Thursday, August 30, 2007

Manisha Girotra: Banker with a difference

I rarely stay tuned to CNBC for long stretches. Coz I don't follow stocks (on a daily basis) and neither do I care for stuffy corporate types.

But I recently caught a very good interview with Manisha Girotra, head of UBS. Manisha has been the lead investment banker on some of the biggest transactions of the year: Vodafone-Essar, Hindalco-Novelis, UB-Whyte and Mackay, to name a few.

Manisha was relaxed and candid, giving some interesting insights into the deal making process. But the fag end, where the interview got into personal territory was the most revealing. Here's an excerpt from the transcript:

Q: Some day her deal making experiences will make for a best seller maybe with a slim chapter on what it is like to be a woman in the old boys club of banking.

Manisha Girotra: I think it is tougher at the home, in personal life it is tougher because you still have the responsibilities that you have at home. So to that extent, it is a huge personal day-to-day juggle but in the outside world, you are only as good as what you produce. You will be as well regarded or disregarded as a banker whether a male or female if you do not come up with the right ideas, aren't able to come across credibly and knowledgeably and I think that mindset of "oh we do not deal with woman" has changed.

I remember twelve-thirteen years ago in Delhi when I started going to these public sector companies and ministries, nobody would shake my hand, they used to say Namaste to me and they all used to think that I am someone's secretary who has come in to take notes. They used to ask, Sahaab kab aa rahe hain?" When I used to say that no there is no Sahaab, this is it; they used to get psyched. From that, it has come a long way.

Q: You have to ever compensate?

Manisha Girotra: Maybe initially yes, but not now. I think my team will tell you - I work the least. There is some upside of working seventeen years.

Q: Most women would feel pressure to be in a job like this, you are not in straight jacketed suits, you are lot more easy, casual comfortable, friendly, warm, I am just wondering has it been a battle to retain that, keep that, maintain that, did you ever feel pressure that I need to fit into this little groove of heart investment banker?

Manisha Giotra: We have taken for annual trainings to fit into that two years ago, but clearly they did not train you well. When you start training from 1994 onwards, you are basically trained on how to walk, talk, eat, present, everything because you are expected to be straight jacketed, for the first two-three years all analysts go through a very strict training programme.

So I went through that too but at the end of the day, I always wanted to remember this is a job and I am doing it because I enjoy it and I love every minute of it and then if I am not happy through that process then what is the point.

Q: I understand, your husband is in a conflicting space because he is also in the banking business and there are these cute stories we hear of how the two of you stay away from conflict at home, I will allow you to give us the story because I do not want to give it away?

Manisha Girotra: My husband and I met at work and we both compete for businesses. We are used to competing for business because we have been doing it for the last fourteen-fifteen years, all our clients know that we are husband and wife and that is quite comfortable.

It is quite a joke actually, at times. But I think because we are in the same business, we respect each other; we know that professional lives need to be kept away Having said that, we still take our calls from our own bathrooms, we do not let anyone hear anything, so we have double barrel doors. We keep it very seriously; anyway after thirteen-fourteen hours work day, you do not really want to take work home.

Wow. Talk about maintaining your individuality, focus and ambition. Although separate, sound proof bathrooms... and competing for the same deals... sounds super stressful!

P.S. I also like her dress sense :)

from left to right: Falguni Nayar (Kotak), Manisha Girotra (UBS), seated: Dr Swati Piramal.


  1. Wowo, makes for an amazing read, released those much needed serotin secretions, happay happay, thx a bunch!

    This is purely off the cuff, but would you know as to why Desipundit is down? I'm assuming you know those folks.

  2. just read your previous article on IIMs. Guess you have been going through tiring days for you failed to look deep inside the articles.

    Surprisingly, long back you yourself had written about the way this guy conducted rankings.

    From the looks of it, the guy is out there to prove a point after meeting the IIM Director, the meeting might not have gone the way he liked.

    Anyway, point wise... IIMs in industrialised city does not make sense.

    There is a direct flight from, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai to Calicut.

    27 permanent faculty and 63 visitng faculty is good for 360 participants, dont you think so? A ratio of 1:4

  3. Is this profession of ibanking worth all this ? I mean,at the end of the day, how much life u have in your hands if u run into a schedule where u have to take professional calls from home...and that too from bathrooms ? ..Maybe I'm a bit naive..but then, money doesnt seem to counterweigh the loss of life in this profession..

  4. hi,
    May be someday, I find u in the coverpage of the magazine.. :)
    BTW, I have been reading your blog since quite some time and I must say I like your writing style..

  5. hey
    haa haaa what a great choice

    but visit to my blog

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