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Q&A with Kal Das of Seward & Kissel LLP

At the Seward & Kissel white shoe law firm, Kalyan (“Kal”) Das has a lot of talented partners, many of whom support his work for the big banks. But the career of one of New York’s greatest rainmakers was kind of a DIY project.

When Das, trained in London and New York, became the leader of his practice group in his mid-thirties, he had only spent a decade in the United States, his mentor had just left the firm and his only one. other resource was a first year associate. . Much has changed since then. Das’ group, Global Bank and Institutional Finance and Restructuring Practice, has grown to become one of the largest of its kind in the world, and its client list has grown to include Citibank, Deutsche Bank, Bank of New York Mellon, UMB, US Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui, and M&T Bank, among others. Das is the relationship partner of around 15 banks and more.

Today, his practice is perhaps more relevant than ever. As the impact of the pandemic continues to trickle down to the economy, Das’ experience of dealing with the disruptive events of the turn of this century, including the accounting scandals of the 2000s and the Asian financial crisis, has proven to be true. valuable to its customers. During this time, more recently, he has developed an interest in a lawsuit that is experiencing a real moment: fintech investing. He also advises clients in the region, yes, but Das has really done it himself in this area. He became a major investor in space – and he did it on his own terms.

Global Banking and Finance Review spoke (virtually) with Das to gain insight into his legal practice, fintech investments and his proprietary fund of funds.

How do you help your customers and what are you doing for them right now?

My group manages a wide range of assignments for global and national banks. We do transactional work, of course, but also new product research, regulatory, litigation and bankruptcy / restructuring matters in both structured and unstructured transactions. It covers the whole gamut of nut soup.

Really, a lot of my practice has been devoted to being a trusted advisor to bank clients. I have helped many clients with structured transactions that have gone awry. I have worked a lot in this area, for example in the context of the Enron, Adelphia and WorldCom scandals. And we have done a pretty innovative job of helping Wells Fargo unravel the conflicts surrounding the mortgage crisis. Today, to give an example, I am helping the parties overcome the complications arising from the Province of Buenos Aires defaulting on $ 5 billion in bonds.

How often do you work on cross-border issues?

I work on a number of cross-border issues in addition to working on domestic transactions. I spend four or five months each year visiting clients around the world and am admitted to practice law on four different continents. In addition to New York, I also have an office in London and spent a week there every month regularly before COVID happened.

How has the pandemic affected your travel schedule?

Unfortunately, quite severely! Since last March, I have really only made one trip. I look forward to visiting clients again – there is simply no substitute for in-person contact.

What was your only trip?

We signed a new client, UMB Bank, and I really felt it was important to see them, although it was not advisable to steal at the time. I ended up driving 3000 miles round trip to Kansas City. I had to go through a few heavy snowstorms which makes the story better in hindsight. The senior management of the UMB was very kind to meet with me.

It is devotion. Is this what attracts so many global banks to your practice?

Customer service is very important and I think about it all the time. I respond to my clients immediately. My secretary has standing instructions to answer my line when I am in a meeting.

Kalyan das

Kalyan das

But then, who knows? Sometimes I’ve been told that people just love the fact that I’m optimistic!

How did you get involved in the fintech industry?

For about three years now, we’ve been doing transactions for Community Investment Management, a San Francisco-based impact investor. CIM invests in companies that bring innovative financial technology products and services to underserved communities. They are committed to having a positive social impact and bringing the long-term focus necessary to this mission, even though the services they fund are state-of-the-art.

At any given time, we have several different transactions going on with this team. This is an example of a client that only makes me more enthusiastic about the possibilities of this space.

You’re involved in it as an investor and a lawyer, aren’t you?

That’s right. For a long time, I advised a group of three former executives from Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan who started a fintech-oriented investment firm, Pivot Investment Partners. They would give me an overview of their investments, and I would be the fourth. They have been very successful and currently have many clients. However, my agreement with them has not changed. I am fortunate to say that out of over 25 deals, we are invested in several companies that have become unicorns, like AvidXchange Inc., iCapital Network Inc., Bold Penguin and a few others. It was a fun experience.

Are you involved in other investment funds?

Yes. I have created my own exclusive fund of funds. These are multi-strategy, long-short funds with unique structures and professionally managed.

What do you mean?

Six fund managers compete with each other, and the institution that performs best each year gets more funds to work in the next year.

How are they?

You can tell I was very happy.

I understand that you are involved in philanthropy?

Yes, I have been fortunate enough to be able to give back to institutions that are important to me, including the Weinfeld program at New York University Law School, where I sit on the LAA Board of Trustees. I also pledged a seven-figure amount to Skidmore College for their new Center for Integrated Science, where I sit on the board. In addition, I am also a member of the ISH London Advisory Board and Chairman of FISH (L). We award a scholarship annually to an American student (who is in financial difficulty) to travel to London and study at the University of London.

Have you received recent recognition from your peers?

Yes, I am honored and delighted to have recently been elected to the 2021 Editorial Advisory Boards of Law360 Banking and FinTech. I am also listed on Legal 500 and many Who’s Who publications and many other accolades. I am truly honored and honored for these recognitions.

Besides all your activities, it looks like you are also studying at Harvard Business School?

I am enrolled in the owner / president management program of HBS. It’s a three-year commitment and it’s one of the best programs there is. My cohorts are around 150+ CEOs of companies around the world. As a result of COVID, our in-person classes have been postponed towards the end of the year. I hope to graduate this year in November.

Where were you trained as a young lawyer?

After becoming a lawyer, I trained in London and New York. My first training was in one of the top chambers of commerce for lawyers in London, then in two of the most prominent law firms in New York before joining my current law firm, Seward & Kissel.

Who is your role model?

While NYU Law has clearly helped my career tremendously, my role model was Jim Hurlock, Managing Partner at White & Case. I trained with him and I am what I am thanks to him. Sadly, he recently passed away and I am forever grateful to him for launching my career.

After that?

Life is a journey. I still have a lot more to accomplish in this life. I’m just getting started! Stay tuned!

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