NEW DELHI: Gone are the days when if you called a broker, the phone would have most likely been picked by a finance guy.In a field that has been traditionally dominated by research and sales, engineers have suddenly become the biggest workforce as new-age products require more of them for development, maintenance as well as sales.The biggest force helping the rising clout of engineers on Dalal Street has been the tech-savvy millennials, who are now in their earnings age, and form the biggest set of potential customers for any financial firm.“When you are trying to tap a young population, what attracts them is ease of use, focus in design and aesthetics. This requires a lot of effort to develop the craft. Unlike traditional brokerage shops or banks, the vast majority of our employees are hardcore engineers, product managers or designers. Every solution we come up with starts with the engineering team, and then trickles down,” said Ravi Kumar, Co-founder & CEO, Upstox, now India’s second largest brokerage behind Zerodha.Technologically superior products are the new currency on Dalal Street. Better and simple user experience is the biggest USP for any product that the broking industry is trying to push through free-of-cost, word-of-mouth publicity.Of late, the broking industry has been seeing mushrooming of technology-based discount brokers, who largely focus on having products that suit new-age investors. They also saw a comparatively higher new customer additions during the lockdown. Now, even traditional brokers are waking up to focus more on developing digital products.“Digitisation is the way forward. Many traditional brokers are realizing this slowly and adapting to the new way of doing things. While most of us have already established sales and research teams, some of the traditional players may now be building digital capabilities,” said Vinay Agrawal, CEO of Angel Broking. “It is due to this that one gets the feeling that engineers and app designers are taking precedence over a conventional talent pool in the broking industry,” he said.Also, as stock traders are increasingly going mobile, members of sales and research teams now need to have high ‘technical quotients’, industry executives said.“We test the ‘technology quotient’ of the employees before hiring. Our core team is filled with engineers and most of them come with a degree in computer science. In the sales force too, over 90 per cent of new customer accounts are opened through the digital sales app. Our sales team connects with the customer virtually to assist the KYC-compliance process. We prefer a high level of computer literacy in the sales team,” said Vamsi Krishna, Head of Digital Business, Product and Marketing, Axis Securities.Krishna said multiple formats are required to serve the Indian customers and the company now has relatively more sales people, as chasing millennials is changing the norms.“The mix of teams has changed in the recent years. At Axis Direct, excluding the research team, we have one product engineer or a digital sales person at the central office for every four or five on-ground sales persons. I shall consider the product, engineering and digital sales teams as one unit,” Krishna said.In a testament to the evolving focus of this bank-based broker, Axis Securities aims to launch a brand new mobile app and website and apps during the December quarter, consisting of market analytics, portfolio analytics, advisory products and chatbots. It is also developing a new desktop trading terminal called ‘Axis Trade Pro’, which is currently in the beta stage and is likely to debut in October 2020.For some, not having a research branch and processing sales digitally are helping save on costs, which in turn can help them grow rapidly, executives of tech-based brokerages said.“Product and tech are no more support functions, but have become key drivers of business. For a fintech platform like ours experiencing unprecedented growth, new products and a high-quality technology experience are key to customer acquisition and retention,” said Prakarsh Gagdani, CEO, 5paisa.com.
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