Billy O'Grady, 31, heads the Southern California technology and venture capital banking group at City National Bank. Based in Santa Monica, O'Grady advises technology start-ups and their employees on banking and wealth management decisions. He also helps companies get money between fundraising rounds through venture debt financing deals. His position is a new one for the 60-year-old Los Angeles bank, which is trying to attract clients from technology communities in Silicon Valley, Boston and New York as well. Clients include eco-friendly-focused retailer Honest Co. and YouTube network MiTu.
Dog food: After graduating with a bachelor's degree in sports management, he had two issues to tackle. His mom wanted him to find a job in healthcare insurance, and he wanted to leave Rochester. "I wanted to see the rest of the world, experience different cultures and go to a city that was on the up and up and more prone to be a melting pot," he said.
Chance meeting: As fires ravaged San Diego in 2007, the parents of one of O'Grady's roommates had to evacuate. They settled on their daughter's couch, where O'Grady conversed with the father as they watched "Nacho Libre." The father worked at Silicon Valley Bank and sized up O'Grady as having the perfect mix of zeal for working with entrepreneurs and data analysis skills. O'Grady soon became an entry-level "grinder" at the bank in San Diego. He leveraged high turnover to ask for additional duties, and eventually became vice president. "If I didn't, I would have never accelerated my career," O'Grady said. "I wouldn't have been on my boss' radar."
The big leap: As O'Grady sat across from start-up founders for six years, the desire to build something of his own kept gnawing at him. At City National Bank's burgeoning technology group, he finally has a start-up-like challenge. He started in June. "We're growing our brand name and making sure people really know that what sets us apart is we bank the whole company, and that's its employees, its founders," O'Grady said. "From Day One ... until the point at which they are acquired for a nice payday."
Ballplayer: With his dad coaching, O'Grady played the shortstop position in baseball starting at age 5. He idolizes 40-year-old Derek Jeter and still dreams of becoming the general manager of the New York Yankees — the only job that would prompt him to quit his own. "The discipline that guys like Don Mattingly and Jeter have and how they carry themselves with dignity and poise has rubbed off on me," he said.
O'Grady had planned to become a sports agent, but a media relations internship at the minor league Rochester Red Wings made him think too much about the business of the game and forget his love for the on-field action. He still supports his hometown by holding shares in the publicly owned team.
Advice: "Put your head down, work hard, find an industry you love and surround yourself with smart people and then smarter people."