Vikas Mohindra, a senior partner of The Boccaccio Mohindra Group in Merrill Lynch’s Global Wealth Management Division and ECON ’07, has achieved a high level of success in a relatively short amount of time. He manages about $140 million for his 90-plus clients, has been named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30: Finance” and most recently was featured on Forbes/Shook America’s “Top Next-Gen Advisor” list.
The past decade has been a tumultuous one in the financial world, and Mohindra’s success has been hard-earned. Mohindra’s reliability and genuine humanity have enabled him and his clients to prosper during this unpredictable economic and political environment.
While he loved his time in College Park, Mohindra was a go-getter who was eager to join the professional world, graduating a semester early with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Finance. After interning with Morgan Stanley in New York, Vikas was immediately hired full time upon his graduation. Just a few months into his professional career, the 2008 financial crisis dealt a devastating blow to U.S. and global markets, forever altering the economic and political landscape.
“Boom! Everything changes,” Mohindra recalled. “I was 22 years old, walking to work and seeing people cry in the street after Lehman collapsed. I was young but I understood what was happening. It was very troubling, very discouraging.”
As the dust began to settle, Bank of America acquired Merrill Lynch and soon after they reached out to Mohindra with an opportunity. “They contacted me, and said they thought I’d have a better future with them. I thought it was a good opportunity; the synergy between those two entities would allow me to leverage their combined resources and really help me do great things for my clients,” he said.
As with most hardships, a silver lining emerged when experienced and level-headed mentors were willing to share their wisdom with Mohindra, who was eager to listen and learn.
“These experienced industry veterans would let me pick their brain, giving me plenty of insight into their thought process,” he said. “I quickly realized there is not a set, cookie-cutter formula for how to handle these stressful situations. However, regardless of their action plan, there was a common theme: Everyone was making it a priority to talk to their clients, so that’s what I started to do. Instead of hiding from the crisis, I just started calling everyone.
“Clients appreciated my honesty and perspective. I basically said, ‘we’re in the same boat. Now we need move forward and re-evaluate your current financial picture to form sound investment opportunities that are suited to your specific needs.’”
Vikas found success by focusing on something he refers to as “goals-based wealth management.” He would have detailed conversations with his clients, emphasizing the importance of financial planning. Vikas would use this information to formulate a customized investment strategy properly aligned to their unique financial goals and objectives without taking any unnecessary risk.
Mohindra prides himself on his disciplined approach to evaluating risk. “We understand that not all investments are right for every client. It’s about figuring out what percentage of risk makes sense for each client on an individual basis,” he said.
Mohindra has also found success by providing solutions to distinct needs in his client’s lives rather than focusing only on investment returns and account performance.
“It’s about so much more than investment performance. Everyone is interested in making those ‘home run’ investment recommendations. But for me, success is when I’ve worked with a client for a long time and I see their kids graduate from college, fulfilling a 529 Plan college savings account that we set up in anticipation years prior. Or simply being there for a client who has recently lost a spouse, providing assurance that their financial future is secure.
“My approach is always to start with the client relationship. No matter what their goals are—something big like early retirement or something smaller-scale like buying a car—I am always available to them and I truly want them to feel like they are part of my family. I am honored when they treat me like I am a part of theirs,” Mohindra said. “I didn’t get the opportunity to really get to know some of my grandparents, so in some ways, some of my clients represent a ‘grandparent connection’ for me.”
Family is deeply important to Mohindra. His father is the embodiment of the American Dream, working for the New York Metro Transit Authority as a token clerk. Mohindra’s mother was a teacher who worked hard and focused on serving children with special needs. His sister is also a special needs teacher. Both of them inspired Mohindra to start working towards becoming a Chartered Special Needs Consultant. He has currently earned the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor SM.
“I work with individuals and families with special needs and we make long-term plans. It’s not just about kids—it’s about making plans for a whole family over a lifetime,” Mohindra said.
Mohindra’s personal life mirrors his professional one in many ways—his focus is on making connections. In his free time, Mohindra enjoys traveling, tasting new cuisines and relaxing in Long Island with his family.
Maryland Days, Past and Present
When he looks back over his own lifetime, Mohindra said his college days stand out.
In 2004, as a freshman making the move to College Park from Long Island, N.Y., Mohindra and his family found themselves sweating on a hot August day. “It was a hot day after a long car drive,” Mohindra said. “But campus struck me as beautiful and enormous and I was eager to meet my new roommate and make friends.”
He acclimated quickly, becoming close with a group that included members of the varsity swim team. His core classes centered on economics and business, which soon became his world.
At Maryland, he made close connections and pursued meaningful experiences. In the Finance Club, he and his peers made and managed actual investments. In classes—particularly within the Department of Economics—he learned the fundamentals of understanding and predicting the economy.
“One of my ECON classes focused on the economics of developing countries; Poverty and Discrimination sits on the bookshelf in my office today,” Mohindra said.
Mohindra is often in the D.C. area and visits campus regularly.
“I like to see how much Route One has changed. How campus has changed,” he said. “There’s a lot here that wasn’t around when I graduated.”
Paying it Forward
As they move toward graduation, Mohindra’s advice to students and soon-to-be graduates is to enjoy the college experience, while keeping a keen eye on the future.
“To make yourself better, surround yourself with people you aspire to emulate.” Mohindra said.
He also has practical advice for paving a secure financial future.
“The cost of living in urban areas is really high. I lived at home for a while and saved up preparing for a rainy day. I recommend that college students and young graduates get a job and set up two bank accounts—a day-to-day spending account and a savings account that you don’t have access to. Start with automatic contributions into the savings account so that money can be set aside for emergencies.”