Who Is Anu Aiyengar? The JPMorgan M&A Super-force Who Spent College Years in a $5 Coat

She has previously been quoted saying, “Everyone has the ability to be a leader and make an impact.”

Vanshika Swami
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Anu Aiyengar

Indian American Anu Aiyengar is a deal-making power force at global bank JP Morgan. She moved to the U.S. as a teenager to study at Smith College, shivering through the bitter Massachusetts winter in a $5 coat. Later she picked an MBA degree from Vanderbilt University. Aiyengar is the Global Co-Head of mergers and acquisitions at the American multinational banking and financial services company.

  • Anu Aiyengar’s led a department that picked up over $575 billion in transactions this year

  • She’s the co-head of JPMorgan’s global mergers and acquisitions business

  • Only person of colour and only woman to hold that position on Wall Street

Aiyengar is the only person of colour and sole woman to carry this position on Wall Street. “M&A was historically a male bastion-often cigar-smoking men in suspenders-and currently she is at the highest of the sector because she is simply outstanding at what she does,” says her boss, JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon.

She has previously been quoted saying, “Everyone has the flexibility to be a leader and make an impact. What’s the point in having the best and brightest,” she asks, “if everyone can’t come back up with a new and better way to do things? When you see someone become the most effective version of themselves, that’s high, and that’s fun.”

Here are 5 things to know about Anu Aiyengar:

  1. Aiyenger grew up in Kerala and then came to the United States to study and find a career in banking.
  2. Her early years were tough. From cultural adjustments to financial uncertainty, she had it all on her plate. “I didn’t know basic things like how you behave and how to talk and how to present myself. Moreover, I had no idea of how to dress up in an exceedingly skilled atmosphere,” she said in an interview to Bloomberg.
  3. An Indian on deal street, Aiyenger faced challenges and even through they added to her 'struggles' she overcame them in time. By facing her challenges and talking about them, the banker normalised the idea that people face such adjustments and it's part of life.
  4. In 1999, while interviewing with The Wall Street investment bank, Aiyengar's interviewer told her that she belonged from 'wrong gender, wrong colour, and wrong country'.
  5. Nothing deterred Anu Aiyenger from focussing on her work and delivering the deals. And as Dimon said, Aiyenger brought business to the bank when few others could rise to the occasion.

The Big Role

  1. She presently performs at JPMorgan Chase & Co and is head of North American Mergers & Acquisitions. Besides, she is the woman responsible for the marketing and execution of advisory assignments in North America.
  2. Apart from being the co-chair of the Investment Bank's women network, Aiyengar is a part of several initiatives across J.P. Morgan. Some of them include Junior Women in Banking, Vice President's Women's Network, Winning Women, Launching Leaders, JumpStart, Early Advantage, and Wall Street. She is recognised for her notable contributions in recruiting, mentoring, and developing women.

“M&A is a confidence game. With political certainty, the end of the pandemic in sight, and strong capital markets, the confidence levels in the C-suite and board rooms are high. That bodes well for M&A.” – Anu Aiyengar, Global Co-Head of M&A, JP Morgan on 2021 outlook

Where it began

  1. In her early days, Aiyengar has confessed she tried to change her Indian accent to sound more American. She said in the Bloomberg interview that she was under-confident and didn't have an idea about hair and makeup and such things.
  2. A colleague's suggestion on where to buy clothes shocked her for the prices, she turned to Dress for Success, a charity that provides professional attire for women. Last year, she was honoured for her work with the International Charity.
  3. Aiyengar is additionally a panelist and a speaker at several events including WomenCorporateDirectors, Women’s Private Equity Summit, The Asian Women in Business, and the South Asian Bar Association Leadership Awards.  Moreover, she is also a guest lecturer at Harvard Business School, and Chicago Booth; as well as a speaker at several women’s business conferences across financial organisations, law firms, and business schools.
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