Earlier this year, Delisha Grant was promoted to VP–General Counsel. Coming to Addepar as associate general counsel in 2020, she immediately contributed to our rapid growth, from contract negotiations to risk review and mitigation — while supporting Addepar’s commitment to innovation.
We recently sat down with her to hear about her career journey, what accomplishments she’s most proud of and the best advice she’s received.
Please tell us about your journey in the legal field and the path you’ve taken.
I’m someone who has wanted to be a lawyer since I was four years old. Initially, I thought I’d be a litigator, but I eventually realized that the transactional side of law really aligned with my skill set. Several internships piqued my interest in business and corporate law. Between college and law school, I worked in business analytics, and then sales for a pharmaceutical company, which gave me insight into business strategy and the vital components that lead to growth within a pharma and consumer organization.
After earning my JD from George Washington law school, I made what was, at the time, a shocking decision to many - I declined a full-time offer from a large corporate law firm. Instead, I started with a plaintiffs’ firm specializing in complex ERISA and securities litigation. The experience was trial-by-fire, but it most certainly accelerated my professional development as an attorney. During that time, the start-up world was bubbling in New York City’s ‘Silicon Alley’ as it was known. I had somehow developed relationships with both founders and investors who were looking to make waves, and I saw an opportunity. I eventually launched my own practice advising early-stage technology, new media and entertainment companies. I really enjoyed being part of young companies’ journeys, helping them navigate the diverse issues and opportunities that come with innovative business ideas.
Eventually, I began seriously considering going in-house. The most logical step would have been joining one of my clients’ companies, but my path took a 180° turn and led me to a position with Morgan Stanley. After representing a number of technology vendors, this put me on the client side, dealing with the legal intricacies of technology procurement, data usage rights, privacy concerns and cybersecurity. And that served as the perfect stepping stone to lead me to Addepar, where I could bring together all the skills I’d acquired along the way.
Why the jump to financial services?
Being part of a large, heavily regulated financial services organization helped refine my skills in risk review, risk acceptance and so on — as well as in understanding key privacy and data security concerns, particularly within a global framework. I learned to think even more strategically about how to insulate the organization from liability and safeguard clients from risk.
What interested you in Addepar?
Addepar’s vision of maximizing the positive impact of the world’s capital — which to me creates an opportunity for Addepar to become a key component of the global financial infrastructure — really appeals to me. The position also offered me a middle ground — in an organization that has developed a level of ‘business maturity’ that only comes with time in companies that are built from the ground up, while still embracing the agility required on a rapid growth track. Addepar has a multi-year vision and strategy to continue to grow, but in a thoughtful, strategic and sustainable way.
I’m excited about Addepar’s growth trajectory, with clients in 40+ markets worldwide and $4.5 trillion in assets on the platform. Our runway is long, and we’re entering capital markets as a trusted player or even a frontrunner in key sectors. I feel excited to be a valuable contributor to our success.
What’s a typical day for you at Addepar?
The beauty of being a general counsel at a company that’s moving at Addepar’s pace is that I touch more things than a typical general counsel might elsewhere. My days vary — from negotiating transactional agreements at the enterprise level to providing legal guidance on product features, new rollouts and more.
A lot of my work ensures that we’re utilizing data within what our contracts and regulatory guidelines dictate. So, I’m in a lot of meetings, but I also still engage in a lot of legal writing, ensuring our contracts, terms and policies are up to par. This requires constant juggling, responding to shifting priorities and splitting my time between strategy, advisory, transactional and risk mitigation tasks.
You hear me talk about risk quite a bit. I can’t help it; that’s a lawyer’s job. At Addepar, we always strive to meet the needs of the market with innovation and best-in-class service — but also in a way that insulates clients from regulatory and other risks.
Can you describe the Addepar team?
Our team consists of people who have joined from well-known, highly reputable companies. Individuals are welcomed into our culture of agility and innovation, and they contribute to the many diverse ideas, experiences and strategies that enable us to serve our clients more effectively.
‘Champion our clients’ is one of our core values, what does that mean to you?
We operate in a regulatory landscape, and we’re seeing an ever-growing focus on consumer rights, data protection and more. Although we aren’t a direct-to-consumer organization, the clients we serve have very real obligations to protect their end-clients’ data. And those obligations trickle down to us.
So, much of what I think about when I’m reviewing new features, products or strategies — or innovations incorporating AI or machine learning — is how does this align with our obligations under the law and to our clients and their clients? I always put on my client lens and seek to preemptively alleviate any concerns they may have. I’m a firm believer that viewing both issues and ideas through this lens also fosters greater trust in the Addepar-client relationship.
People often interpret ‘client centric’ to mean simply meeting client needs. But for me, it’s about not only anticipating client needs as we pursue innovation and growth, but also resolving any objections clients might have.
Innovation should always be accompanied by education. We want to remain a leader in our industry, while also ensuring that we take care of the due diligence needed to understand the regulatory requirements and other obligations our clients have, educate all parties and reduce risk for everyone.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
From a business perspective, we’ve built a solid third-party risk program. So, not only can we offer clients excellent solutions and securely protect their data, but we can also assure clients that our third-party service providers rise to a similar level.
From an employee development standpoint, I’ve been co-leading our Black Organization for Leadership and Development (BOLD) and I’m proud of what we’ve done there. I don’t subscribe to the concept of ‘self-made success’. I would not have gotten this far in my career without mentors, sponsors and the like. I feel a responsibility to pay that forward. With that in mind, my personal mission statement includes helping others navigate their career trajectories - both the challenges and opportunities. In particular, enabling Black individuals to easily liaise with company leadership, network and build out their careers through formalized development opportunities is important to me, and Addepar is a great place to grow.