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Lokvani Talks To Pradeep Audho

Ranjani Saigal

Owner of the newly launched PKA Financial Group, Inc, Pradeep Audho is joining Lokvani as a financial columnist providing information on finance and answering your money questions.  He talked to Lokvani about his company and provides tips on common errors people make with their finances. Pradeep has had several years of experience serving as a MetLife Financial Advisor. He has a degree in Information Systems from Northeastern University. He is also Treasurer of the India Association of Greater Boston (IAGB). He was born and brought up in Guyana, South America and his mother is a Pandita who performs ceremonies in the Arya Samaji tradition.

It is interesting to note that you spent your childhood in Guyana. What was life like in Guyana? Why did you move to the United States?

Indians began to move to Guyana in 1838 after slavery was abolished in 1833. People were needed to work on the sugarcane plantations. The population of Guyana is approx 1 million out of which roughly 52%  are of Indian descent. My great great grandparents migrated to Guyana. Many people owned farms. My father was an accountant and my mother was a teacher/priest. We lived in what may be considered a typical village in Guyana. There was one straight road with houses on either side with plenty of farmland behind the homes.  My grandfather owned sugarcane and coffee plantations. My maternal grandfather was a Pandit. My mother later also became a Pandita.

It was very much an Indian culture. The food, clothes etc. were the same but we did not speak any Indian languages, only English.  I grew up watching Hindi films in the theatre with English subtitles.

In the 70’s and 80’s there were a lot of political/social issues which caused many people to migrate to the US/Canada. My family moved to Boston in the late 80’s.

Your mother is unusual in that she is a female priest or a  Pandita. What is it like to be her son?

It is wonderful. It helped me learn and appreciate the Indian traditions. I have maintained the practices/teachings I have received from both my parents and extended family over the years.

What motivated you to change careers?

I did not enjoy my work in the IT space. It just was not something I was interested in as a career but the money was excellent so I stayed with it for seven years.  Later I felt I needed to do something that would give me more personal freedom. While working on my degree, I worked at a bank for a few months and I was very interested in finance. I started looking into the option of starting either in the Insurance space or as a stock broker. I liked insurance better. As I looked at different companies, I decided to join MetLife since they are the largest life insurance company in the US. It was a good training ground, but after six years at MetLife I decided it was time for me to go independent.

You decided to leave MetLife and start your own company which you are launching this week. Why did you choose to become an independent agent / advisor?

I have been thinking about it for a few years now. Many friends and relatives have encouraged me to take the next step, so I did! As an independent advisor I have the ability to survey the market and bring the best product to suit my client’s needs. This saves them time since I do the shopping for them. If I work for one company I would “generally” not have that flexibility.  I am a strong believer in educating and empowering the customer to find the best product at the best rate. As an independent advisor, I can deliver on that promise. My client’s will have access to products and services from over fifty companies including MetLife.

What is your approach to providing products and servcies to your customers?

I am very committed to understanding the needs of the customer and providing with as much information as possible to allow them to make a decision. I do not believe in pushing products. While I will call to follow up with customers I never force a particular product on anyone. This approach has worked very well for me.

What are the core services that will be provided by PKA Financial Services?

We will focus on Life Insurance, Long Term Care, Disability, Employee Benefits, Retirement Planning and Investments. Over the years we have also built a great network of various professional people whom we trust and would refer clients to for their services whether it’s a CPA, Attorney etc.

What type of people gain most by having a financial advisor?

I think most people benefit from having a financial professional because most people do not have the time to study and understand all the products/ideas in the financial arena. Many do not have the interest to read up on all the latest investment advice or whatever other topic is relevant to their situation. When you are new to this country, you might not know what you should do financially and there are lots of people ready and willing to sell you everything and anything, so it can be quite confusing.  I think you gain some level of peace of mind knowing that someone is helping you reach your financial goals. Obviously there are some bad apples, but most advisors have their client’s best interest at heart.

Can you list a few common mistakes that South Asians make with their finances?

Interesting question, where do I start?  Something I see very often is the lack of a will or trust. If you have kids or any personal property, I think it’s important that you legally document what your intentions are for your “stuff” when you pass away. People just put it off and do nothing until it’s too late.  I am obviously not an attorney and do not give legal advice but people really should consider talking to an Estate Planning attorney.  Make sure it’s an Estate Planning Attorney and not a Real Estate attorney.

We thank you for agreeing to be our financial columnist. What can our readers expect from the column?

Thanks for the opportunity. There will be a few articles written by me but I will also solicit articles from various professionals in the local area who work in related financial/legal fields.  It will be very educational and informational.  We will have two formats. The first Lokvani.com issue each month will feature an article from a local person and the second issue will feature an Ask Money column where readers can write in and have their questions answered. Hopefully people like the format.

You decided to become Treasurer of IAGB. Can you describe that experience for us?

Anupam and Neelam Wali asked me to be part of IAGB back in 2003. I was initially skeptical about being involved but Mr. & Mrs. Wali convinced me that I had a certain skill set which would be beneficial to the organization.  The IAGB team provided a warm welcome to me and I am delighted that I have been part of the organization that has such a wide reach. This year at the India Day event we hope to have over 18,000 people in attendance.  IAGB used to celebrate only two events a year, Independence Day and Republic Day. Last year we added a college workshop in partnership with Lokvani and also a food festival.  We hold Visa camps regularly. Our sister organization Saheli has been recognized for the phenomenal work it does in the area of supporting women. I am delighted that IAGB is welcoming of the younger members of the community like me, many of whom are second generation Americans of Indian descent. We have a very good team in place and I look forward to a few new initiatives we are planning for the coming year. Personally it has brought me in touch with many wonderful people who have become dear friends. It has brought me in touch with the community and made me realize how wonderful the community is.  I cannot say enough good things about the many people I have met over the past few years.
So, if you are reading this, please show up on Sunday Aug 12th at the Hatch Shell for India Day and if you are interested in joining or volunteering with IAGB, please contact us at www.iagb.org
If people need to learn more about your company how can they reach you?
The can reach me via my website at www.pkafinancial.com.

Thanks for your time

Thank you

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