Sutapa Banerjee was recruited from ABN AMRO to set up the Indian investment bank Ambit Capital's private wealth division. She speaks about working in an industry with relatively few women and managing clients from thousands of miles away.
Is it challenging working in a male-dominated industry?
India is largely an equal-opportunities kind of a place, so I don't think gender makes a difference. It can be different sometimes with some types of clients, based on where they come from … It doesn't strike me as being too difficult, because having worked [in the industry] for so long, I've probably got used to it.
You set up ABN AMRO's private banking division in the early 2000s. What did you learn from that experience that you were able to apply at Ambit?
The one thing that happens with a business that you're setting up a second time and you're doing a list of dos and don'ts, the don'ts are very clear. These are the things that you do not do because they are unlikely to be successful.
One of the things is that this is a business which has a high gestation … Trying too hard to sell or push products on high-net-worth individuals never works, so you need to build the business with that gestation in mind. This business has always grown by references.
And what did you learn about hiring?
You need to take on people who do not move quickly from one organisation to the next. You need people who are stable. So I would much rather not recruit quickly, because people are very important in this business, even if it means overshooting timelines.
Why are you in Dubai?
We sponsored an Independence Day event. It was a very large gathering and we were one of the main sponsors. The second reason was that I tied in a lot of my own meetings with individual clients.
Who were they?
We met with a number of Indian and non-Indian families as well, Emirati families … Some families were interested in having an investment portfolio in India, so we looked at routes for them, and some of them also want to take an exposure in the rupee as a currency because it is an appreciating currency.
How challenging is it managing clients in Dubai when you are based in India?
Private banking is distinct from the retail side, where you need to have a presence and ability to meet the clients. For the private wealth side, it's not necessarily a destination-led business. You do not need to always have a presence there.
So how do you stay in touch with them?
Sometimes reports go to clients and you are on email with them or on conference calls. And you meet the client either in travelling or on a programmed travel plan every two or three months. That works extremely well.
* Gillian Duncan