Dinesh Goel, Thunderbird MBA and Managing Director – LCR Global, Advisory Services & Digital Strategy at LCR Capital Partners talks to Euro Digital Partners Insights on how his firm is marketing personalized high-value financial products to clients around the globe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sean: Welcome to the “Euro Digital Partners Insights” podcast. I’m Sean Patterson. I’m happily joined by another Thunderbird graduate Dinesh Goel of LCR Capital Partners. Dinesh was at Thunderbird when I was there in the 2000 to 2006 timeframe.
Dinesh, welcome to the program.
Dinesh: Thank you, Sean. Pleasure to be here with you and your listeners.
Sean: Dinesh, for those listeners interested in business school programs. I’m curious to know what took you to Thunderbird.
Dinesh: So, it’s an interesting little story. Back when I was looking at business schools, there was Thunderbird by the name of Aditya Dalmia, who my family happened to know and I’d connected with him about helping me choose programs and he recommended Thunderbird to me. He helped me do my research and with the process, and it so happened that I chose Thunderbird because it was the number one program in global management education.
Sean: It seems like the world is radically different from that time. Do you think the need for an MBA in international management remains? Or do you think it’s the case that the economy changed in such a fundamental way in the last 15 years that we need to rethink these types of programs?
Dinesh: I think there’s been a lot of changes since when you and I went to grad school. But that said, the reality of today’s businesses, and the world itself is that we’re more global and more interconnected than we can imagine. If you look around you, you realize that the exposure and the diversity of global interaction and transactions is a lot higher than we give it importance for it, right? That’s one. You know, I was very recently speaking with a fellow T-bird Kelly Kreisser if you know of her.
Sean: Sure, of course I know Kellie.
Dinesh: Yup. And she was telling me about the new programs that Thunderbird is coming up with. They’re talking about the use of technology, global content, international delivery through 25 global offices, state of the art new campus at Phoenix, Arizona. And at the end of the day, I think what Thunderbird has had to go through over the last 10 – 15 years since you and I graduated is also a rethink of its own strategy. But that said, the focus has always been global knowledge, global management, international education, and exposure it provides to its audiences, the students. While the program itself might go through changes, I think the importance of international management remains and it only grows with time.
Sean: Yeah, I wonder if you’ve been back to the campus because I think it’s been, if I’m not mistaken, functional for some time now. I haven’t been there in quite a while. Obviously, the campus is in a completely different location. I think even the curriculum is a little bit different than I remember it.
Dinesh: So, I haven’t been back at the school since 2014, which is when we had our 10-year reunion. But I think there’s a 75th-year reunion coming up next fall, I guess in October 2021, which I’m looking forward to participating in.
Sean: Sounds good to me. I hope I can make it myself. Let’s fast forward a little bit. I wanna know what you’re doing at LCR Capital, how you got there, and what the firm does.
Dinesh: Sure. So, LCR Capital Partners is a trusted advisor to global families who are currently and actively seeking U.S. residency and investment options. There’s a U.S. government program called the EB-5 which delivers U.S residency via green cards to investors and their families in exchange for investment in a U.S business or real estate for a limited period. And these programs provide clients and their families access to education, jobs, entrepreneurial opportunities outside of their home countries, especially the U.S. At the same time, we work very hard to build multi-generation relationships with our clients and are very attached to their families because an average life cycle of interaction with a client is anywhere, like I said, between five to seven years. And going back to the global theme, our belief is very strongly that foreign investment helps the communities grow stronger, helps diversity, helps create jobs. And so that’s what we do as a firm. Interestingly, just about four years ago, I was introduced to LCR by a fellow T-bird, Marcos Guevara, who graduated in 1999. He reached out and introduced me to LCR for their India market entry strategy.
Interestingly, at that point in time, I was transitioning from my third entrepreneurial venture and looking at my fourth one and exploring what I wanted to do when the LCR opportunity came to helping them with the India market entry strategy. For the first three years of my engagement with them, I actually led the sales and the commercial efforts of the firm in India, Gulf (Dubai, Oman and others) and Southeast Asia. And in late 2019, I transitioned to Managing Director for advisory services and digital strategy globally.
As part of my role in advisory services, I’m constantly looking at new products and solutions that support our client families and help them with their goals of being successful globally. At the same time it helps us go with the theme building multi-generational relationships with our clients. On the digital strategy side, I work with identifying technologies, defining processes, transformation, training, adoption and utilization of new technologies, and making it central to our business. You know, things like sales enablement tools or how do we help our commercial and sales teams across the globe deliver the same value to our clients. We look at our digital marketing efforts and how we invest our budgets across platforms globally. And like I said, new products and solutions. So that’s a part of my role at LCR.
