Alumni Stories: Aisha de Sequeira '95, Managing Director and Head of Investment Banking, India, Morgan Stanley

It was an on-campus presentation at Yale SOM that first got Aisha de Sequeira '95 interested in investment banking. She applied for summer internships on Wall Street. Morgan Stanley made her an offer, and she accepted, still unsure what to expect. "I went into a summer job," she said, "and at 15 years later I'm in the same company."

De Sequeira, the managing director and head of investment banking for Morgan Stanley in India, spoke about her career at SOM on September 24 as a guest of the South Asia Business Forum student club. She told the audience about the course of her career, which includes 11 years in mergers and acquisitions in the New York office and being sent to Mumbai to build Morgan Stanley's presence in India in 2007.

It all started with that summer internship, when, she said, her learning curve was steep and some of her peers were among the most helpful people she'd come across. "Ultimately you want to go to a place where you like the people, and they support and mentor you," she said. "I found that at Morgan Stanley."

About two years after starting at Morgan Stanley, de Sequeira was asked about her interest in returning to India, where she grew up. She felt the time was not right and and said no. A decade later, she was in the elevator with the head of Morgan Stanley's investment banking group, when he turned to her and asked if she had any interest in returning closer to home. "I was very happy in New York," she told the students. "But this was a great challenge. Morgan Stanley was going to build its banking there from scratch. I went over there at the end of 2007 and three months later the markets began to crash."

While the financial crisis threatened to upend the new office before it could get established, it also offered an opportunity. The slowdown that accompanied the crisis worked towards Morgan Stanley's advantage, as it allowed the team to establish relationships with clients without the rush of a bull market. Once the markets began moving again in 2009, this strategy showed immediate dividends. The India office shepherded 17 transactions in just nine months, becoming the number one firm in India's capital markets. "We took everybody by surprise," she said.

Ten years earlier, when she turned down the initial opportunity to move back to India, de Sequeira didn't believe the Indian economy was developed enough to lure her away from the job in New York. Now, she said, she gets to watch the country change practically before her eyes. It wasn't long ago, she told the group, that investors tried to decide whether it would be China or India that would become a global economic player. Today, they need strategies for both countries. And it's not just those two countries. Successful investors need to understand trends on a global scale. "You need to be ahead of everyone in terms of ideas," she said. "The world is super-competitive."

De Sequeira said she believes SOM truly prepares students to compete globally. "One thing SOM is great at is teaching teamwork," she said. "This is increasingly important as the world becomes more complicated and specialized. It's an exciting and challenging time. SOM gave me the opportunity to be where I am today."