Dhiren Patel talks about what drives him – and opportunities for change.
In the 1980s, the Patel family emigrated from India (by way of London), ready to start a new life in America. Most of the seven brothers and sisters moved into the same apartment building just outside of Chicago, raising their children together and working at different businesses. “My father had an autobody shop,” recalled Dhiren Patel, head of CRE Deposit & Payment Solutions. “We weren’t well off by any means, but we had what we needed growing up.”
Eventually, the Patels saved enough money to buy their apartment building and two adjacent buildings, later selling them to purchase homes and businesses. “They were in the Commercial Real Estate business,” joked Patel, “they just didn’t know it!”
An unexpected opportunity
“Growing up, my parents were always focused on my education,” Patel said. “I understood that. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to get a good job and make them proud, knowing their hard work had paid off.”
Patel attended the University of Illinois, graduating in three years with a degree in economics. He was just 20. “I looked around and thought, ‘The mortgage industry is still doing really well. I’ll go there.’ This was 2005. Two years later, it all came crashing down, and I was out of a job at 22. That’s when U.S. Bank took a chance on a recent college grad and hired me as a branch manager. It was actually in a grocery store! It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. I learned how to run a business. I opened a branch and was involved with everything – operations, marketing, forecasting, budgeting, and profitability. I was getting my MBA at the time and couldn’t think of a better real-world experience.”
Helping CRE clients find new ways to grow
Today, Patel leads the Commercial Real Estate (CRE) team that helps clients – property managers and owners, developers and investors – with their treasury needs, from streamlining rent collection and managing liquidity to finding new ways to operate more efficiently. He says one of the challenges is traditional payments in a fast-changing environment.
“Today, the majority of CRE B2B payments are still via check. There are many reasons for that: habit, the perception of greater security, and the belief that vendors and suppliers won’t accept virtual cards or ACH. The biggest driver is complexity. Most CRE clients have several entities – one for each asset – and many bank accounts across many banks. We can help with that challenge. Our team enables businesses to transition to better money-movement solutions, like U.S. Bank AP Optimizer®, which allows companies to send all payment types, with seamless integration to their accounting systems.”
“When companies are healthier, running more efficiently, places where people live and work thrive. It’s very satisfying to drive down the street and see all the businesses we’ve supported.”
Giving back – across the company and in his community
“Growing up,” said Patel, “my parents encouraged me, but they didn’t have the tools to guide me. It’s been different at the bank. Mentors have supported me – helped me find my way – and now I get to do the same for others.”
One way Patel gives back is by leading DEI initiatives that promote greater diversity within the bank’s CRE business. In January, he helped launch the Women of CRE Leadership Development Program, which gives bank employees the tools they need to advance in their careers. “More than a dozen are part of the current cohort,” he said, “and I’m pleased to say that many of these women have been promoted into leadership roles this year! We will launch our 2023 cohort next year, with current members leading that effort.”
In a callback to his own childhood, Patel is also a key leader for the bank’s partnership with Project Destined, a program that teaches diverse students about the career opportunities in Commercial Real Estate.
“Think of basketball or football. Scouts find really talented athletes and show them how sports can be their way to a better life. Project Destined does the same thing, but with education about Commercial Real Estate. Women and people of color from colleges across the country, including HBCUs, get to learn about marketing, finance, presentation skills – everything they need to be successful. The bank launched its first sponsorship earlier this year, and I was proud to be part of that initiative. I’m excited about our next step – a sponsorship in Minneapolis, which launches on September 21.
“A lot of these kids at Project Destined have all the traits to be successful – they have drive and just need guidance. Kind of like where I was, but they get the benefit of our support. We’re giving them a view into a large industry, and they get to experience it in real life. What could be better? I can’t wait for their success stories and to see how they change the world.”
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