Sean: How geographically distributed is the firm? I mean, in a way, you’re a global, no, or do you prefer the word international?
Dinesh: I think they’re interchangeable a little bit. But just to give you an insight into how global we are as a firm, we have offices in eight countries, but we have clients in 40 plus countries. We operate as one team across the world. So, essentially, the first office to open up at a given point of time in a day is Singapore. And the last office to shut the day is our team in LA, right? And so we’re actually transitioning from timezone to timezone.
Sean: So that spans pretty much the globe.
Dinesh: Exactly right. So we’re in Singapore, we’re in India, we’re in Dubai. We’re in South Africa. We’re in Sao Paulo. We’re in Miami, We’re in Westport, Connecticut, just north of New York and we’ve got a team in LA. And we’ve got partners across the world. So what really influences a lot of that is our culture. It’s the same mission and same values across offices, across teams, and technology. I mean, everything from using slack for internal communication to HubSpot for tracking global work streams going on parallelly and be it shared drives and other things in the digital work stream. Essentially, it’s a seamless global operation be it commercial, be it client services, be it compliance. While we’re fairly geographically distributed, we’re also a global firm that is working seamlessly on the operations side.
Sean: Well, speaking of global firm, you must have had to deal with COVID-19ة the pandemic pretty early on. Because at the same time that some people are panicking about it in, say, East Asia, people in LA must have been thinking, “No big deal. What is this virus?” It must have been strange to see sort of the virus spread across the world and affect each of your offices at a slightly different time.
Dinesh: Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting that you bring that up. When you look at how India was responding or how we were evaluating things, I’ll split that answer in two parts, personally, and as a firm. Personally, I think being someone who has a low immunity system, I had actually a watch out on coronavirus fairly early to mid-Feb. And actually, finally, I’m someone who travels about 15 days a month for the last 10 odd years and actually had my last international trip outside the country on the 6th of February. And so that’s how early I’d started tracking that.
Sean: Yeah, that’s pretty early.
Dinesh: Yeah. I mean, geographically India is very close to China, right across the border. But we’d started tracking it fairly early personally. And, you know, that’s how the exchange started happening internationally and globally within the offices and we as a firm decided to respond as and how needed.
What we’ve been able to do is since mid-March we’ve been able to transition our team completely to work from home. And we care very deeply about our people, we’re a small team, but a very efficient team. And so we’ve been able to, as a firm decide how we want to respond to it locally with a global aspect to it.
The other part is, as a firm, the senior management of the firm, the partners, and of course, our chairman and CEO, they’ve been very nice to fund personal protective equipment. Be it sanitizers, or face shields, or anything that you need personally and locally for the team. I think we’ve responded fairly well in a manner where none of our team members are impacted personally by coronavirus.
Sean: I mean, that’s fantastic. How has it affected your interaction with clients? Because your business is famously face-to-face conducted over handshakes and tea. How does a world where we interact over FaceTime and Zoom change your schedule?
Dinesh: Yeah, that’s a very interesting question. And thank you for bringing it up. 95% of our business is based on in-person interaction. In late 2019, we had a 15 country roadshow, and I’m talking October or November 2019, with almost everyone in the firm traveling, which resulted in our most successful business year ever financially. Having been on the sales and commercial side, at my end I can share with you that traditionally, I’ve served only one client that I haven’t met personally before they became a client – which means from an introduction to signing on with paperwork and that’s from the 160 clients I’ve onboarded in my previous role.
That said, when I transitioned into the role of Managing Director for Advisory Services and Digital Strategy, our digital transformation actually began at the beginning of the year itself, in January 2020. We were already thinking of ways and working to evaluate technologies, which we could use to form relationships with our clients without such a heavy dependence on in-person meetings. That said, all of that has had to be condensed into a much shorter cycle of implementation. The transition to an online world has been interesting and challenging. It’s not just about using Zoom or Skype, or Google, or FaceTime. It’s about changing the whole culture of the firm itself. It’s about adopting processes that deliver the same results. And the positives for us have been that we’re a firm that has a very entrepreneurial culture. We’re a firm where everyone in the team believes in the purpose of the firm. And we have no boundaries globally, like I said, we work in different timezones. But we’re all constantly thinking of how we can make our business flourish and better. So it’s been an interesting transition so far.
Sean: Yeah. I mean, I have the impression talking with other people in business. And first of all, congratulations on last year’s success. That’s great. I’m just wondering, it seems to me that a lot of people are foreseeing permanent change here and I’m wondering if you see that for your firm as well?
