Rajiv Shetty '94 Gives Back through Impact Investing

8/9/2012

At the age of four, Stevens alumnus Rajiv Shetty (B.E. in Computer Engineering, 1994) knew he wanted to leave his hometown of Mumbai, India and get his college education in the United States. What he didn’t know was that his life would eventually come full circle – thanks to the education, work experience and life lessons he gained as a Stevens undergraduate, today he is giving back to the entrepreneurs and business owners in his native country and other developing areas facing similar challenges.

When Shetty was a teenager in India excelling in his high school math and science classes, he caught the entrepreneurial bug while working at the family-owned business, a printing company his father built from scratch. But prior to enrolling at Stevens in 1989, Shetty had no idea of corporate experience whatsoever.

“I was the first in my family to go to work in the corporate world, so I had no frame of reference from my early years,” said Shetty.

The future software analyst also had no computer experience.

“I had never used a PC before, but had heard people discuss them and felt this was something interesting and modern that I might be good at,” Shetty said.

Stevens, he said, was instrumental in developing both skills. He chose it for its strong engineering curriculum, its proximity to New York City, its small size, and most importantly, its Cooperative Education (Co-op) program, which allowed Shetty to self-finance his education.

“For a foreign student, the Co-op program was a life saver,” he said. “I was struggling with finances, culture shock, looming career decisions, and more, and Co-op was my rock in the storm.”

As he progressed through his Computer Engineering major, Shetty held five summer Co-op assignments, gradually increasing his responsibilities, networking with important future connections, and learning generally how to excel on the job. His first assignment was at Manhattan-based Nautical Technologies, which developed databases for managing various shipping functions. Next he worked at postal equipment manufacturing company Pitney Bowes as a member of a team working to create new product lines in a state-of-the-art electronics research facility. Finally, he had three assignments at Dialogic, which specialized in telephony technology such as call processing hardware and software. As Shetty helped get Dialogic’s voice recognition software out of the lab and into development, the company was growing rapidly and in need of talent, and at the end of his final assignment Shetty received a hard-to-pass-up offer.

“Dialogic was soon going public and management wanted to double the size of the organization. They made me an open offer to join any department, with a package that included stock options,” Shetty said.

Although honored by the vote of confidence, Shetty had other ideas. With enough on-the-job knowledge to understand what he really wanted out of a full-time position and the confidence that comes with having a great job offer stashed away in his back pocket, Shetty applied to only one company – Salomon Brothers, which was then known as the Wall Street leader in technology.

“Almost every trading and investment technology used in finance was originally developed at Salomon Brothers, and at the time the company had a massive budget for technology research and development,” Shetty said.

After a grueling interview process, Shetty was selected for what he was later told was “the best technology job Salomon Brothers offered that year” – as an analyst on an advanced technology research team which guided the technology strategy of the company.

“The work and visibility was amazing,” Shetty said. “I got to work with key trading departments and on projects for senior executives at the firm.”

Shetty stayed at Salomon Brothers for about three years before pursuing an opportunity as a technology strategist specializing in risk and trading systems at Long-Term Capital Management, which in 1997 was a major hedge fund at the top of Wall Street. However, the following year the firm failed, leading to a bailout by other financial institutions under the supervision of the Federal Reserve.

“It was an incredibly intense and valuable experience being at ground zero of the financial crisis of 1998,” Shetty said. “I stayed on during Long-Term Capital Management’s reincarnation as JWM Partners, a slimmed-down version of the original.”

That decision helped Shetty make the transition from the technology side to the investment side of the financial industry. In that capacity, he has since worked for Banc of America Securities, Harcourt Investment Consulting AG, and today, AlphaMundi, a Zurich-based company which specializes in “impact investing.”

“We make investments in social enterprises in emerging and frontier markets that are addressing the major challenges faced by the world’s working poor, such as access to clean energy, sustainable agriculture, affordable education and microfinance,” said Shetty, who also holds an MBA in Entrepreneurship from INSEAD.

Shetty said he’s thrilled to be able to combine what he’s learned in the classroom, in industry and in life to connect the world’s problems to the business and financial markets.

“It’s great to reconnect with my own upbringing and use the experience I’ve gained in the financial industry to work on bridging the worlds a little bit,” he said. “There are lots of great partnerships being made between businesses, governments, nonprofits and philanthropists.”

Shetty lives in Zurich with his wife, Virginie, who he proposed to eleven years ago at Castle Point, and his two-year-old son, Rohan.