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HomeFinance Manager ‣ Interviews: Santosh Singh

Santosh Singh : Finance Manager

If finance, accounts, taxation, audit, MIS, costing & budgeting seem like exciting things to do at a job, you are probably cut out to be a finance professional. You can reach the position of a finance manager after a few years of experience in this domain. Here's an interaction with a seasoned finance professional, Santosh Singh, who is currently Senior Manager, Finance at Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance Co. Ltd.

Q
What is your current position, career focus and total years of experience?
A

I am a cost & management accountant with 16 years of experience in manufacturing & service industry including hospitality, advertising, event management, marketing, share trading, system design / development, software training, retail & insurance. Currently I am based out of Pune & working as Senior Manager, Finance for Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance Co. Ltd. I have been looking after its H.O financial operations for the last 2 years. Prior to this I was associated with the same company at its New Delhi Zonal office as Zonal Finance Manager for nearly 8 years where I was responsible for North India financial operations of 8 states with more than 100 branches, with a team of 8 state regional/ state accountants & approximately 65 divisional accountants.

Q
How did you get started in your career? What motivated you to get into this career?
A

My parents wanted me to become an engineer but my inclination was towards commerce, finance & accounts and I wanted to attain the top position in this field. And for that you need to be professionally enriched with courses like CA/ ICWA/ CS/ MBA. With this thirst I found an ICWA chapter in my home city with the facility of oral coaching & a good instructor. At that time I was in the final year of graduation and hence could not get a direct entry. I had to give the foundation examination which I cleared in the first attempt & then started this course parallel to my final year of graduation.

I always had my mind set to be in finance & accounts although I may change industries.

Q
What is this career like?
A

It is absolutely lucrative in terms of job brand value & remuneration. But one needs to possess a minimum standard of professional qualification & work experience to attain that level. There could always be exceptions where a non-professional attains a certain height with an academic degree only, but without a professional qualification your growth reaches a saturation level in most of the cases.

As per your area of interest & hard work you can be anything from an account executive when you start off, to a chief financial officer (CFO.)

Q
What is a normal work day in the life of a finance manager?
A

It is a very challenging job consisting of deadlines, productivity, accountability, accuracy and is result orientated & time bound. You need to work & perform within the ambit of the organization delegation of authority and statutory & Regulatory framework of the country while maintaining high standards of honesty & ethical values. You will never have two similar days. You need to stretch beyond office working hours during financial closing periods which could be monthly, quarterly & yearly or for some important project or for some statutory& regulatory compliance.

Even minor mistakes may lead to big losses for the organization & hence a high degree of accuracy is expected. In totality you will have to act as a custodian & have to work like a watch dog keeping your eyes & ears open always.

Q
How was your journey from your first job till the current one? Where do you see yourself 5-10 years from now?
A

While pursuing my professional degree I engaged myself in many, small, part-time jobs & projects such as taking care of accounts for share broking, advertising, event management & marketing firm, internal audit for Coal India, designing accounting system for 3 small enterprises, accounting software training in various institutes.

But my first full-time job was in the hospitality industry as an accountant where I got exposure to adequate practical accounting processes. After 16 years I can say that I have moved five steps up the corporate ladder to senior manager & in 5 - 7 years from now I see myself in a position high enough to take corporate & strategic decisions for an organization.

Q
What specialized training and education did you choose to succeed in this field? What inspired you to build the skills?
A

After my academic studies till graduation, I choose the professional course ICWAI (now renamed as ICAI). I completed this course with a certificate of merit (for clearing all 8 final papers together). Later I also took membership of the institute which you get when you have completed 3 years of work experience or when you complete 3 years of practice as a cost accountant. Now I am an associate member of the Institute of Cost Accountants of India, Kolkata.

Since I have been associated with the insurance industry for nearly 9 years, I completed the associate examination of Insurance Institute of India, Mumbai to gain insight into the domain of insurance & to enhance my productivity. My clear aim to reach the top position in finance & accounts is my inspiration that pushes me to learn through professional courses, short term courses, meetings, conferences & seminars.

Q
Which skills have you found most helpful, and which ones will be most important in the future?
A

Soft skills in communication, leadership, team management as well as IT skills & expertise in various software like Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Tally (various versions), MS office etc. have been most helpful in my work & will continue to be in future.

Q
What have been your best experiences and challenges while working in this field?
A

My best experience was being the team lead & manager of nearly 75 finance professionals spread across 8 states, getting monthly reports on time, measuring their productivity & taking corrective action where there used to be a lag. No matter how experienced you are, there are always challenges to live up to the expectation of your superiors.

Q
What recommendation would you give to prospective students who want to advance in this field? What education & skills do they need to focus on, over others?
A

This field is best for students who want a career in finance & accounts and who can take up this challenge. Apart from completing regular, academic degrees I would suggest that students should undergo any one of the course from CA (chartered accountancy)/ CWA (ICWA)/ CS (company secretary) or MBA. Then you can take up another course as well from these (while continuing with your job) as this will lead to more enrichment of professional knowledge. You won't have to take the common papers, if any, between CA/ CS/ ICWA (as per agreement between the institutes).

Apart from this, IT exposure like a couple of accounting software, MS office, Oracle financials, SAP exposure will really add value.

Also, whenever an opportunity arises, you should keep learning all kind of soft skills, communication, leadership training etc. What is seen in general is that you find student with lot many degrees but lack highly in these soft skills which are very essential for any growing manager. Any course which can enrich the domain knowledge of the industry would be further beneficial.

Q
Do you have any other 'words of wisdom' that you would like to pass on?
A

I remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “the future depends on what you do today."

If you really want to attain a desired position, you need to properly think & introspect on your current status & your future aim for life, make future yearly target plans & start acting on it in terms of completing academic qualifications, professional or technical qualifications, taking practical experience without any delay. Secondly, always maintain high standards of ethical values in your life.

Santosh can also reached at his LinkedIn profile - https://in.linkedin.com/pub/santosh-singh/20/171/81b/