/offsite team building get-togethers, and wealth-creation program.

Creating a family environment: Not much hierarchy, informal interactions, assisting team on personal issues

Can you tell me more about Right Horizons?

Right Horizons is an end-to-end investment advisory and wealth management firm that focuses on providing a solution that is specific to customers' needs. It works towards understanding financial goals of customers and helping them to attain those goals.

Our effort is to free the customer from her/his financial matters, and to help them achieve their dreams. We follow a de-risked financial model and though we use higher risk avenues, we do so on a lower risk basis.

We have a unique corporate help desk model where we do educative presentations on taxes and investments, set up support helplines by mail and phone, set up daily helpdesks on campus for employees, manage a section of their intranets -- we have experience in doing this for a corporate with over 50,000 employees across multiple locations.

We have branches in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai and have grown to be 50 strong, in less than 4 years.

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