Chicago mover and shaker Sagar Sheth is one of the few people to make it to a senior position on Wall Street by the time they hit their thirties. At only 32 years old, Sagar is one of the youngest Directors in the Global Markets Group at Deutsche Bank in Chicago, where he leads a sales team managing accounts in the Midwest and abroad. As if that’s not impressive enough, Sagar also invests in real estate and some of the city’s hottest restaurants. I recently got the chance to ask the busy businessman a few questions about his background and suggestions on where to eat, live and shop in Chicago.
You have a unique story. Tell me how you got into the finance industry.
Growing up, I never had a lot of guidance into career paths, colleges and exposure to different industries. My initial experiences and thoughts were based on personal interests more than anything else. I remember participating in a stock market competition when I was a senior in high school, and we won, which was my first exposure to the markets. Ever since I was a child, I’ve always been interested in the way businesses work and how to build a company from the ground up. When I got to college, I knew that business school was going to be a great fit for me.
The problem was finding a job on Wall Street was not an easy task. Firms like Goldman Sachs would come to campus and only hire 1 or 2 students. I went to the University of Michigan where the class size was 5000+; the odds were against me. I was diligent and applied to over 25 Wall Street jobs a week. After months of interviews, follow ups, phone calls and flights, I ended up with an offer at Discover Financial Services, which at the time was Morgan Stanley. I was excited to finally get my foot in the door! A year later, I knew I wanted to work at one of the bigger banks. I was persistent in pursuing a job at UBS and was honored to receive one. The rest is history.
What exactly is a director of Global Markets?
Global Markets is a group within Deutsche Bank that focuses on stocks and bonds, specifically the trading, distribution and research of these assets. A director is simply a title that represents your rank at the firm. Usually it goes in the order of non-officer, analyst, associate, vice president, director and managing director.
When people think finance, the first place they think is Wall Street in New York, what makes Chicago a great place for your field?
You’re correct. That’s why the opportunity in Chicago is amazing. Business school students and young people in the business flock to New York thinking that is where they need to be. If you are good at what you do and come to Chicago, you’ll find there is less competition. You can make a name for yourself faster, get promoted more quickly and boost your career light years ahead of those who have the same job in New York.
When did you start investing in real estate and other companies?
Throughout my childhood, my parents told me that real estate was what helped them improve their lifestyle – that always stuck in my head. Both of my parents had full time jobs in other industries. As I began my career on Wall Street, I quickly saw how volatile the jobs were and how hard it is to climb the corporate ladder. With my exposure to real estate investing at an early age, I knew I had an advantage in the industry. In my early 20s, I took the Illinois Real Estate Brokers Exam and became licensed to own and operate a real estate firm. I purchased my first condo at the age of 24 and still use the broker’s license and the same principles in investing today.
I started investing in restaurants, angel investments and hedge funds when I was 30 years old. My goal is to make 2-3 investments a year for the next decade, so when I turn 40 I’ll have a portfolio of over 20 investments in a variety of industries that hopefully will have created some dramatic opportunities.
You’re a businessman and I’m sure you go to a lot of power lunches and business dinners, what are the best restaurants to go to conduct business?
There is an art to the power lunch that goes beyond your personal preferences but is more aligned with what is going to help you monetize your time and relationships. I tend to choose restaurants that are close to the client, have an environment that allows for discussion, aren’t too expensive and are time efficient so you can be in and out in an hour. My go-to business lunch spots are Florentine, South Branch, and PrimeBar.
Dinners are a bit different. A combination of scene and environment are crucial. You never want to go too exotic or cultural on business dinners. Stick with the basics. It is important for the restaurant to have a bar where one can grab cocktails, as well as a dining room. I recommend NoMi, The Boarding House and Pump Room.
I’m sure you have tried plenty of great places in the city, outside of the previously mentioned places, what are some of your favorite restaurants in Chicago and why?
Siena Tavern and Mercadito for tacos, Jaipur has phenomenal Indian food and Karyns has an amazing vegetarian menu. I think everyone should start exploring other neighborhoods in the city like Logan Square, Roscoe Village and West Town where there are tons of hidden gems.
Tell me about the dinners you host in New York. They sound like a hot ticket.
I host dinners a few times a year in New York City called “executives dinners.” I invite 10-14 people to a round table dinner, and the guest list contains some of the most influential people on Wall Street. I usually have some senior management or a profile speaker from Deutsche Bank come in and give some thoughts on the economy, the markets or world issues. They have been a massive hit, and the feedback is phenomenal.
As far as real estate, are there any up and coming neighborhoods you would recommend for readers who may be looking for something in Chicago?
The West Loop without question. SoHo house is opening, Google is moving their headquarters there, at least five new restaurants are slated to open in 2014, and there’s a possible highway cap project that will bring a corporate park. I think it’s the best value in the city at the moment.
What about for someone where money is no object, where would you suggest they look?
Lakeshore East. An award winning park, beautiful properties, stunning penthouses, and 100,000 square feet of retail including Marianos, coffee shops and restaurants. It is like an island in the city.
Just to make sure I cover all the basics, Chicago is becoming a much more respected fashion hub, especially with the 900 North Michigan Shops and Oak Street continuously expanding their luxury shops, where do you shop and what are your wardrobe staples?
I agree and it’s nice to see as well. Standing at 5’ 9”, the clothing options really boil down to the fit. I tend to shop at places where the clothes are a bit more slim and are designed for guys who wear clothes more fitted. I frequent Suit Supply and Jil Sander. I get basics from J.Crew, Haberdash and Ralph Lauren. All of my friends make fun of me for wearing scarves in the winter, but they are my staple.
Where do you shop for suits?
I get custom suits from Hugo Boss, Wilfred Newman and Theory.
Are you involved in any charities? How do you give back?
I asked myself: what can I do at my job right now that would help me give back? I started advising the incoming class of talent and guest speaking at universities, which led to me becoming a professor at the IIT School of Business. That is a passion of mine, and I also believe it creates an edge. I give students insight on how things really work on Wall Street from someone who is actually in the business.
I’m on the Board for The Israel Idonije Foundation and I am involved with the Chicago Children’s Choir annual Red Jacket Optional gala. I’ve seen what children can do if they have guidance and mentorship. I’m also involved in the Cystic Fibrosis foundation, Foundation for Educating Children with Autism and a Number of Charities in India.
Last question, having achieved a great deal of success, what’s on the horizon for you?
In addition to continuing my mentorship endeavors, I’m looking forward to the Chicago Children’s Choir Red Jacket Optional gala on October 18. The unforgettable evening directly benefits the Choir’s music education programs, which serve 3,500 children annually. I plan on continuing my career on Wall Street, and perhaps there might be some political ambitions in the future.