Modest Beginnings

November 3, 2015 //
Rahul Merchant
Rahul Merchant

Rahul Merchant built his career from the ground up, beginning the moment his flight to the United States landed

Rahul Merchant
MBA ’89 | Chief Information Officer and Executive Vice President, TIAA-CREF

Hometown: Mumbai, India

Divided allegiance: Having earned his Master of Science degree in Computer Science from Memphis University, and his MBA from Temple, Merchant is torn when the two schools meet on the basketball court as members of the American Athletic Conference. “John Chaney was a legend, and I’m a fan of Fran Dunphy,” Merchant said of the Owls’ coaches, past and present, “but they’re both great schools and great teams.”

Rahul Merchant moved to the United States in 1979. His flight from India had landed at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and, not long after, he managed to lose one of his two suitcases. Merchant sat curbside in a blue wool suit with the late-August sun bearing down. A taxi driver picked up Merchant, and took him to his destination without asking for a fare.

“The driver said to me, ‘When you make money, you can pay somebody else,’” Merchant said. “That was the fundamental principle I learned in this country, and I’ve been touched by that moment ever since. That was a great experience for me, and I feel that in the corridors of TIAA-CREF.”

Merchant, MBA ’89, applies the same principles to his position with TIAA-CREF. As Chief Information Officer and Executive Vice President, Merchant oversees the existing information technology and implementing new IT initiatives for the nearly 100-year-old financial services firm.

“Today, 90 percent of business is closed over the wires and without even hitting the trading tickets,” he said. “It’s all electronic. What does that mean? The systems are more technologically driven and efficient, but the other side of the IT coin is that business is done openly and transparently.”

Merchant’s career began in the technology field, before earning his MBA in Finance from Fox. Ever since, he’s worked in the financial markets arena, with Exigen Capital, Fannie Mae, Merrill Lynch, and as New York City’s first Chief Information and Innovation Officer.

In September, Merchant was recognized as Fox’s 2015 honoree in the Gallery of Success, which showcases exceptional alumni from each of Temple’s 17 schools and colleges.

“I’m incredibly proud of my Temple education and all that the university has afforded me,” Merchant said.