Dinesh: There’s a couple of thoughts to that. One is I do believe that some things will go back to normal, for example, the world will go back to travel and vacationing in other countries. There’s no doubt about it. However, on the flip side is that this has been a long period of lockdown for the world and something that we as a generation, or at least, a generation before us, or even two for that matter of fact, hasn’t seen these kinds of restrictions implemented. And these long periods of changes are sometimes habit-forming. So while in-person interaction going forward will still be required, we might not need it as much. To give you a short example, where we were meeting with clients, probably three, four or five times before they went from an introduction to sign up, in the future we probably will be able to meet in person much lesser, at the beginning to build that faith and let them get things going. Or we might do it towards the end where we figured out everything and a handshake or namaste is what’s required to seal the deal.
I’ll give you another example, I think, the world over, we’ve seen the concept of online payments, interaction and especially in the developed world. What you’ll see happen in the developing world is pretty phenomenal. India actually went through an eight to nine-week complete lockdown, right? And traditionally as a family, people were used to going and picking their own fruit and vegetables at the supermarket, at the store or the vegetable vendor. Now, what has changed is every three to four days, people are placing orders for the very basic things online. That is being delivered to every home in India similar to what happens in the U.S. with a completely seamless online payment and a no-touch delivery or a no physical interaction delivery. When you extrapolate that on 1.3 billion people, just imagine the impact of how habit-forming this can be.
Sean: Yeah, it completely changes so much of your life. I mean, because that’s such a common task for us, right?
Dinesh: Absolutely. while some things will go back to normal, some others will have become so ingrained in our nature and our habits, that we’d be happy to continue those even post-coronavirus. So, to your question, some things will change permanently and some things might or might not. So the jury’s still out on that.
Sean: Absolutely. And I guess, to look into that, you know, what I would point out is that we’re still figuring this out. We’re still in the midst of the pandemic. I don’t think there is any playbook yet formed on how to deal with the pandemic. And I guess time will tell. But I wanna focus a little bit more on the marketing side now. Let’s talk about LCR Capital Partners’ marketing strategy before the COVID-19 crisis hit.
Dinesh: Traditionally, 95% of our business actually comes from referral partners, such as wealth management firms and banking partners or existing clients, and also from industry colleagues. Traditional forms of business have relied on in-person interaction and face-to-face meetings. So it’s a very value-based relationship. It’s a relationship that’s built on trust and with time. In terms of marketing itself, since a lot of our business is based on referrals from existing clients and partners, you’re doing a lot of in-person interaction. That’s the traditional method. I also shared that we did 15 country road show towards the end of last year, which was our most phenomenal year financially. And so all of those are extremely important.
That said, we’re a firm that believes that we present ourselves and our firm’s values in a very strong manner. We like to focus on the value that we deliver to our clients.
Before coronavirus, a lot of our marketing was based on how we enhance the experience of the customer who we’re meeting or who’s being referred to us.
Sean: Yeah. And it seems to me that your company is really selling a story. I mean, storytelling for LCR seems particularly important, maybe more than the average firm. I’m curious to know, what kind of pictures do you paint for prospective clients?
Dinesh: Going back to our business, the fact of the matter is that we’re a firm that works as a trusted adviser to global families who are exploring the U.S. residency option or a U.S. investment option. Now, both are not mutually exclusive. But think about it from the perspective of somebody who is based in India, or Brazil, or Croatia, for that matter of fact, Invests in a U.S. business or invest in a U.S. project VIA the EB-5 Program. And subsequently transitions to the U.S. It’s a fairly large investment of $900,000, to begin with, and then eventually also brings and creates wealth in the United States.
That’s essentially all about storytelling and presenting how powerful the U.S. is in general. I mean, think about it for a minute. I believe strongly, that the U.S. economy currently and for the foreseeable future will continue to be the world’s largest economy. It is the world’s largest consumer market in terms of just average spend, and the U.S. dollar will continue to be the primary currency of the world. Historically, there have been so many examples of immigrants coming to the United States and succeeding. I mean, from what I understand, over 60% of immigrant entrepreneurs end up achieving their entrepreneurial dreams. Investments in the U.S. have done really well for immigrant businesses.
So we’ve built a story around that. It’s not just our clients, but generally the concept of immigrants success stories. I can share a couple of very interesting examples of client profiles with you. You know I’ve met this client family in Dubai a few years ago, who eventually did become our client, and they wanted to explore the U.S. residency option for their child because she wanted to pursue forensic science and her dream was to be able to go work for FBI or CIA. The only way you’re gonna get into that is, first you get U.S. residency and then you become a U.S. citizen, technically, right. So that’s one example.
