6 powerful women who are staking a claim on the world of finance
...and they know how to do it right
No matter how high you climb, the challenges don’t end. It’s about constantly proving yourself in this fast-paced world.
6 powerful women in finance to watch out for:
Co-founder and Chairperson, First Global
One of the few women involved in equities, Devina Mehra started out with Citibank at the age of 21. Seven years later, she left to join her husband, Shankar Sharma, in setting up First Global, India’s only internationally ranked institutional brokerage firm.
“When I joined Citi’s banking arm in 1986, I was the only woman officer on the team. And when we set up a research firm, it was a completely novel idea at the time. It took long hours and unwavering commitment; you have to work hard and know your data to succeed.”
Co-Country Head and Head of Investment Banking – India, Morgan Stanley
Yale graduate Aisha De Sequeira has completed 22 years at Morgan Stanley (New York and Mumbai). She was in Morgan Stanley’s Mergers & Acquisitions group in New York, and has repeatedly been named one of the Most Powerful Women in India by Fortune.
“There are more role models today across sectors. However, when you look at the pipeline, it is still a challenge to retain the best talent, particularly at the mid-level. These jobs are hugely rewarding from a growth, exposure and independence perspective. My advice to women building their careers would be to stick it out — don’t give up too early! Don’t let the thought of the challenge ahead cloud your focus and drive. It is possible to get a balance that works.”
Former Chairman, State Bank of India
Arundhati Bhattacharya was the first woman chairman of State Bank of India, and was named the fourth most powerful woman in the Asia-Pacific region by Fortune in 2017. She gave the age-old institution a massive facelift, and brought it firmly into the digital era. The six-bank merger she orchestrated last year catapulted SBI into the ranks of the top 50 banks worldwide.
“There are lots of processes in a government organisation, and many women either give up their jobs or choose not to marry while they pursue their careers. While this is challenging, the system is merit-based, and, for the most part, you are rewarded. However, you have to take the initiative, choose the path you want, and be open to challenges. Stick it out, success doesn’t happen overnight.”
Additional Executive Director and Head – Sales and marketing, DSP BlackRock Investment Managers
Aditi Kothari Desai holds her own as one of the most prominent next-gen names in investment banking. The daughter of veteran investment banker Hemendra Kothari, she helmed DSP BlackRock’s first offshore fund in 2005, and in 2012, launched Winvestor, which aims to encourage and educate women on the need to gain financial knowledge, and plan for long-term security. She is also on the advisory board of Dasra, a strategic philanthropy foundation based in India.
“It’s important for women to be financially independent, and not only earn, but also invest. Women need to learn how to make their own investment decisions, and not rely on their fathers or husbands to do so. They can approach an independent financial advisor, but the decision should be their own.”
Founder, Mann Deshi Mahila Bank and Mann Deshi Foundation
Chetna Gala Sinha is a social entrepreneur, micro finance banker, economist, farmer and activist. She was one of seven women co-chairs this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, along with Christine Lagarde, managing director, IMF, and Erna Solberg, prime minister of Norway. Her work has touched the lives of over 5,00,000 women, and the number is poised to hit one million over the next three years. She has also announced a Rs 100 crore alternative investment fund to help women entrepreneurs at the grass roots start their own businesses.
“Gender was part of the mainstream agenda at Davos this year. Our prime minister, as usual, laid out the red carpet for foreign investors. The government should lay out the red carpet for women doing business on the streets in India; at the 75,000 weekly markets (haats) put up in villages. Take digitisation, technology and finance to their doorstep, so they can be a key part of India’s growth story.”
CEO, Moelis India
Manisha Girotra has featured on every list of the most powerful businesswomen in India. In her 23-year-long career, she has aced mergers and acquisition deals to the tune of $100 billion and another $50 billion in capital raising. Before setting up Moelis five years ago, she was the head of UBS in India. She is a proud feminist and loves playing golf.
“[Right now] is the most conducive time to be a woman. You have so many benefits: the recently announced six months maternity leave, crèches incorporates, flexi hours, weekends off, and the ability to work from anywhere. But unfortunately, the pull factor from home and family is still very strong, and we are still losing women at the mid-level. From a corporate standpoint, we have found that women who come back from maternity leave make for far more loyal employees, and we’re very happy to support them.”
Photographs: Trupal Pandya; Sittings Editor: Rahul Vijay
Hair and Make-up: Jean-Claude Biguine; Assisted by: Divya Gursahani