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Devika Patil On The Intricacies Of Her Sought-After Financial Job

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Priya Kumari Rana

I’m on a Zoom call with this Silicon Valley finance whiz, who’s immersed in the exciting world of venture debt, for companies raising money with seed financing — in today’s innovation economy. It’s post-dinner time for the chic Devika Patil, dressed in a blue and white Dior sweater, who explains to me the intricacies of her financial job — one that has made her one of the most sought-after banking professionals in California.

The Sexy World of Innovation Banking

The Atherton-based Devika, who calls herself the “quintessential desi girl” (more on that later) at heart, was born in Mumbai. She spent her formative years in school in Geneva, speaking French and English (she’s fluent in Hindi as well), returned to Mumbai, then off to San Francisco for five years, then back to Mumbai to study at Xavier’s and the American School, and finally returned to US shores to finish her undergraduate degree in Economics at Tufts University (switching from pre-med). She was immediately hired by investment banking firm JP Morgan and lived the lucrative high life in New York City some two decades ago.

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In 2006, Devika moved to the Bay Area, joining the Royal Bank of Scotland at the age of 28 while pregnant with her first child (her son Veyd), where she helped grow the office from one to 35 people. She took a break when her daughter Samaara was born, and then transitioned to a position in venture capital with Silicon Valley Bank, until her present bank, HSBC, happened. “I had never catered to the innovation economy, working with companies that don’t have Annual Realised Revenue yet, so we are the ones who bring them to the market,” says Devika, who is today Managing Director, HSBC Innovation Banking.

Her division is involved in investor coverage and business development, collaborating with venture capitalists in various ecosystems, including Greylock Partners, Accel, Redpoint Partners and Sequoia Capital. Devika has worked with cutting-edge innovative companies such as LA-based Haus Labs (Lady Gaga’s cosmetics brand), Rebel Girls Storybooks, Poshmark, crypto companies, fintech, chip and robotics companies. “If a company is raising $10 million in equity financing, they have to give up 20% of their company to get that funding. But if they do venture debt, we give them up to $4 million in debt, and they only have to give up 0.2% of their company, what is known as non-diluted financing. The owners and founders get to keep more ownership. And they get a debt line of three-four years to pay it back,” she explains, adding, “I love what I do!”

The Life of a Venture Professional

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At 23, Devika married Dhanurjay “DJ” Patil, who later served as the first Chief Data Scientist for the Obama administration at the White House. “I met him in Mumbai, and we just celebrated our 20th anniversary,” she says of her husband, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist.

Typically, Devika is in her office twice or three times a week; the rest of the time, it’s work from home. “I am up by 6.30am, and like to see off my kids to school,” she says. “Veyd is in the 12th grade, so he drives to school. Both he and Samaara, in the 9th grade, attend the nearby Harker School, a top Bay Area school.” She likes to do strength training in the morning, and then gets to meetings — office internal meetings, in-person client meetings or Zoom meetings. “We also host evening events, and I am invited to speak at conferences and on panels,” says Devika, who is also on the audit and finance committee of the Town of Atherton and serves on the board of fellows for the Harker School.

To balance her life, staying focused is Devika’s biggest tip. “At work, I focus on that; when I am with the kids, I am focused on them,” she says. “I try not to have them overlap. Both my children are runners, so I am there for their races. I don’t want to miss these pivotal moments with them.”

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Calling herself the ultimate “desi girl”, Devika has imparted her love of India to her children. “My son plays the tabla very well,” she says. “My daughter has taken to kathak. They watch Bollywood movies, listen to the music.” Although they haven’t visited India since COVID-19 struck, they used to make yearly, two-month-long trips to visit their grandparents. Even home food for them is Indian. “I call it soul food,” says Devika, who is Punjabi. “I cook comfort food — dal, chawal, rajma, paneer. Even my friends living in India don’t eat that much Indian food!”

Vacations are for quality family time. “Life can get hectic, so getting away is important,” she says. “The four of us went to Las Vegas just after New Year’s and took in a lot of shows. It was the kids’ first time there. We were in Los Angeles right before that, and we’ve gone skiing in Switzerland, went to Bora Bora, and also Mexico.”

