The banker with a smile

While she would say the strategy on the chessboard was where she thrived in her chosen profession, investment banking, to anyone who knew Aisha de Sequeira, she was always the investment banker with a twinkle in her eye. and a contagious smile. . With her, it was always people first, business second.

De Sequeira appears regularly in Indian fortunelist of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, and was the quintessential friendly, yet fast-paced negotiations for the Morgan Stanley franchise in India and honed its profile in an intensely competitive landscape, while upholding its proven values ​​of giving back, drive diversity, do the right thing, and put your customers ahead of everything else.

He passed away on December 10, succumbing to a nearly five-year battle with cancer that he fought with courage of steel, fighting to perform at the highest levels with exemplary professionalism to the end.

Under his leadership, Morgan Stanley raised about $ 20 billion of capital for clients in India and provided advisory services for more than $ 70 billion in M&A deals. These include Nippon Life investments in Reliance Life and Reliance Asset Management, the merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, and most recently the first REIT deal for Embassy Group backed by Blackstone Group.

The most recent and high-profile transaction he advised on was Facebook’s mega investment in Reliance Jio earlier this year.

Beyond the transactions and deals and the large numbers, De Sequeira is perhaps the only investment banker who spent most of her time abroad to return to India in recent years, she made a name for herself not just for herself. but also for Morgan Stanley, and won the franchise award for large transactions. Most, if not all, other investment bankers have been based in India. The fact that you have been able to do that, despite having lived abroad for decades, is testament to your ability to make meaningful and genuine connections with people from across the business spectrum.

He came to Mumbai to run Morgan Stanley’s investment banking business after it parted ways with JM Financial, having worked with him in New York for more than 20 years.

Staunch Goa, her grandfather, Dr. Jack de Sequeira, was a politician and chairman of the United Goans Party. His father, in turn, owned the local Coca-Cola bottling plant and was also a member of Parliament. De Sequeira went to school at Our Lady of the Rosary, after which he went to the Goa School of Engineering. She was deeply religious but also very open-minded.

Yale University came after that and shortly after its lifelong association with Morgan Stanley. The United States not only taught her to be independent, it also connected her to excellent networks. Former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi was both her mentor and her friend.

The fluent Konkani-speaking finance graduate, who was never afraid to speak her mind, would say that a reputation took generations to build, but could be lost overnight, if neglected. She was also quick to push those around her to achieve greater heights. “Should you try interviewing Mukesh Ambani or why don’t you write a book on doing business in India?” It was the gauntlets that De Sequeira threw at me during one of our regular coffee meetings where we discussed where the exciting narratives were unfolding.

In the years that followed during his battle with cancer, his approach remained cautious but practical. She never stopped working. I ran into her once on a morning walk along the Worli Sea-face, and the conversation began with a barrage of inquiries about oil prices, interest rates, and the state of the property markets in Mumbai.

Having recovered from the flu days before, I was aware of the air quality around Worli with the ever-increasing construction and dusty air around the walkway. Wasn’t she worried? His trademark smile was an indication that he had already fought so many more important battles that he was not even going to deign to answer my question.

Not long ago, De Sequeira wisely told me: “Many people may think they know me, but very few people really.” Despite being from Goa, she was not a heavy drinker and instead preferred top-notch Japanese green tea. She was good with people, knew how to read them well, and put relationships before profit. When asked how to become a trusted advisor for promoters and business owners in India, his answer was simple but unexpected. “Be transparent, be consistent. Say no to a deal if they shouldn’t, even if it means you’re losing money. In the long run, that works best for everyone,” was his reply.

If courage had a face, it would belong to De Sequeira. Health challenge or not, it was clear to her that she was not going to let cancer define her or who she was. “I am determined to fight this and fight it,” she told me. She wanted to say every word, now we know.