Nancy Ortenstone’s A place for dreaming catches your eye as soon as you enter Amit Banka’s modest office. It’s an appropriate piece of art for the bustling 600-sq ft office at Solitaire Corporate Park in suburban Mumbai — this is where Banka and his 20-member team are busy dreaming of making it big, for themselves and the man behind it all, Ronnie Screwvala. As managing director of Unilazer Ventures, Banka is in charge of managing the personal wealth of Screwvala, the promoter-turned-professional manager of the Disney-owned UTV Communications, who sold his stake in Walt Disney for an estimated ₹800 crore in 2011. The 38-year-old, who earlier worked with Screwvala in UTV, quit the company last year to handle Screwvala’s ₹500-crore personal kitty.
Just like Banka, 51-year-old private equity veteran Dinesh Vaswani, who previously worked with the Singapore government-owned Temasek and UK-based Englefield Capital, too, got his break after the Anil Agarwal-owned Sesa Goa acquired unlisted iron ore mining company, Dempo Mining Corporation, from the Dempo family in a ₹1,750-crore deal in 2009. Initially, Vaswani began with the Dempo family as his big client, but today his four-member firm, Acuitas Capital, advises over 20 business families from his office at Nariman Point, the central business district in South Mumbai.
In 2010, career bankers IAS Balamurugan and Suresh Ramanujam, putting to good use their years of experience in corporate banking and wealth management, quit their jobs with ICICI Bank and Deutsche Bank, respectively, to set up Metis to act as wealth advisor to rich families in south India.
See the common thread linking these three companies? They all run family offices (FOs), which manage money for ultra high net worth families. FOs are either managed by the business family by itself and are known as single family offices (SFOs), or could be run by independent advisors for multiple families and are referred to as multi-family offices (MFOs). It’s a segment of the wealth management business that is slowly coming of age in India.
The Times are A-changing
Historically, wealth management among Indian business families, in the pre-lib era and even to a large extent today, has largely been an in-house affair. In groups such as the Birlas and Bajajs, usually each member of the promoter family