Growing up in India, Raj Sharma wanted to follow his passion: a job in radio, or some other media career. His father implored him to get an MBA, just in case.
“I said, ‘Dad you don’t know anything,’ ” Sharma said. “I said, ‘Media is the future.’ ”
Turns out that finance was his future. Sharma, a managing director in Merrill Lynch’s private banking and investment group, is routinely named as one of the top financial advisers in the country. The most recent magazine ranking put him at 17th.
He has long since joined Barron’s “All-Stars” list and traveled to Florida last week to speak at a Barron’s conference. Sharma was ranked 25th-best in the country in Barron’s most recent rankings of financial advisers, but was bested locally by former Merrill Lynch colleague James Atwood, who came in 17th. (Atwood recently joined First Republic.)
More than 30 years ago, a Merrill Lynch headhunter convinced Sharma to join the investment firm. Sharma started his practice by knocking on Mass. General doctors’ doors. But it really took off amid the biotech and high-tech boom of the 1990s.
Sharma plays down all the national accolades he’s received while managing money for Boston’s wealthy elite. “But it’s ratification for our clients, saying we’re doing a good job,” Sharma says.
A rocky search
Finding a CEO for a public company can be a laborious task. And it’s one that doesn’t get any easier when a shareholder starts making waves about the search process.
Just watch how things are unfolding at Destination XL, the Canton men’s clothing retailer. CEO David Levin plans to retire at the end of the year, and the company has hired headhunters Heidrick & Struggles to find Levin’s replacement.
But the process is getting a thumbs-down from Glenn Krevlin, whose investment firm, Glenhill Advisors, is one of Destination XL’s biggest investors.
On Sept. 11, Krevlin initially sounded a friendly tone in a note to the company’s board of directors, saying he was interested in joining the board and that he could add “considerable value to the vetting process for a new CEO.”
He took a subtle jab at Levin’s tenure, complaining about the company’s financial track record for the past decade, its pace of expansion, and its advertising strategies. He volunteered to contribute his expertise to the company’s search.
Somewhere, somehow, over the following week the relationship between Krevlin and the board took a turn for the worse.
Krevlin sent another letter, with a more scathing approach, on Sept. 16, calling the CEO search flawed. Krevlin said the board doesn’t appear to be adequately checking with candidates’ previous employers and that it should be tapping into his Rolodex of retail industry contacts. He had been assured he would play a role in the search, Krevlin wrote, but “the company hasn’t involved me except in a tangential manner and largely to try and placate me.”
Krevlin wrote that the existing search should be terminated — as well as the contract with Heidrick & Struggles.
He’s so concerned that he said he will seek “all permissible legal remedies” unless there’s a new search.
(Destination XL declined to comment, and Krevlin didn’t return a call seeking comment.)
Krevlin also said he’s still interested in serving on the board, but his letter probably hasn’t won over many directors.
It wasn’t that long ago when Citizens Bank could accept deposits only from people in the Northeast.
But now, as far as CEO Bruce Van Saun is concerned, the entire country can be the Providence-based bank’s target market.
No, Citizens isn’t looking to open branches in all 50 states — or even west of the Mississippi. Instead, it has launched a national “digital bank” known as Citizens Access, led by John Rosenfeld in Citizens’ Dedham office.
The bank has attracted about $1 billion in deposits since the launch in early July, into a mix of money market accounts and certificates of deposits.
Van Saun will highlight Citizens Access and other digital efforts by Citizens in recent years during his appearance Tuesday at the National Association for Business Economics meeting at the Westin Copley Place.
“One of the themes is banking in 2025 . . . and how it’s changing and how banks need to pivot to be more digital, to be more innovative [and] what that means in terms of the tech investments they have to make,” Van Saun said.
Niraj Shah, head of the Boston-based retailer Wayfair, was the other executive asked to participate in a “CEO chat” at the conference. Speaking on Monday, Shah covered a range of topics, from the disruption Wayfair is bringing to the retail sector to the role data science plays in the company’s approach to the recent Supreme Court ruling on online sales taxes.
Shah said he viewed the June ruling, in South Dakota v. Wayfair, as a positive thing — even though the decision went against the company. It provides clarity for retailers who sell online, Shah said, and Wayfair already collects taxes in states that account for 80 percent of its sales.
The guys wise up
Women seem to love the Embr Wave. Its makers say the device, which looks like a watch and sends hot or cold bursts onto users’ wrists, is a hit with women who use it to combat hot flashes or to help them endure drafty restaurants and offices.
As the Cambridge company that developed it, Embr Labs, examined the potential market for the device, its all-male founding team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduates realized they were missing a perspective that could help them understand a key part of their customer base. They decided to hire a women as chief executive.
“As they started to see women saying, ‘This is the best thing since sliced bread,’ the guys kind of looked at each other and said, ‘We should really bring in some female leadership,’ ” said Elizabeth Gazda, the longtime Boston tech executive who got the job.
Gazda cofounded the financial tech company Doni, and she held high-ranking positions at ATG and m-Qube.
The firm’s founders, Matthew Smith, Sam Shames, and David Cohen-Tanugi, will remain at the company, which has been one of Boston’s highest-profile tech hardware launches in recent years.
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