On April 12, we lost one of the foremost institution builders of our financial markets.
In his professional career that spanned several decades, RH Patil touched many lives. Mine was one of them. I was fortunate to have worked with him in many of his avatars, while he held key positions at IDBI and later at the National Stock Exchange and the National Securities Depository Limited. In fact, upon my return to India from the US, on my very first day at IDBI in 1981, I was asked to report to Patil as my boss. Little did I know that I would be working for him (and with him as far as he was concerned) for several decades and through several institutions.
The stint in IDBI was a fascinating learning experience. Here was this incredibly self-effacing man, comfortable to be very much in the background. He was known to be a mild and approachable person with a quirky sense of humour. And, yet, this belied his ability to get to the heart of any issue and take tough decisions where necessary. On several occasions he broke from tradition in allowing young and relatively junior officers an unusual degree of freedom and flexibility.
His work in IDBI provided a firm conceptual framework on issues related to capital markets and provided the bedrock on which he built his subsequent career as an institution builder.
IDBI as an apex development bank in those years always had a mandate for institution building and Dr. Patil started on this path, with his involvement in the setting up of Stock Holding Corporation of India Ltd.
This was followed by the setting up of the National Stock Exchange (NSE). Here all that was typical of Dr. Patil found full expression. His simple but focused style meant that the NSE project remained totally focused on first principals and on setting up of a world class institution. This was not an easy process but through all setbacks and pressures, Dr. Patil maintained an unruffled calmness, hardly letting any emotions show on his face. Many times he would castigate me for getting worked up about an issue, reminding me that we can never please or convince everyone. All we can do is to remain true to our principles and code. His sense of humour would manifest with a quick one liner that would lighten up tense moments. His presence had a natural dignity and there were many times and many meetings where a quiet word would settle an issue, whether with regulators or the Board or others of a more excitable nature.
Wholesale debt markets were always close to his heart, and on his retirement from NSE, Patil went on to work on building the Clearing Corporation of India Limited (CCIL), another key institution in the edifice of our financial markets.
I have learned a lot from this mild mannered and soft gentleman. Retain the courage of your conviction, struggle for what you believe is right, empower your people and give them space to grow, and at all times, invest in your institution. All of us at NSE and in the financial markets will miss him.
The writer is managing director, National Stock Exchange