Can We Meet?

By Elizabeth Bennett  |  Posted 2005-05-23 Print this article Print

Rahul Merchant loves to play matchmaker, linking the needs of Merrill Lynch's business units with his arsenal of systems and applications.

Can We Meet?

There's a knock on the door of Merchant's office. It's someone who wants to meet with him—no surprise there.

Every other week, Merchant meets with his immediate staff to discuss current and future projects. The group consists of the five chief technology officers, one chief technology architect, and technology executives in the following areas: corporate finance, human resources, security, communications and vendor management. He meets with them all individually at least once a week and talks to each one at least every other day. "It's punishment for them," Merchant jokes.

He also meets with five to 10 business unit directors each week, all of whom arrive for their meetings with power points—the one-page summaries of what they want done—in hand.

A typical morning:

  • A director from the London office briefs him on the progress of a new training program called Coaching for Teams that brings together geographically dispersed workgroups to share their expertise and project lessons.
  • The GBT's chief financial officer gives the good news that in February, GBT's projects ran on time and within budget.
  • The head of research technology discusses a new application to manage the workflow of its securities analysts.

But Merchant isn't always the one being presented to. He leads by example: "When I go into [a meeting] and look at a design review for a product, I contribute as much as I expect others to contribute. I have to know as much as everyone else."

When meetings at his desk end, Merchant likes to walk the floors. He roams the cavernous debt and equities trading areas, where hundreds of brokers and sales assistants conduct their trading. He simply starts talking to people, to gather information on current and future needs, to get his finger on the pulse of the business in the most direct way possible.

Once a trader himself, Merchant says he talks directly to the people who use the technology because he identifies with them: "I was one of them. I was one of the guys on the floor."

Merchant came to the U.S. 26 years ago to study. Back in India, he says he was identified strictly by who his family was. "Here, I knew nobody," he recounts. "Who I am today is because I created my own identity."

As a young adult in a new country, he developed a set of "core values"—always being truthful, treating others as he would like to be treated—that remain with him today. But there would be more. "There were so many people around me who I learned from, as a manager and a leader."

Merchant smiles at the analogy to come: "I took what I thought were good traits and added to my portfolio."

It was a good match.

Merrill Lynch & Co. (NYSE: MER)
4 World Financial Center
250 Vesey St.
New York, NY 10080
Phone: (212) 449-1000
Fax: (212) 449-7357

Senior Writer
Elizabeth has been writing and reporting at Baselinesince its inaugural issue. Most recently, Liz helped Fortune 500 companies with their online strategies as a customer experience analyst at Creative Good. Prior to that, she worked in the organization practice at McKinsey & Co. She holds a B.A. from Vassar College.

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