Managing Director and Head of Equities Product Management
Alka Banerjee embodies the global spirit of S&P Global both personally and professionally. As managing director and head of equities product management at S&P Dow Jones Indices, Banerjee travels the world to meet with investment and trading professionals and market participants, such as leaders of stock exchanges and local market regulators. Her goal is to find out how best S&P Dow Jones Indices' can meet their needs, whether it’s through creating benchmarks to gauge markets, or indices that serve as a basis for investable products. She's able to foster deep relationships from markets such as Boston to Dubai and Tokyo to Mumbai due to an acute awareness of cultures. Banerjee immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1994 and joined S&P Dow Jones Indices six years later. She says her experience as an immigrant makes her much more accepting of other cultures and better equipped to do business. "I’m less set in my ways. I’m far more flexible. And I’m willing to hear people’s concerns or requirements and I adapt my reaction to them accordingly," she says.
You’ve been with S&P Dow Jones Indices for more than 14 years. What growth have you seen in the business and how has that impacted your growth as a leader?
It’s been a very interesting journey. I started in January 2000 as an analyst here and at that time operations and design was one shop. And then I worked for a few years starting as an analyst and then running my own team within operations. Then I moved on to index design and methodology, more in the research function and I worked there for a couple of years. Each function gave me more and more keen insight into how indices are built and how they are maintained - and how they should be designed. Then I moved straight into the product management space. So I was able to leverage all of my operations and design experience into product management. But this is another important facet because now I actually work with a sales team and work with the commercial policy and see the business-side of indices. So it’s been a phenomenal journey in which I’ve been able to see firsthand all the different aspects of indices and the business.
How does what you oversee contribute to S&P Global’s mission of providing essential intelligence to the markets?
It’s absolutely critical. Indices are all about providing simple, transparent ways for people to assess how markets are moving, how they can be invested and how simple it is and also how organized you can be in your investing. And indices are an essential tool for that. In 1980, all of the U.S equity markets were activity managed. Then 25 years, 30 years later - the indices have taken more than 17% of that share. So it’s grown a lot. Of course, the pool has also grown a lot but it’s very important to understand that indexing is becoming more and more critical to how people invest today.
How does the fast growth of indices affect your work?
It’s very busy, but it’s a good busy. I really enjoy what I do. What I’ve really enjoyed as part of my job is the amount of international travel that I have been able to do - learning to understand different cultures, different investing habits, and different markets. And then the process of bringing them back into our S&P Indices culture. I enjoy learning how to address local market needs in the different offerings that we have. One of our biggest successes has been our overseas exchange partnerships, whether it’s Canada or Australia. There’s also a recent partnership in India, where I’m the CEO of a new venture that we established with the Bombay Stock Exchange. So it’s phenomenal how I’m able to learn about different markets, different regulations and also how to deal with different cultures.
What are our biggest opportunities for growth in indices right now?
I think there are two key strategies. One is doing different indices in different asset classes and different methodologies. And that applies in the U.S and globally. Then there’s also doing indices in different geographic regions. We partnered in India, we are expanding now very aggressively in Latin America. We’ve got a marketing relationship in Korea. Different geographies help us to expand our business. We’ve also opened an office in South Africa. So where our indices were less well-known or even the concept of indices wasn’t well-known, we’re bringing that concept there.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a leader?
I was an immigrant to this country. I came in 1994 and had already worked for a few years in India. So joining a U.S corporation, I had to sort of unlearn many of the managerial or the corporate behaviors I had in India because every country has its own culture. Learning to adapt to the American culture or a global business culture was a big challenge, as was proving myself as a woman and as an immigrant to the global community and to the corporation - that I actually can bring value. So both of those were challenges, but I got a lot of help along the way from within the organization.
How did the culture of S&P Global help your transition?
I think the culture of S&P Global allowed me to take on challenges. If I was proactive and said, ‘I want to take on this challenge,’ they allowed me to do that. They put me in challenging positions. They did not say, ‘No you can’t do this.’ I had to prove myself again and again, but I was not denied opportunities.
What gets you excited to come to work each day?
I think that we are always growing so fast and always doing new things and I’m so much a part of that, the new things that we do, the new opportunities. And also there’s a very engaging team of people I work with who are all very motivated, very intelligent. The people who work for me, or the people I work for, it’s a very engaging group of people.
What advice do you have for future S&P Global leaders?
Be very self-motivated and be really interested in what you do. You should be in a particular role that you really enjoy, so the job itself attracts you to come to work. And once that enthusiasm is there then nothing can stop you.