The other example is from a family in India, who’s son, when I met them, I was blown away by just the amount of passion this child had for astronomy and cosmology. And his dream was to go work for NASA or SpaceX. Now, the only way you’re going to be able to do that is through a U.S. residency option. So there’s a lot of storytelling that happens in our business on an everyday basis.
Sean: Fast forward to February, March of this year, we’re a few months now into the pandemic, what changes have you made to the business and marketing strategy as a result?
Dinesh: As you can imagine, there’s been a tremendous transformation in the way we look at our business. I mean, it’s not just about changing your tactics, but making sure that you communicate and deliver the same message and value both through marketing and operations from an offline heavy execution to an agile digital world. It moved from roadshows to online webinars. Our flobal ad campaigns have been broadcast in local languages. We were already reaching audiences in person, in their home countries and languages. We just took that and made sure that we were doing the same thing online. We were communicating to them in a language that they understood that they’re comfortable with and they like interacting in.
On the other hand we are extensively using technology for our global teams. But obviously, we’re distributed locally in India, in Dubai, and in Singapore, they’re interacting with the same set of customers, who are local to them, but because there’s restrictions and lockdowns, they’re meeting them online now. So, the fact of the matter is that we’ve transitioned or we’re working on transitioning in different manners and different domains of our business, the ability to sell a million-dollar product without meeting face-to-face. And the way you do that is A) people love authenticity – it’s about being honest. And it’s about being transparent. It’s about building trust. And so we have a track record now of being able to look someone in the eye and build that trust, but the only difference is from being heavily reliant on doing that in person, we’re now doing that online. It’s about globalization of marketing, while keeping the local cultural sensitivities in mind.
Sean: You’re pretty early on, I guess, we’re only a few months into this pandemic. It sounds like you’ve made some well thought out changes. Are you starting to see results from these changes? Or is it still too early on?
Dinesh: The fact of the matter is our business has gone through a very big transition and transformation in the last few months. Aside of the challenges of the pandemic itself. There’s been a big price change, so earlier a client was signing up at a half a million-dollars, we’ve transitioned to almost a minimum of a million-dollars per client.
Sean: Okay. And why the requirement? What’s the benefit?
Dinesh: Part of it is the regulation changes, both on the U.S. government side and in our business. You know, there’s been so many developments geopolitically, you’re obviously seeing what’s happening between United States and some of the other allied countries. There have been massive exchange rate fluctuations and economic turbulence globally For example, in Brazil, the currency has fallen against the dollar, has fallen on almost 20% in the year, this year itself, right. We’re also seeing protectionist measures by certain countries, right. For example, there have been foreign exchange purchase controls being executed by the Indian government. So net net – our business is going through a lot of different changes, a lot of different variables are moving very quickly. It’s been a hard six months generally. When you go through such a transition, it’s hard to measure in such a short period. But if you look at what we’ve just talked about, we’ve proven that we can be agile, we’ve proven that we can deliver value to our clients, keep our values as a firm intact, despite all those changes. We’re now going into half the year from January to June, without having to furlough or lay off any of our people. Because we look at our team as an LCR family. You know, every one of the team is handpicked into the role that they’re executing.
The general feeling I get from being at the center all these transitions is that people are not really delaying the decision to do business. They’re committed to doing business, be it our clients or be it our partners. It’s just that the physical meeting is postponed for a little while. Also, when you react to a situation versus when you respond to a situation, there’s a difference. And so, we’re trying to do the latter a lot more. That’s our commitment to being in the business and being committed to our clients and being committed to delivering our objectives and reaching our mission and vision for the long term.
Sean: Well, yours, speaking of agility is a younger firm. So it’s born in the digital age.
Sean: So I’m just thinking maybe you’re a little bit more digital-savvy than some older firms. And speaking of the finance industry, how do we move to purely digital for relationship building? It seems to me that there must be some channels that you think are more relevant or some tools that are better for doing just that.
Dinesh: That’s another very interesting question. You know, let me give you some insights without really talking about specific tools some of which are proprietary. We’re now tracking how our clients are consuming the information that we’re sharing with them. We’re tracking various platforms, we’re tracking how they’re engaging with the various platforms. There’s a seamless integration and communication tracking.
For example, when somebody visits our website, to when we send them an email, we’re actually able to track how long they’re spending on reading a particular page, or how long they’re spending on reading an email that we sent them. That gives us a lot of client information and tells us what part of information we’re sharing with them is exciting for them and is engaging them a lot more. We’re handing over communication to stakeholders within and outside the firm for each business opportunity, and as you can imagine, at a million dollars per client, obviously we’re a very high touch business. It’s not that we’re tracking hundreds of millions of clients, we’re tracking a very small set of clients globally, our clients are higher in value and lower in numbers.
