Financial expert Sarat Sethi has advice for new generation of AAPI leaders

Sarat Sethi

Cameron Costa | CNBC

When Sarat Sethi first appeared in the financial and investment advisory industries, there weren’t many role models of Asian origin.

“I felt differently,” said Sethi, who moved with his family from India to the United States when he was 12.

Sethi, now 51 and the managing partner of New York-based investment advisory firm Douglas C. Lane, said this only made him work harder.

“When I’m different, the only way I can adjust is if I can do a really, really good job,” he said.

Sarat Sethi during his time at Lehigh University. He graduated in 1992.

Source: Sarat Sethi

Only a quarter of senior manager positions and above in financial services are held by people of Asian descent, including 6% in the C-suite, 2020 research by the WK Kellogg Foundation and McKinsey. Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and mixed race people only had 2% of these roles, none in the C-suite.

Fortunately, Sethi found mentors who helped him grow in his career. He worked for JP Morgan after earning his MBA from Harvard Business School and then became a portfolio manager and partner at Douglas C. Lane, which has $ 7.8 billion under management.

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He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of Lehigh University, his college alma mater, and Chairman of the Institute’s Investment Committee. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of Children’s Hope, a New York-based nonprofit that helps with children’s programs in India and the United States

“I feel an obligation to give back, whether it’s time or money,” said Sethi, a CNBC official.

Here is his advice to the next generation of Americans from Asia and the Pacific.

Be your own lawyer

In general, Asian Americans don’t stand up for themselves, Sethi said.

“You work hard,” he said. “You make your actions speak louder than your words.”

He, too, has committed himself to others in the workplace, sometimes stepping back and listening – which will help you learn. However, it can also be hurtful because people feel like you don’t have an opinion, he said.

“It was an important part of growing up in this industry,” Sethi admitted.

When you are sure of what you are doing, you can feel comfortable expressing yourself in a way that not only explains your ideas but also develops your skills, he explained.

Get a mentor

Find a mentor who understands your strengths and weaknesses. They can help you build that trust and answer any questions you might have along the way.


Don’t just stay on your trail, go out and meet new people, Sethi advised.

For example, it is very important to Sethi to be part of the Lehigh alumni network. By attending university, he was able to grow into the person he is today.

“Experience life and you will find people you bond with and respect,” he said.

Work hard

Work hard. Be humble and assume that there is so much more to learn, Sethi said.

stay true to yourself

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