This is the first in a series of features that will take a closer look into the role of those individuals who are making a substantial difference in the finance and technology industries and who we define as fintech icons. bobsguide spoke to Reetika Grewal, Head of Payments Strategy and Solutions at Silicon Valley Bank about her work in the payments industry, her startup accelerator and the journey she has taken to get to where she is today.
• Silicon Valley Bank (2012 – Present)
• JPMorgan Chase (2011 – 2012)
• Monitise (2007 – 2011)
• Pay By Touch (2007)
• Wells Fargo (2002 – 2007)
• Sapient (1998 – 2000)
What is your role at Silicon Valley Bank?
I run our payments strategy and solutioning group which means a good part of my time is spent sitting side by side with our clients who are people that are disrupting the financial ecosystem. Our client base is made up of companies in the technology, life science, venture capital and private equity industries, so if any of our clients want to introduce a new solution into the market, we can help them figure out the movement of money part of it. My team helps them think through issues from compliance to regulation, how to connect to different payment networks and how they should structure their transactions and their flow of financing. On the strategy side, I head up Commerce.Innovated., which is an accelerator that we run in conjunction with MasterCard. Here, we are focused on seed funded companies that are innovating in payments, commerce and fintech and we provide them with operational mentorship.
Who are you helping?
The company could be a marketplace, a fintech startup or just a hardcore payments company and that is where we can lend our expertise. The accelerator is still a relatively new programme as we are only two years in and there has been a variety of companies, including those innovating in card acceptance, wallet technology, concierge buying and selling and those in the gift card space.
Do you see yourself as a “woman in fintech”?
There are pros and cons to being a woman in fintech. There are not a lot of us but there are more than there used to be, which is good. I was telling one of my colleagues the other day that as there are not a lot of women in this industry, I can be under the radar at times, but when people are surprised by the work that I am doing, it can be frustrating because I have to reconfirm my role to gain their trust. . It is definitely a challenge to make sure that your voice is always heard and there are different expectations for women in business because there is a very fine line between being overly aggressive and being soft so often. You have to find that right balance in order to make sure your voice does get heard and your thoughts are moved forward.
How has your experience differed when working in banks in comparison to working for startups?
All my banking experiences have been so different, but Silicon Valley Bank has been unique in the world of banking in terms of the culture and the breadth of what you can do, so I put this bank in a special category. I have nothing bad to say about the two other banks I have worked for since I learned a lot while I was there but as both of those organisations are very large and layered organisations, I must say that it is not necessarily about being a woman or a man, but it is harder to affect change there. In the startup world, it is different because you are working with fewer resources and are doing as much as you possibly can at all times. I feel like being a woman in a startup was less pronounced, but that was probably because of my role there also. Silicon Valley Bank is a happy medium as it is very entrepreneurial like a startup, but you are working within the structure of a bank.
Do you think it is better for banks to hire those who have worked in fintech startups prior to moving into the traditional sector?
I think it would be an adjustment either way because things move very differently in a startup compared to a bank. Constraints do exist around development, resources and clients, but you also have that in a bank, as well as the additional burden of regulatory structure. This means that you are constantly watching and making sure that you are doing everything along that is compliant, which can unfortunately slow you down tremendously in the banking world. Going to a bank from a startup, you are shocked by how long tasks take and that is because of the additional burdens, but when going from a bank to a startup, you are also shocked because decisions are made quickly.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
It is a daily challenge as I have to make sure that when I’m with my kids, I’m with my kids and I try to not work and get distracted by work when I’m with them, but inevitably it happens. My kids are seven and ten so they’re awesome but they are also very patient with me, as is my husband, who is the constant care giver because his job doesn’t require him to travel, which is great. I have to make time for things that are important because I want to make sure that I don’t miss those important moments. Being able to juggle it all is my daily job.
What is it like working in San Francisco?
I was born in England and I lived in Canada for most of my childhood. I then moved to Michigan, which is where I consider home and I’ve worked there and in Chicago before moving to California. San Francisco is a different world. I could live my life just using our clients’ services as we are fortunate to be able to bank with some of the world’s most innovative companies. I could get a car ride with Uber, stay in an Airbnb, get my laundry cleaned by Wash.io and order some food from Munchery. That’s the reality in the Bay area as there is a service or a company for everything and that can make your life easier. I don’t think that exists in the rest of the world and that is a very Silicon Valley way to think.
What would you like to see more of?
There are a ton of great networks out there for men to support each other and when you hear about the PayPal Mafia, it’s all men, so what I want to see more of is women trying to come together to help cultivate and support female leaders so that the next PayPal Mafia list has a great series of women. I know that there were a lot of women in the early days in PayPal, but they are not part of the Mafia, so how do we make sure that our voice is heard and we are being recognised for the work that we are doing? When I have been in difficult situations as a woman in business, my response has just been “okay, I’m just going to work harder” and I make sure that my work is really good. I don’t think being abrasive and being a self-promoter is a good idea; your work should be what drives you forward.