How Indian-AMericanS Invest
A wealth planning firm wanted to know if they could gain competitive advantage by engaging Indian-American immigrants differently than American-born clients. Our ethnographic approach sought to understand subtle cultural differences between “Indian” and “American” money beliefs and behaviors. By studying Indian-American couples in Silicon Valley and Indian couples in Mumbai, we identified important differences in worldviews and practices about how to manage money.
Indians practice a “family-focused” approach to money management whereas Americans prefer an “individual-focused” approach. When Indian-Americans moved to the US they took on certain elements of the American approach while certain aspects of the family-focused approach endured. Family networks, we learned, kept them engaged in Indian money practices such as reverence for savings and seeing money as an aspect of social relations.
Based on this understanding, we identified competitive opportunities for easing Indian-Americans’ transition from a wealth accumulation strategy emphasizing family-held tangible assets to more dynamic financial instruments selected with the help of non-family experts.