" “I love waking up to the possibility of being able to learn something new that will unlock potential for the organisation."

By Olivia Wing, Customer Success Manager, GENCFO

Ajit Kumar

VP Finance

Signal AI

With a dynamic career spanning two decades, multiple continents and a wealth of industries, GENCFO Exec Member Ajit Kumar has a bold approach to career growth.

We sat down with him to learn more about his leadership journey, from the early days of accounting to his current role as VP of Finance at Signal AI, and how he’s been trailblazing finance transformation along the way.

Making meaningful digital finance change

Ajit doesn’t subscribe to buzzwords. Instead, he’s been walking the walk of digital finance transformation throughout his career:

“For me, digital transformation has always been pivotal for redefining operations and unlocking efficiencies. I have a passion for it that’s deeply rooted in harnessing technology to enhance decision-making and sustainable growth.”

And when it comes to decisions, don’t be afraid to revisit and re-evaluate along the way, according to Ajit. Getting your data insight right is the golden ticket to making digital transformation in finance a success:

“The way I look at it is that only when you bring in all the data points can you start making the right correlations and making the right decisions to truly enable digital transformation.”

Demonstrating the tangible value of digital transformation in financial terms as opposed to meaningless jargon is most effective for getting your team on board for digital change:

“You can foster a culture of true innovation and agility if you provide actionable intelligence for your team. It sets the stage for continuous improvement when they can see the positive impact of finance transformation for themselves.”

Finance transformation highs and lows

So what are the biggest digital transformation developments Ajit has overseen?

“When I look back at my last three roles, the game-changer for me has been using finance systems - ERP accounting and CRMs with customer data - and really understanding customer usage and behaviour patterns.”

It’s a learning he’s applied to his roles over the last decade including his recent role at Signal AI:

“As I reflect on the transformative journey across my roles at Signal AI, Onfido, and Lebara, the strategic impacts of our initiatives have been profound, not only in adopting new technologies but also in fundamentally enhancing how we approach finance and business strategy.”

“At Signal AI, leveraging cloud-based financial planning tools was a pivotal moment in our digital transformation, enabling more efficient and insightful decision-making.”

“At Onfido, my collaboration with the BI directors to codify unit economics and key business metrics revolutionised our ability to visualise and act upon commercial performance insights, facilitating sharper, data-driven decisions.”

“Meanwhile, at Lebara, the introduction of machine learning for advanced analytics signalled a significant leap forward, delivering prescriptive analytics that directly contributed to an improved gross margin through both revenue growth and cost reduction.”

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Keeping up with the swift pace of digital change is no mean feat, and if you’re feeling the strain you’re not alone:

“There are so many technological advancements to navigate and the digital finance function is under increased pressure to provide strategic insights.  There’s also the big challenge of integrating new technologies while maintaining data quality, security and compliance.”

In fact, all the excitement about finance technology can prove to be curse - not a blessing - if you’re not careful:

“It’s a good challenge to have, but we do need to be mindful of the rapid pace of developments in technology."

"There’s no point using a tonne of resources to implement a new technology that might need changing within a year.”

Ajit also advises being mindful of the impact of technological change on your team:

“It’s a lot to ask of your team in terms of upskilling every time a new tool rolls out. Yes you can do more with technology, but only once your team has learned how to use it first!”

At the same time, he’s keen to stress you don’t want to get stuck in a fixed way of doing things. Taking a nuanced approach to implementing new finance technology is a happy medium:

“Don’t get me wrong, I'm a huge advocate of leveraging technology to drive efficiency, you just need to do so with a future-proofing mindset.”

Empowering finance leaders of the future

Feeling bogged down by the challenges of the modern finance world?

Then Ajit’s rosier perspective might be the reset you need to fall back in love with your role again:

“Remember that working in finance is a privilege!"

"We get access to all the data points, we get to have open conversations across the company irrespective of what level they may be. Not many departments can say that.”

The opportunity to truly make your mark on the business’s success is also what motivates Ajit day-to-day:

“I love waking up to the possibility of being able to learn something new that will unlock potential for the organisation. It’s a challenge to shape strategic decisions, but it’s a challenge that energises me.”

His advice for aspiring CFOs? Know your strengths and never forget what you’re bringing to the table:

“You’ll hear it in every conversation - the role of the CFO is changing and it’s essential for finance leaders to embrace digital finance transformation. I rise to that challenge with the mindset that while I may not be technical, that doesn’t mean I can’t understand technology. I can hone the ability to articulate the business problems technology will solve.”

Not allowing yourself to be intimidated by new technologies - or newer, tech savvy generations rising through the ranks! - is key to making digital finance transformation work for you:

“Younger generations are coming through with a lot of knowledge of new technologies but that’s always been the case, it's nothing new."

"As a leader you can leverage that by encouraging them to bring that information alongside new ideas for the betterment of the team.”

Ajit also shared his suggestions on approaching technology advancement in finance and managing change:

“My belief in innovation extends beyond the mere adoption of new technologies. It is rooted in first identifying and exploiting process efficiencies and harnessing the collective strengths of our people across all operations, not just within the finance function. The choice of tools and technology must not only meet our immediate needs but also anticipate future challenges, ensuring that any investment not only future-proofs our organisation but also empowers our team members through upskilling or reskilling.”

“In navigating the constant flux of technological and organisational change, my advice centres on a people-first approach. Understanding team dynamics and resource availability is crucial in tailoring change management strategies that not only achieve technical implementations but also foster an environment where individuals feel supported and valued. This approach ensures that our journey towards innovation and improvement is a collective effort, embracing the diverse talents and perspectives within our teams to drive sustainable growth and success.”

“In conclusion, my journey across various leadership roles has been a testament to the power of strategic finance in driving digital transformation. By focusing on meaningful innovation, leveraging both technology and human capital, and adopting a nuanced approach to change management, we can create resilient, forward-thinking organisations poised for continuous growth and success.”

Above all, Ajit’s advice is to lean into your own potential to create lasting change:

“Becoming a successful CFO is all about making a meaningful difference and steering the business towards a prosperous future.”

Ajit is one of GENCFO's Exec Members. If you want to learn more about becoming a member, click here.

Power Profile

Who is your hero?

"Anyone who prioritises future-proofing the business is a hero to me! I had a former mentor in the formative years of my career who really embodied this philosophy - her name is Neeta Revankar. She encouraged all of us to bring new ideas to the table, implement new systems and look beyond our immediate roles. At the time she was CFO of a rapidly scaling company, and under her guidance we operated at IPO quality long before our revenue reached $70m, eventually leading to a successful public offering. Most of in the team had no prior IPO experience, but she ensured with set of training programmes, which prepared us so well it became second nature, the outputs delivered by this team achieved several industry awards, in many areas for both individuals and for the organisation including “LACP Gold Award” for the annual reports for several years in a row."

What music inspires you?

"Any kind of music can touch me - I’m a very emotional person in that way. Because of that I tend to seek out uplifting songs that radiate positivity. I love everything from Indian classical to reggaeton, and I’m also a big fan of Rihanna! “Don’t Stop The Music” definitely left a lasting impression on me! "


author image
Olivia Wing, Customer Success Manager, GENCFO

Olivia is an author at GENCFO as well as being the Community Success Manager. Read her articles on everything from events, agility, hot topics in finance and interviews with key finance and accounting industry figures.

Join the conversation

Become a member of GENCFO to start connecting.