Forbes interview Tanzanian Ninon Marapachi On her Wall Street Domination

 Ninon Marapachi,head of the Hedge Fund Business at Bank of America within the Global Wealth Investment Management division. From a little Village in Tanzania to Wall Street Domination, Marapachi, 38, Loved this interview, hear what she has to say on Her Career, her Background and What she has to say other women, read the full interview below, 

Allie Hoffman and Ally Bogard: What would be the most surprising thing about your professional journey that even the people that were closest with you wouldn’t know?

Ninon Marapachi: I’ve learned throughout my career – more than anything – I’ve learned to ask. And every single time I’ve asked for things, I’ve gotten them.

I’m originally from Tanzania. The hardship of my family situation caused me to push myself so hard and to literally think of failure as not an option. I always knew, ‘I really need to make it,’ [be]cause I knew I needed to change my family’s situation.


I got out of Tanzania because of a scholarship through the Norwegian government. That took me through my last two years of high school in Norway. From there, I never stopped pushing myself.

I got accepted by Mount Holyoke College in 1998; [they] paid a significant portion of my tuition fee.

I arrived into the airport with $20 in my pocket. I had a phone number for a van driver who was going to take me to the campus, but I had no way of reaching him cause I had no cell phone.

My sophomore year, I started as an intern at Merrill Lynch in NYC. In 2001, 50 of us interns met with a very senior leader. After he presented, I emailed him, thanking him and asking him if he’d be available to talk to me one-on-one. He said yes.

I remember talking on the trading floor with some of the middle managers and I mentioned, ‘I have lunch with XYZ manager,’ and they thought I was crazy – they couldn’t believe that I’d made the ask.

I got in front of this senior leader, I told him my story and my background — I told him I’m not American, I don’t have a visa, my family are very poor and I love working in finance. I told him I’d love to be hired, but if they wanted to hire me, then they should hire me as soon as possible, and I gave a very clear deadline — by July 1st. That was the deadline for reclassifying and opting to graduate early.

It was kind of crazy ask; it just came to me to be that bold.

Literally on July 1st that year, 2001, I got called to his office and he said, ‘You asked for this,’ and there was an offer in front of me. I’ve been there ever since.

Look at me. I can be viewed as a black American, but I realize there’s a lot of challenges with a person of my background getting in[to] finance just by virtue of who is already there – white men – and there’s always kind of an expectation that it’s very tough. But every single time I made my ask clear, I’ve gotten it.

Hoffman and Bogard: Has there been a personal trait or a characteristic that hasn’t served your professionally? Like, if you could lose one trait, what would it be? 

Marapachi: I still need to work on my presentation skills. [Being] from Tanzania, Swahili is my language. Before Norway, I wasn’t using English as my mode of communication. My communication skills can be better.

It’s really about keeping on working on it. When I was applying for my internship interview, I knew it was something I had to work on, so I did a ton of preparation — videotaping myself and correcting myself on the things that I wasn’t doing right – I worked on it and worked on it some more.

Hoffman and Bogard: What advice do you wish you had gotten when you were just starting off? Or if you could go back and give your earlier version a piece of advice?

Marapachi: The biggest one is to make sure you have a goal, a three-year target, a five-year target and a much longer term target.

You may end up doing a bunch of things, but at the end of the day, you need to do at least one thing a day leading you towards that target and you cannot get there if you are not laser focused on what needs to be done to get to the target.

It could be inside of Merrill Lynch or it could be bigger than that, but what’s your big audacious goal?

I have a story to tell and I want to impact a lot of people – people who might not believe that a black woman can be in finance, an African woman can be on Wall Street – I want to inspire women to break down all of those self-imposed obstacles that they put in front of themselves.

Hoffman and Bogard: What do you want to teach women?

Marapachi: Money. All women need to be smarter about money. Money management, investing, the importance of money. Number one is money management in general. Spending your money, figuring out what to do with it. But the investing part I think is a little bit missed. Women need to understand what it means to invest for your retirement, invest for your kids’ education, invest for your life goals.

Many women don’t really understand the benefits of a 401K plan. If you work and you actually contribute to your 401K plan, in many cases, your employer matches between 50% and 100% of the contribution, up to a cap. In some cases, the employer could double the contribution. You hear of women not contributing to their 401K plan because they need to spend that money now, but if it was crystal clear that if one puts $2 away, one’s employer would put $2 as well, one would put that $2 away, without blinking. It’s so obvious … but it’s a detail that is missed by many.

Most companies require employees to contribute at least 6% of their salary per year to receive the full match. It’s a small portion of one’s income to put away. So that’s your money that will grow for you, for your retirement. What’s tragic is that the people who don’t use it because they don’t understand are actually the people that need it the most. 


Women need way more literacy around finance, generally speaking. It’s just really important and I don’t think many women are there. 
Source: Forbes