Expense Account, Mint
Sixteen years ago, when I switched jobs from the leader in daily business news to join a start-up magazine that aimed to help average middle-class people manage their money, there was more than one comment on the foolhardiness of doing this. Business journalism was corporate-facing and personal finance as a genre did not exist. We had tip sheets that further confirmed the belief that the stock market was a casino. Home loans, credit cards, mutual funds (MFs), life and medical insurance products either did not exist for the average Mr Gupta or was very basic in the offering. But the magazine hit the stands around the time that these products were just about coming to the market and the consumers were keen to understand them better. The genre has been a success, but over the years my struggle has been not just with getting reporters to “get” personal finance reporting but also with regulators and policy makers who did not think that the final retail customer deserved much attention. Regulators were more concerned with systemic risk and the risk of failure of banks and financial sector companies, making them work somewhat like industry associations rather than regulators. The corporate-first attitude shows up in the nomenclature of policy and regulations. Insurance and mutual funds are all about “penetration”. The pecking order for the industry is decided by assets under management and not the financial well-being of consumers of financial products. Life insurance is measured by number of policies and premium income and not the sum assured per policy.