Seshasayee Shankaranarayanan, Director, Barclays and EY alumnus talks about his exceptional EY experience.
Early education and childhood
Sesha was born and brought up in Chennai in a south Indian family. Since childhood, he developed a strong inclination towards finance and numbers, also influenced by his father’s interest in the financial markets. At 15, he surprised his parents, when contrary to everyone’s expectations and wishes of him joining IIT and becoming an engineer, he decided to pursue chartered accountancy. This choice also happened to then become a great motivation for him to push hard and prove himself to his family. In his teens, he spent a lot of time going through CEO statements, analyzing annual reports of companies and understanding and reworking the ratios to increase his understanding and expertise in financial markets.
The EY journey
Reminiscing about how his association with EY began, he recalls his cousin, who is also his mentor in life, encouraging him to gain experience at a big four consulting firm as he felt that would be a strong start to his career. On his advice, Sesha applied to some of them and as destiny would have it, he got the first interview call from EY. After seven grilling rounds, he was selected as one of four hires among the 50+ applications. Recalling his initial impressions at EY, Sesha shared, “I was awed and enthralled by what I experienced on the first day and the kind of people I met. By the time the other companies called, I had already made up my mind to start my tenure with EY and didn’t even attend any other interviews.” Describing his experience as wonderful, he shares that his stint was very productive as he got the opportunity to work across various sectors, assignments and with different teams.
Also, his interactions with the exceptional talent and inspiring leaders at EY enriched his experience. He shares that Terry Thomas and N Balaji, Partners at the EY Chennai office, left an everlasting impact on him and went on to be his friends, philosophers and guides in his professional journey thereafter. He thanks EY’s culture and team spirit that made erstwhile colleagues like Vijay Shankar (Partner in Bangalore) and Shankari (Director in Chennai) best friends for life. Sesha strongly feels that the constant access to leaders gave him a lot of exposure and impacted his overall perception of life. It also brought out the curious kid in him every day. He proudly declares, “While I was born and brought up in Chennai but professionally, I was born and brought up in EY! Striving for excellence and always looking for opportunity to learn and improve are key traits EY has taught me for life.”
Unparalleled opportunities at EY
Sesha travelled extensively and worked on several engagements during his tenure which helped him get excellent insights and an opportunity to identify the nuts and bolts of how a company operates. “The length and breadth of work that I got at EY was unmatched and is something that I miss since leaving EY,” he shares. One of the highlights of his experience was the opportunity to work with the central division (mother entity) of a client in the US, after they were impressed with Sesha and his team’s performance on the same project with the Indian division of the firm. It was a proud moment for Sesha and his team as it was one of the first instances that EY India had won a mandate in the US.
The cosmopolitan culture and working with people from across the world made his EY experience even better and he feels that diversity helps you become a well-rounded professional. Interestingly, he became better at Hindi at EY!
In 2007, Sesha got an opportunity to work with Barclays in Singapore. He had recently got married at that time and the chance to work in an exciting new city eventually lured him abroad to gain some experience with the bank. Banking, which was thriving at that time, was a completely different world for him. Speaking of the challenges he faced and how the EY experience helped him transition into the new role, he says, “What I do in banking is very niche - product control. As a function, it is time sensitive, high risk and extremely demanding and challenging. I believe EY prepared me well for it. Even though I was not from a banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) background, I adapted to it well. The challenge was to learn about financial products in a very thorough manner. So, the leadership and managerial foundation from my years at EY helped me get a strong start in my new role.” In 2011, after spending over four years in Singapore, Sesha wanted to come back to his family in India for personal reasons. In the absence of good opportunities in Chennai for him, he joined Credit Suisse, Pune as a Vice President. It was when their product control practice was being set-up. Credit Suisse gave him the exposure to a leadership role, as he set up a function, built a team and created capabilities. After being promoted to Director and spending some time in Pune, he was keen to come back to his family city, Chennai.
Back to home, Back to Barclays
Sesha moved to Chennai and joined back Barclays. He has been working in the banking and product control domain for over 12 years now. Recounting his experience, he says, “I have continued doing similar work for the last twelve years. I feel, it’s a very good high. I also brought a lot of risk and control mindset into it (learnings from EY days), which really helped me bring something to the table even though I was new to the industry in the initial years. Sesha is leading a team of over 70 people at Barclays. He is looking after the primary market, which deals with IPO, advisory, loan syndication and bank’s treasury. Investment and international Banking is going through a very interesting and challenging phase. Things are not always favorable, and he tries to turn every challenge into an opportunity and that is something which keeps him excited!
Advise to the millennials – stay curious
Sesha’ s advice to the young generation today would be to dig deep, instead of digging wide. To always have an edge over others, one should be curious, confident and spend a lot of time digging deeper to become an expert in a field. He further says that people usually tend to get distracted if they have multiple plans, so one should have fewer plans and ideas and give one’s best to them. 10 years down the line, he would love to be in a global leadership role or start his own entrepreneurial venture. If he gets an opportunity, he would also like to take an education break to study more.