So there’s a very seamless handover communication between various stakeholders, to get a transaction done. Be it on the sales and commercial side, or compliance, or marketing, digital, advisory services. Essentially, there’s various stakeholders who are participating in an interaction and transaction for each client. And so the handover has to be very, very smooth.
We’re also tracking our budget spends, for example, we’re tracking what we’re spending on Google, what we’re spending on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or any of those. And we’re actually seeing very different behavioral patterns of how either potential or existing customers interact with a piece of content when it’s on Google, or when it’s on LinkedIn, or when it’s on Facebook.
From a finance world perspective itself, I think artificial intelligence-based and machine learning-based advisory and tracking of consumer behavior is already occurring. It’s a reality. And very recently, I was reading this article which said, “A lot of wealth management firms are now moving their customers to AI-based financial product advisory.”.
One of the things that we’re looking at seriously, is regulations and compliance in the finance world too. Ideally, a customer would have to sign papers in person and then ship it to us. The regulations have now started accepting digital signatures instead of wet signatures. And this is U.S. government regulations. So we’re actually looking at very, very, very, very closely in terms of what kind of secured technology can we bring to our platform and to our customers, which will enable us to execute that and is compliant with the U.S. government standards.
This whole process is pushing us to think like a FinTech. My personal belief is that over a period of time, we will see significant changes in the finance industry, and it will be very reliant on technology and it will be very reliant on the digital world. That said, it does not remove the importance of the concept of building trust and faith with your clients.
Sean: So let me end with this. I wanna talk about the outlook. What’s your outlook for the rest of 2020 into 2021, both personally, professionally, for the industry. What are your thoughts?
Dinesh: The fact of the matter is our business is very global. In fact, all businesses today are very global in nature. But this coronavirus or the lockdown has proven that we can function globally without actually meeting. The lockdown has driven everyone in any business to think about how to be a digital business going forward.
Dinesh: I shared our own example. It’s driving a lot of our thinking, technology itself will evolve. You’re aware that one of the most popular online video meetings app (without taking names), until eight weeks ago, didn’t know the privacy loopholes in their own technology. And they’ve had to evolve that technology so quickly.
Sean: Yes, of course, yeah.
Dinesh: The evolution of technology itself is driven by what the consumer needs and what the consumer wants. And so as consumers of technology, I think technology itself will evolve for a period of time. That said and again, I wanna emphasize this is that building trust with your ecosystem will always remain important, be it an offline world and more so in an online world – in every transaction and every part of that process itself. You’re going to have to build trust through that process of the transaction cycle. At the same time, technology companies will have to be very mindful of, on behalf of their consumers is to address cultural differences on how technology can be used and will be used. In China, U.S., South Korea, the way people in these countries interact with technologies is very different, even in 2020, in terms of how they conduct transactions or how they conduct business, in comparison to how India, Brazil and some of the other countries do.
So, it will also be a process of adoption of technologies across various cultures. As a firm, one of the things that we’re trying to do and we try to monitor very quickly is if I move or introduce a process or a certain technology, it has to be ready for adoption by our global team.
Sean: Sure. Okay.
Dinesh: It cannot be that I’m introducing a separate technology for Singapore and a separate one for Dubai. It has to be seamless integration globally. So my outlook for 2020 and 2021, is businesses will be digitally enabled. And technology will drive that. In the finance world, almost everyone will be forced to think like a FinTech. Generally speaking, foreign investments, migration, global transactions, and global business will continue to be important. I don’t think that’s going to change. And at the end of the day, it really will depend on the culture of the firm, the culture of clients that you interact with, that you have to be mindful of.
Sean: Indeed. Well, I think we’ll leave it there. Thanks so much for your time. Dinesh, I wish you all the best.
Dinesh: Thank you, Sean. It’s a pleasure. And I’m glad that we connected and I hope this drives some value to your audience.
Sean: No, absolutely. So that’s it listeners again, thanks to Dinesh Goel of LCR Capital Partners who joined us today from India. That will do it for another edition of the “Euro Digital Partners Insights” podcast. Find us online at eurodigitalpartners.com/insights and for comments or suggestions for future episodes, email us at email@example.com. Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, we’re there @EuDigitalP. Finally, please leave a five-star review for us on iTunes and wherever fun podcasts are downloaded. Be sure to head over to beatyourcompetitiononline.com to get enrolled in the best and most practical digital marketing course on the internet.
Thanks and bye-bye.