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‘Coming from a highly competitive environment in India creates a strong work ethic’

Named on the 2021 Buffalo Business First’s 40 under 40 list, J.P. Morgan Vice President Yaman Sharma, an Apeejay School Panchsheel Park alumnus, says adapting one’s thinking to evolving situations is inherent to our upbringing in India. This translates well into success in business.

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From Google CEO Sundar Pichai, to Microsoft boss Satya Nadella, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal and Chanel’s Leena Nair, a number of Indian-origin executives, particularly those based in the United States, are leading diverse businesses around the world. Named on the 2021 Buffalo Business First’s 40 under 40 list, J.P. Morgan Vice President Yaman Sharma, an Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park alumnus, is a rising star in the private banker galaxy. In a freewheeling, exclusive interview, Sharma provides his perspective on a range of issues: From the secret of being a successful finance professional, to the rise of Indian-origin CEOs, his fond memories of school, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of giving back to the community and tips for high net worth individuals looking at newer post-pandemic investment options. Edited excerpts:

Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google and Alphabet
Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO, Microsoft Corporation
Parag Agrawal, CEO Twitter
Leena Nair, CEO, Chanel

You have been featured among the 40 under 40 by Buffalo Business First. What is the secret of being a successful finance professional and private banker?

I believe the secret of success is based on three categories in this specific sequence: 1 – Trust, 2 – Integrity, 3 – Intellect.  Having a sincere and candid approach towards most things in life has been my mantra, even if it does not lead to immediate success.  Over the long term, it always pays off.  Relationship building both internally and externally is another strong attribute towards my success.  One cannot achieve success alone without strong team players/partners internally who help at every step, and great mentors to guide when needed. At the same time, investing in meaningful relationships outside with clients and friends is equally important. It is all about teamwork and collaboration. 

From Sunder Pichai, to Satya Nadella, Parag Agrawal and Leena Nair, a number of Indian-origin executives are heading diverse businesses around the world, particularly those based in the United States. Would you attribute their rise to good work ethics, individual brilliance or anything else?

It has been my experience that coming from a highly competitive environment in India creates a strong work ethic. There are many other factors that our culture imbues in us that allow us the ability to adapt and succeed abroad.  The diversity in India has made many people adaptable and flexible, which helps when working in another culture.  Another reason is that in addition to adapting socially, many successful people adapt mentally.  What I mean is that we are prepared to shift our thinking based on the situation.  The world is forever changing, and adapting your thinking to changing situations is something inherent to our upbringing in India, and I think it translates well to success in business.

Please tell us a little about the strides you have made in your professional journey since the time you studied in India?

After Apeejay and Delhi University, I studied in Australia for my MBA.  Being away from my family and support system meant that I had to create a new support network.  This alienation solidified my drive to network and succeed.  I had a few student-approved jobs while I was studying that taught me how to apply my skills in various industries.  After working in Australia for a few years, I returned to India to help with the family businesses.  While there, my interest in Finance grew and I became more comfortable discussing money habits with people.  When we ended up shifting to the U.S. I worked in Business Development/Management and Sales in different industries and achieved immediate success and recognition.  Then I got a job at Merrill Lynch as a Financial Advisor and studied for all required certifications and licences.  After a few years there and several recognitions, I was approached by JP Morgan Private Bank to join their team In Boston, MA.  With God’s grace the journey of success and recognition continued and I was recently promoted and transferred to Buffalo NY/Western New York to join the team and grow the presence of JP Morgan Private Bank in the region.  This is where the most recent recognition of Buffalo Business First 40<40 came along.

You studied Human Resources Development at Delhi University. Which are the ways in which the Covid-19 pandemic affected workplaces and the future of jobs, according to you?

