Friend, philosopher, guide

Financial expert Preeti Nambiar has begun an initiative that mentors youngsters to find their personal and professional strength

December 06, 2015 05:24 pm | Updated March 24, 2016 02:11 pm IST - Kochi

Preeti Nambiar. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

Preeti Nambiar. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

Young and charming Preeti Nambiar carries her accomplishments in the corporate world of global finance lightly. Her being the only Asian woman in structured transactions on the trading floor in London is mentioned casually in a chat. It was her first foray in the field after she qualified, on scholarship, from Bocconi University in Milan with a degree in International Economics and Finance.

At that point, she says, she believed the world was at her feet, but soon learnt otherwise. In her team at the German Bank, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, was a mathematician, a historian and an engineer. She wondered why fields unrelated to finance were required in creating financial instruments to trade in. “I wondered why a history guy was in our team, or why a crop in one place and the weather in another will affect the London Stock Market; It was a revelation to work with these people,” she says

It kindled in her the desire to learn further the intricacies of the finance market and trade. She enrolled for financial engineering, at Carnegie Mellon, studying the implications of science in finance. She came out trumps, found top shot jobs at Merrill Lynch (Singapore), Credit Suisse (New York) and Guggenheim (India). She became a wizard in Private Equity.

As part of her high profile job she was advising government organisations, financial institutions and family offices. She was part of the team that set up the first seed capital fund for Indian Angel Networks. “I was doing all this,” she recalls but at the same time Preeti was observing attitudes and morale of the workforce. Certain questions began niggling at her. “On a macro level I was helping build an airport, a bridge but at a micro level I could sense the young engineer’s disinterest in his work. Something was fundamentally wrong here. I realised that education was not about a degree,” she says.

At the height of a highly successful career Preeti quit her job and returned to Kochi, her hometown, with a desire to help the youth define and carve their own idea of success.

Preeti founded Baanyan Tree in 2013, in Mumbai, with two “thought and knowledge” partners. The firm began offering mentorship programmes for students at both school and college levels. “Being a Malayali I thought we should have a place in Kerala. Malayalis are shockingly creative but a certain sense of frustration sets in once youngsters take up a job. More than qualification there is an X factor required for success,” she says.

Citing the success of innovative ventures like ISL, Kabbadi League, Startup Village and such Preeti believes that the game plan to life has changed. “We no longer need to try fit into a few open slots, but proactively leverage one’s unique talents and abilities. Children should have information on what in this world applies to them,” she says.

Since the time Baanyan Tree began operations it has held seminars and sessions in almost all local schools. It has also conducted workshops with teachers, where Preeti organises for outside speakers from other spheres to address them. “We start defining our programme based on the institution we work with. Much like Private Equity investment, there’s no coming, talking and leaving,” she says about her long term investment with students and their futures. She is careful that her programmes are not mere personality development classes where it is all about getting through an interview.

Knowing that mentorship does not end at college level, Baanyan Tree has expanded its sphere to works with corporates. Its board of advisors, “our backbone,” guides the course they take. The firm also works with government departments and is starting a series of seminars for the Children’s Welfare Council.

Just a couple of years into being, Baanyan Tree has found visible success. Preeti senses it in the heightened levels of motivation amongst the youngsters she handles.

“You know, this is a labour of love. It is an effort to be the change I hope to see in the people that make our country. How each citizen needs to feel important, bold, and in control of their lives and future, to eventually have a country that will then be less “me-too” and more “this is me”.

It’s not often that successful young Indians abroad quit the fine life and return to give back to their country and city. Preeti is just doing that.

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