" “Knowing that I'm adding value and supporting others to feel their best, whether it be personally or professionally, is what really motivates me.”

Premal Parekh

former Finance Director, Group COO Investments & Commercial Real Estate

London Stock Exchange Group plc

Throughout an illustrious career in luxury hospitality, leisure and multi-asset class real estate, GENCFO Exec Member Premal Parekh has put an eagerness to help others at the heart of everything he does. 

We got the lowdown on how he’s leading the charge for digital transformation in finance, his advice for aspiring CFOs, and why finance has been the perfect career to explore a passion for what makes other people tick.

Time-saving and trailblazing with digital transformation

We can all get onboard with Premal’s biggest argument for digital finance transformation: getting more time to spend on what’s important.

“For me, the purpose of a digital finance function is to become more agile. It's to support the automation piece, so people have more time back for value-added work or with loved ones.”

At the powerhouse of the FTSE 15 London Stock Exchange Group plc, Premal credits digital transformation with end-to-end business process improvement, including integration cost savings following M&A transactions and real estate cost savings from portfolio optimisation and rationalisation. 

That’s largely thanks to a savvy outsourcing strategy for buildings and lease management that leverages cutting-edge technology to see record returns: 

“We work with outsourcing partners to drive efficiency by challenging the status quo and introducing technology to identify how and when we can change working practices. We were able to leverage data and analytics for everything from temperature control to light sensors, and even the ability to change acoustics.”

“It’s just one example of using technology to your advantage to improve experiences physically and virtually, and to dramatically cut costs along the way.”

Digital transformation in finance translates to big wins in both his personal and professional life:

“I have numerous apps on my phone today which help me spend less time on low-value tasks. It allows for more value-added work in every environment, whether that be freeing me up to cook dinner at home, or working on a business case for investment.”

For the more apprehensive amongst your team, Premal recommends leading with an ‘experience mindset’ to encourage anyone nervous about joining the innovation train:

“Teams are shrinking across many existing departments. They are shrinking because digital automation enables more work to be performed at scale.”

“However, we are seeing investment into new digital-led functions and capabilities, which will drive job creation.”

“It’s important to make sure that you have a well-thought out digital strategy and take people on a journey through that change management.”

Changes and challenges in the role of CFO

Coping with the pressure to co-pilot across every pillar of the business is the biggest challenge facing CFOs today, but one worth taking on, says Premal: “we're being pulled in different directions, but for the right reasons.” 

For Premal, stepping into the shoes of people across your business from the warehouse to the sales team is crucial to connect, collaborate and communicate with all areas of a company:

“What people would traditionally call softer skills I believe are going to become critical skills.”

Premal also highlights the need for technical brilliance to protect business value and embed governance measures, alongside business partnering, analytical prowess and the power to influence. 

Sounding like a tall order? Just remember that the right team balance can transform the organisational structure of finance to support CFOs to fulfil an increasingly broad remit, says Premal: 

“No one person can do it all, so you need to make sure you have a brilliantly balanced team, and have the right people doing the right roles at the right time.” 

“You don’t have to be everything for everyone all at once!”

Never forgetting your roots 

A trademark enthusiasm for other people, and an enduring curiosity about what makes them tick, is what Premal values in the role of CFO:

“I love learning about people, why they do what they do. In finance we're in a privileged position to serve others and be able to influence, impact and build rapport with every corner of a company.”

It’s a mindset that harks back to his hospitality roots, which Premal says have had an enduring effect on the way he works now:

“The idea of serving others and elevating their experience comes from my time in hospitality and my first few jobs as a waiter. I think about serving others all the time and I'm able to do that within a finance function.”

“Knowing that I'm adding value and supporting others to feel their best, whether it be personally or professionally, is what really motivates me.”

Having served him well on his own impressive career journey so far, Premal’s advice to aspiring CFOs is to go above and beyond to build ‘performance equity’. Saying yes to more projects and connecting with people outside your scope of direct involvement is key to leaving a lasting impression and building ‘reputation equity’: 

“Understand how to drive finance transformation, protect your business, and safeguard its assets, yes. Equally important is knowing how to strategically and commercially support individuals for success. Always look to deliver more: that to me is what makes a CFO!”

Premal 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?

"I could talk about lots of different celebrities, but it’s my wife that keeps me grounded. She's my biggest cheerleader but my biggest critic too, and that helps me look at things differently. One thing she has always done is make sure that ethically and morally we make the right decisions, and that’s been really inspirational for me. My parents are also big heroes. Fundamentally I believe you should never forget the people whose shoulders you’ve stood on to get to where you are today. A childhood hero of mine growing up was also Sir Alex Ferguson. Listening to the players talk about him as a father figure, as well as a leader and a boss, was really humbling. If I can be one tenth of what he's been able to achieve in his life then I think I'm on the way to success!"

What music inspires you?

"I listen to a variety of music and mediums depending on my mood. I really enjoy listening to both West and South African music, poetry and spoken work, and classical music when I’m working. In the last year, I have seen Beyoncé, George Ezra, John Legend and Kygo with my wife. It was my third time seeing Beyonce (I have actually high-fived her on-stage many years ago!) and our best, she blew us away. I love listening to artists share their stories and music which gets you moving."

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