Merlin grew up with her parents who, like many in India, placed enormous value on academic achievement and professional success. “If you are good at your studies in India,” she explains, “most parents insist that you go into science.” While Merlin was an excellent student who shone at science, she loved numbers and wanted to pursue finance. That passion led her to leave her relatively small city of Jabalpur, to study commerce and eventually earn an MBA in the then up-and-coming southern metropolis of Bengaluru, some 870 miles away. “And as you can see, I’m still here and I’m still working with numbers.” In fact, Merlin’s now a Senior Manager in the Institutional Securities Group at Morgan Stanley’s Bengaluru office
The most exciting and impactful part of my job is that I’m able to provide solutions to businesses from a people strategy perspective.
I am Bhagyashree, Human Resources at Morgan Stanley.
As a human resource business partner, one of our primary jobs is to understand the business, to be able to provide them help with the people strategy, but it's also to provide them solutions using data, using your experience. That's what I bring forth to the table.
Our client relationship is a key aspect to us. It's important that we develop those relationships, the trust. That's going to really work in the long run.
Every individual here is appreciated. It gives us a sense of confidence and the fact that you're able to bring in change and collaborate together is something that really empowers us.
I am Bhagyashree and we are Morgan Stanley.
Was it unusual for you to go away to college in a city that was a significant distance from your home?
It depends. Someone from one of the bigger cities might be more likely to stay at home to complete their education. But you also see many students from smaller cities migrating to bigger ones for school. In my case, I had little choice. The colleges in my area are very good if you want to study science or engineering, but I chose commerce, so I had to move away to pursue that degree. I’d always heard that the quality of education in the south of India was very high, so I decided that Bengaluru would be a good place. That’s how I ended up applying to college here.
And by extension, that’s how you ended up working for Morgan Stanley. Can you describe your current role at the firm?
I joined Morgan Stanley right after earning my MBA. I am currently a Senior Manager in the Institutional Securities Group—the division I work for is Morgan Stanley Fund Services, which does the administration for hedge funds. My entire team is made up of accountants, and our clients are hedge funds in the United States. We do their accounting, keep a record of each fund's investments, and make sure that the valuations of those investments are accurate. We reconcile all the securities held in client portfolios and match them to the custody books. At the end of each day, we provide our counterparts with the exact value—known as the net asset value—of their funds, which gets published for investors.
That is exactly right. Just imagine the consequences if we don’t report the correct information or make some other error. In the case of someone like me, who has been here for six years, I know these processes through and through. So, when I’m performing a process that I’ve been doing every day for years, there could be a temptation to think “I can skip a step this time.” But we must never do that, because each step is an essential check that ensures we deliver accurate information. We are also constantly looking for red flags. I encourage my team to follow the exact procedure and to question any unusual activity they uncover when reviewing information.
My parents worked in the Indian government. There, your boss is your boss, your manager is your manager, and you must address them as such. Here, even if you don’t know someone, you can have a conversation and never even learn if they’re in a senior or junior position. Everyone gets treated the same. That’s one thing I really like about the culture.
Another is that there is no fear. In a department like mine, with so much data sensitivity, mistakes can happen. But the moment someone does make a mistake, nobody is afraid to say, “Ok, I messed up, what do I do?” The moment you share your mistake or a challenge you’re working through, it’s not just your problem—it belongs to the entire team, and we work together to figure out how to solve it.
Life in Bengaluru must be quite a contrast to what you were accustomed to in your hometown of Jabalpur. Did you experience any culture shock when you first moved there?
Initially, yes. I was a timid, introverted person in my smaller town and everyone here seemed so confident, even in college. But gradually, through exposure both at school and climbing the ladder at Morgan Stanley, I adapted, gained confidence and experienced a lot of personal growth. But I lost sleep in exchange! I was shocked to find out how late people stay up in this city. Everybody makes plans—to go out to dinner, see a movie or even go away for the weekend. I was used to going to sleep at nine o’clock every night. It took a few years, but now here I am—not in bed before midnight!
The firm’s outstanding support extends to the mentoring relationships, too. To get the most out of it, both the mentor and mentee have a responsibility, so being clear about what you each want to achieve helps tremendously. The relationships have worked for me and helped me build incredibly useful networks at the firm.
Since I made the move 12 years ago, Bengaluru has become a major tech hub, and young people from all over India are flocking here. There are so many people from smaller cities like mine that no one feels homesick or out of place anymore!