A generational shift: HSBC AM’s Amrita Sanyal follows a childhood passion for the stockmarket

Sanyal discusses growing up, moving from India, and the state of women in finance

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash


Like most children, HSBC Asset Management’s Amrita Sanyal knew she wanted to be a fund manager from a young age.

She inherited the interest from her father, who recruited her to fill out paperwork for stocks as he traded. While she filled out the files, and while other children pictured futures as athletes or astronauts, Sanyal daydreamed of moving the markets.  

“In India, unlike here, investing in stocks is a national pastime. You have the news on, and you have the ticker of the stocks and the prices coming in the background. I grew up hearing (my dad) talk on the phone, saying ‘let’s buy this, let’s sell this’,” Sanyal says.

“India was going through a bull market when I was growing up; there was liberalisation, we were seeing foreign multinationals come in, we were seeing wealth being generated for the first time. So in my head, I used to find that all very fascinating.”

See also: Branching Out: SJP’s Dr Sarah Ruggins on Magnificent Seven ‘FOMO’ and the ‘wild ride’ from theory to practice

Although Sanyal learned the market from her father, she was also encouraged to pursue her career by her mother, who was the homemaker for her family and married at 19.

“She was a very talented person, but she spent her entire life taking care of her in-laws, and then her children. I think that there was this thought that: ‘My daughter should not follow the same path.’” Sanyal says.

“You need to be financially independent, and that was going to give you that equal status in society. Otherwise, in her head, if you weren’t working you were always going to have to be financially dependent on your husband, and she didn’t want that for me.”

Following school, Sanyal successfully began her career in finance, gaining six years of experience in India managing portfolios before being offered a position at Fidelity. However, after her husband secured a job in the UK, Sanyal resigned from her new position, having faith she could find something in London.

While Sanyal was able to work her way into the world of finance again, she was hired as an analyst, not a fund manager like she had been for six years before in India. She was told she needed to understand the UK market.

See also: Diversity Project expands Pathway programme as women fund managers share success stories

“The transition was hard because I was reporting to someone who was younger than me and when I started working, I realised that I knew a lot more than what they expected an analyst to know. But because I didn’t have the experience of this market, it made it hard to prove myself.”

After her first stint in London, Sanyal decided to look for jobs elsewhere, and completed her first interview at HSBC, where she would spend the next 16 years of her career. But as she changed jobs, Sanyal experienced another life shift: she learned she was pregnant just after being offered her new position at HSBC.

Sanyal said her first course of action was to tell the recruiter to let HSBC know and give the company a chance to rescind its offer. But HSBC kept its offer on the table, and Sanyal gave up her maternity pay to make the switch. As she returned from leave, she said the transition proved a challenge.

“There’s the pressure you put on yourself, of ‘Oh my god, they must be judging me. I have to work extra hard. Oh, no, none of the analysts have babies, so I cannot be the one,’” Sanyal says.

“Even my line manager at the time was not married and didn’t have any children. You’re having to deal with a child when others are going out drinking. You’re having to run back to pick them up from nursery. So I think it was a big transition for me where I maybe overcompensated.”

For Sanyal, this meant Sundays spent at the office so she could get extra work done, and taking holidays when her child was sick because she didn’t know about parental leave.

But Sanyal said she got lucky. After months of struggling through this schedule, her line manager saw her difficulties and pulled her aside to help work out a compromise: remotely logging into her job at home, so when she needed to, she had the flexibility to be with her baby: a pre-Covid rareity.

Now, after over 16 years with HSBC, Sanyal is the lead portfolio manager of the largest UCITS Passive Fund in Europe tracking the Bloomberg Global Aggregate Total Return index, with the fund crossing $11bn (£8.68bn) in total assets under management as of the end of January.

Wanting to be able to be a force for change for other women in the industry and still facing the numbers discrepancy between women and men as fund managers, were a few of the reasons Sanyal decided to work with The Diversity Project’s Pathway Programme, a one-year course designed for women who want to become fund managers.

“I really am quite passionate about the fact that we need to have more female role models. I sometimes feel that if earlier on in my career, I had more female role models, I would have probably not put so much pressure on myself. I probably would have discussed with someone whether it was okay for me to take time off because my child was not well. But because I didn’t have that kind of support early on in my career, I feel that it is really my responsibility to do something about it.”