Sukh Saluja ’99, M.Acc. ’00, knows how to make taking risks pay off, as made known by both his journey to Samford University and his post-graduate journey to Macquarie Group. Macquarie is a diversified global financial services group headquartered in Australia and operates in 34 markets in asset management, corporate advisory, retail and business banking, wealth management and much more. Saluja currently works in their New York City office and serves as their chief financial officer for the Americas.
Saluja is originally from India, and when he was searching for colleges in the United States, a good tennis program was a priority. One of his friends, Akash Lamba ’96, had left India to play tennis at Samford, and he came back from school singing its praises. After a call in December 1996 with Coach Pat Breen, Saluja packed his bags and arrived in Homewood six weeks later in January 1997 for the start of spring semester.
“I came in with a completely clean slate,” said Saluja. “I knew I would major in something with business, I just didn’t know exactly what. As I started going through classes, I started to lean towards accounting because it came pretty naturally to me. I graduated in 1999, but I still had a year of tennis eligibility. Samford had just launched their Master of Accountancy program, so I stayed and completed that as well.”
Saluja not only experienced Samford as a student-athlete, but as a minority student as well. The tennis team during his tenure had students from all over the world, and he remembers his tennis career quite fondly. But there wasn’t a lot of representation in the student body from his home country of India.
“It was a bit of a comfort zone issue for me, a resilience test for me from the start, which I value very much,” shared Saluja. “And as a result, I was pushed out of my comfort zone and was, gratefully, exposed to a lot of cultures by the environment I was in. That was formative for me to be able to survive in unfamiliar surroundings. I was familiar with the tennis court and tennis culture which I really enjoyed, but I also wanted to make sure I was focused on academics and doing well in school. It’s unique here, Samford classes are collaborative and encourage participation.”
During his last year at Samford, PwC, one of the “big four” accounting firms, had visited campus and offered Saluja an internship. He worked for PwC during his time in Samford’s Master of Accountancy and throughout his time in the Master of Taxation program at the University of Denver, which he attended following completion of the Master of Accountancy program. After working in international tax structuring with PwC for over three years, Saluja realized he wanted to broaden his career experience. That’s when he found Macquarie.
Saluja has worked in several areas of Macquarie, even moving to Australia for a few years to work at the company’s headquarters. According to Saluja, the thing he loves about this company is that “our teams are distinguished by their diversity, in who we are, where we’re from and what we do. We use this experience and our deep knowledge to identify where we can best apply our skills and expertise.” That’s one of the many reasons Saluja wants to partner with Samford to provide internship opportunities for students at Samford.
“We’ve got offices across 25 locations in the Americas,” said Saluja. “Not everyone who’s talented wants to end up in New York. I certainly valued my education at Samford, and I was just talking to Dr. Reburn to see if students in the business school would even be interested. For example, in the Financial Management function that I lead in the region, accounting and business students pursue opportunities across finance, tax, treasury and structuring and corporate affairs. We want to expose the students to things they could be doing. I’ll be on campus this fall to explore how we could partner with Samford.”
When asked if he had any advice for Samford students, specifically ones that may come from different cultures, Saluja expressed a charge for boldness and curiosity. He said, “Be bold. Put yourself in uncomfortable positions. Dig deeper to understand perspective. Do what you love and figure out how to grow in that for a career and not just a job. Find mentors. I’m grateful to my Samford mentor, Ed Felton, who was so generous with his time and offered me insights and perspective that I still lean in on. And don’t be afraid to try new things. Work should be one component of life, not all-consuming.”