As the first person in his family to become a lawyer, Raj Aji’s passion for the law started at an early age. Throughout his career, he has helped businesses succeed by navigating complex legal environments. In his current role as BILL’s Chief Legal and Compliance Office, Raj has been instrumental in helping the company to gain the trust of hundreds of thousands of small and midsize businesses (SMBs). He has built BILL’s legal and compliance team from the ground up, and is now leading a high performing team to deliver exceptional results: from taking BILL through IPO in 2019, to executing two major M&A transactions that transformed the company’s business and growth trajectory. Raj is a trusted counsel across BILL, an impactful leader, a valued colleague, and an active community advocate.
This month, Raj adds a new title to his resume: 2022 American Lawyer General Counsel of the Year Winner.
The American Lawyer Award is a national award that honors the best of our legal profession. The General Counsel of the Year category recognizes the significant and positive impact of a General Counsel on their business and broader industry.
To celebrate this occasion, Raj sat down with Phoebe Nguyen, Public Relations Specialist at BILL, for a Q&A about what this achievement means to him, his career journey, and his passion for serving SMBs.
Congratulations! What does it mean to you to be named a General Counsel of the Year Winner for the American Lawyer Industry Award?
I am honored to receive this award, and be named alongside my fellow finalists. But this is an award that I share with my whole team. They have done amazing work in contributing to our company wide achievements to serve over 400,000 SMBs and entrepreneurs: we grew our revenue by 169%, made two significant acquisitions that changed the trajectory of our company, strengthened our balance sheet by raising over $2 billion dollars, and added over 1,000 new employees.
I feel privileged to be leading such a dedicated and passionate team through these exciting times. I’m also thankful for the partnership of my colleagues on the executive team and the members of our board.
What motivated you to start a career in law?
I am a first-generation immigrant who came to the US at the age of 22. After finishing graduate school, I moved to Washington D.C., where I developed an appreciation for the US legal institutions. Fast forward to five years living in the US, I found myself completing a J.D. degree at The University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, the home of the Free Speech Movement.
Tell us about your career journey which led you to BILL?
As a trained engineer, I have always had a bias to using technology to solve problems. I first started working in fintech about 12 years ago at an early stage mobile payments company with global ambitions. We navigated telecom and banking regulations, and launched mobile payment services in over a dozen countries across Asia and Africa. In many of these countries, there were more phones than bank accounts! I enjoyed enabling technology-driven financial services to help consumers, who did not previously have access to banking services, to build savings and use their money securely.
After that, I moved to Intuit, where I worked to give SMBs access to innovative, trusted financial services in payments, lending, payroll and insurance. I joined BILL in 2016 because I believed in our ambition and goal to make it simple for SMBs to connect and do business. Every day I am inspired by the SMBs we serve. Helping them succeed by building and maintaining their trust in BILL is what drives me.
Why do you love serving SMBs?
I’m driven to help small businesses succeed, and in order to succeed, they need the right tools.
When I started at BILL in 2016, I was shocked that over 80% of all business payments in the US were made by check. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had written a check to pay a personal bill! At BILL, we make it easier for SMBs to pay and get paid, so they can focus on managing their businesses and serving their customers. So I am genuinely passionate about the solutions that BILL offers.
I also know what a big difference financial automation makes for small businesses. My son, for example, is a music producer and audio engineer in Los Angeles, and he has just started his own recording studio. As a small business owner, he spends a lot of time on taking care of administrative and financial operations, such as paying his contractors, taxes, renewing his business license, record-keeping, and working with his accountant. I love that we are solving some of those problems so small business owners like my son can focus on doing what they love, like making music.
Trust is an essential part of your role as Chief Legal and Compliance Officer. How do you think about building and maintaining trust with BILL’s partners?
At BILL, we serve more than 400,000 businesses, we move over $250 billion dollars, we have a network of 4.7 million members, and we handle sensitive data. Our business is built on a foundation of trust with our customers, banking and accountant partners, regulators, shareholders and employees. Maintaining that trust is essential to the success of our business and factors into every decision we make.
As a legal and compliance function, we seek to build trust with customers and partners in many different ways, including by clearly and accurately describing our product and terms, delivering on our promises, protecting their data and finances, and doing so in a way that meets all regulatory standards and protections. We also build trust with our regulators and financial institution partners through mature compliance programs, and demonstrating our commitment to compliance.
What’s one piece of advice that you would give to someone who wants to build a career in law and compliance?
Be curious, and ask a lot of questions. Take the time to understand your business partners, your clients, and the problems they face. Take the steps to educate and inform yourself first, and always be learning from those around you.
Thank you so much, Raj. Congratulations again on this achievement!
If you’re looking to join one of the best legal and compliance departments, check out our job openings. Note: As of November 10, 2022, Raj was named a winner of the General Counsel of the Year award. The blog post has been updated to reflect this title.