Well, the obvious change in workplaces from Covid-19 is the ability to work from home.  A large number of professionals have been asked to work in place.  There are many facets of this such as how it affects productivity, working hours, family life, etc.  I also think this will put even greater emphasis on education as children see the benefits and flexibility of having a work from home job. But as we encounter more and more shortages of labour and manually intense jobs, the supply and demand effect might see a shift in the importance of manual labour and jobs that require people to “show up” and work in person.  Technology has progressed greatly, but an electrician still needs to make a house call to fix an issue. It should be interesting to see how this affects the job market in the next 20 years.

What are your memories of the time you spent at Apeejay?

As anyone who went to school with me knows, I loved my time at Apeejay.  We were blessed to have great teachers, management, sports and extra-curriculars and the infrastructure to succeed.  I joyfully cherish my memories at Apeejay and not only with my friends but with all school mates, teachers and even clerical staff like our guards, workers in the canteen etc.  I wasn’t exactly a rule follower, and I was notoriously known for getting in trouble with my teachers, but I cherish the memories of them punishing me as well.  While at Apeejay I learned drums and played in an impromptu band with some friends.  Such extracurricular skills (like drumming) that I learned at school helped me later during competitive college admissions and even earned me a spot on the college leadership board as well.

Are there any life lessons that you picked up in school that have helped you later?

Just living is a life lesson.  It was the overall experience (mostly good and even bad) that shaped me into who and what I am today.  Biggest life lesson is to not live for yourself alone but for others around you as well.  Always help others succeed with you as no amount of success and wealth is good unless you have true friends and family to share it with.

We hear you are passionate about causes such as giving back to the community. How important is it for individuals as well as businesses to make a positive impact on those around them?

It is not about how many assets you own, one’s prestige and reputation is more important than assets. Ultimately, the most important thing is how you ‘Give Back’.  We remember the leaders and people throughout history who gave back great contributions to society, and not necessarily the people who were rich and successful. It is very important to give back to the community and people who have not had the same opportunities or blessings that I have had.  My grandfather started a school for girls in a village of Rajasthan where he came from.  I always admired that about him, he had made success for himself in New Delhi, and he wanted to elevate the lives of people in his village.

What will be your tip for high net worth individuals looking at newer post-pandemic investment options?

Some interesting areas outside the majority of broad diversified investments that I personally like to focus on are Technology, Life-Science, Sustainable Equity and Private Equity spaces. Investing is not an end but a means to an end and must be done with a strategic process.  Anything that we do with a consistent methodology, over time gives great results.  Basically, one should follow a consistent diversified investment path and avoid day trading.

What are your interests outside work and how do you like to unwind after hours?

I enjoy spending time with my friends and family.  We go out to eat, or the kids play on the playground while I walk with my wife.  I enjoy working out, yoga, sometimes not doing anything (happens rarely though).

How can alumni networks around the world help each other out and how can this synergy be mutually beneficial for them as well as the alma mater?

Any networking group can be beneficial.  Whether it is as a social network or a business network, knowing people with shared experiences (such as school at Apeejay) gives you a common ground and basic understanding of someone.  If you’re interested in studying something different, starting a career, or making a career shift, it helps you find people who can share advice and experiences with you and help you make a better decision.  Wisdom comes from experience, and it is essential to find ways to share that with others.  That’s why grandparents love telling stories!

“Some interesting areas outside the majority of broad diversified investments that I personally like to focus on are Technology, Life-Science, Sustainable Equity and Private Equity spaces. Investing is not an end but a means to an end and must be done with a strategic process…one should follow a consistent diversified investment path and avoid day trading.”

— Yaman Sharma, Vice President, J.P. MORGAN

Aasheesh Sharma is a seasoned journalist with an experience of more than 25 years spread over newspapers, news agencies, magazines and television. He has worked in leadership positions in media groups such as Hindustan Times, India Today, Times of India, NDTV, UNI and IANS. He is a published author and his essay on the longest train journey in India was included in an anthology of writings on the railways, brought out by Rupa Publications. As the Editor of Apeejay Newsroom, he is responsible for coverage of the latest news and developments in the Apeejay institutions. He can be reached at [email protected] He tweets @Aasheesh74

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