Can women have it all? “You can have it all, just not at the same time,” says Devika. “People like Indra Nooyi and Sheryl Sandberg have written about it — nobody can have everything at once. You have to make the most of the time you have. There are sacrifices to be made, say, if your child is sick. You need to be okay with that.”

The Obama Years

While her husband worked in the West Wing of the White House under President Obama from 2015 to 2017, Devika was busy being Digital Ambassador at the Institute for Education in Washington DC. Her role involved collaborating with foreign ambassadors and consuls general on postings in the US. “I helped them forge ties with the US — anything from business, government, entrepreneurship, infrastructure — via dinners, helping them network in the US economy, getting them to meet the right people that make sense for their countries,” she shares.

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During this wonderful period in her life, when the family uprooted itself to the Capital, Devika says her children had full access to the White House. “Our son celebrated his birthday at the bowling alley in the White House,” she recalls. “We would take our friends on tours of the White House, up to the Oval Office. The White House is called the People’s House, so the President encouraged people to come see the house. It was a terrific experience for the kids.” Devika did get the chance to meet President Obama. “He’s so charismatic, one of my favourite human beings of all time, and so authentic,” she says. “He wasn’t trying to sell the job (when he recruited her husband for the post of Chief Data Scientist) about why we should come to DC, but he was being real. He said, ‘I will do my best that he succeeds, and you succeed’, and what success looks like for everyone in the country, and I really liked that honesty. He’s someone who wants to do good for this country.”

The family enjoyed meeting both President Obama and his wife Michelle during events like the annual Easter Egg Hunt and Halloween at the White House. “The President and his wife would be handing out the candy,” she says. Of Mrs Obama, she says, “She’s definitely one of my biggest role models, and from her books, a genuine person.”

A Fashionista First

“My personal style has always been bold and funky, and out there,” she says. “I love Schiaparelli, Moschino and Iris van Herpen. I view fashion as a form of artistic expression. The funkiness, spikes, 3D embellishments are what that make you think. Not all art is meant to be appreciated; it’s meant to be discussed.”

Devika loves to shop in-store at Neiman Marcus, where she knows the associates personally. She also ventures online, to FarFetch, or directly to couture houses like Schiaparelli and Moschino. She took her daughter to Paris Fashion Week last September to attend the former’s shows, plus Messika (a fine jewellery maison), and would love to explore more fashion weeks around the world. “I have two extremes,” she says, “Either I am dressed up, or I am in pyjamas. I am not into athleisure or gymwear. I wear gym clothes to work out.”

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She loves accessories by Dior. “Lady Dior has these artist collabs which I love,” she says. “I love their statement pieces, from runway collections. I can go from saddle bags, or that India-specific tote they had made.”

Happiness is Family and Friends

For Devika, her cellar is her happy place. “In banking, you are entertaining clients and going to restaurants, so you need to know how to order from a wine list,” she explains. She also loves to go on tastings to nearby Napa Valley, with her family, to places like Lokoya, Favia, Pride Mountain Vineyards, Hundred Acre, to name a few. Her private cellar boasts of first growth collections from Aubrillion, [Georges de] Latour and Lafite. “From the 2018 vintage, we have the entire vertical of seven premier grand crus,” she says.

She loves to host formal dinners at home with a chef, with dishes like caviar, yellowtail crudo, pasta and lamb, or informal home-cooked Punjabi food like chicken masala, kaali daal, aloo and paneer. Life is hectic, so there’s nothing Devika loves more than her me-time cuddled up with her Labradoodle Cosmos, watching Netflix and sipping her favourite chai, something she loves making for her friends.

She also loves cricket — and has travelled to the World Cup to see the India-Pakistan match, to such a degree that she can stay up all night watching India play. “Happiness to me is my family and friends,” she says. “Spending quality time, laughing with each other. They are my world, it may sound corny, but it brings me true joy.”

Text: Priya Kumari Rana; Creative Realisation: Avantikka Kilachand; Photos: Lorena Villafan/Gemaluna Photography; Hair & Make-up: Elizabeth Rodriguez/ Styles by Elizabet

This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s March 2024 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!