Digital transformation is not just about buying a new system or investing in a piece of technology, says Group Head Of Financial Control And Treasury at Kindred Group, Usha Ganesan. It requires being prepared for the next step.
“Your people need to be ready for change,” says Usha. “You need to have best practice within your processes because you don’t want to replicate a process that’s not working into a piece of software or technology. There’s a lot of investment to be done prior to implementing or using technology, and if that’s not done then chances are, it will fail.”
Finance and accounting aren’t static
It’s this constant transformation and evolution within the finance space that Usha likes about the industry.
“What I love about finance and accounting is not specifically accounting,” says Usha. “It’s everything around it, the change, the way technology is evolving, the different ways of working and different cultures. In every company I’ve been in, I’ve had that visibility to different cultures and been able to make change to follow the new world and new technology.”
Canadian-born Usha started off her career as a junior auditor at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Since then, she has held various other accounting and financial planning roles in North America and the UK, before joining Kindred Group almost three years ago.
Evolution is constant
In her role as head of financial control and treasury, she now oversees the financial close and the statutory accounts across the group, ensuring there are controls and procedures in place for financial processes, as well as the treasury function. But throughout her career, the workplace has evolved significantly.
“It’s difficult to compare 20 years ago to what it is now,” says Usha. “When I graduated, I started working for one of the big four, where you were at your desk five days a week, eight to seven, and it was about office presence. Now, it’s changed tremendously.”
Within this evolution, Usha says the biggest challenge is keeping up with the technology. “It’s all great and we’d want to have it all, but it’s prioritising what would work for the company and what would be beneficial.”
Sometimes this involves picking the certain areas and systems that are covered by the tech, over others. But alongside the challenge of choosing the right systems are the opportunities those innovations bring. Over the past year, this innovation has clearly come within the digital space, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Embracing evolution requires a transformative culture
“We’ve all realised in the past 18 months that technology is a necessity to keep the machine running,” says Usha. “It also makes finance quite exciting. It helps change ways of working to be more efficient. I’ve participated in numerous system implementations in the past and it has positively impacted people.”
But, Usha says in order to fully embrace this technology and system change, businesses first need to look at their culture.
“At Kindred, the culture is great – it’s very collaborative and there’s a lot of trust and room for initiative,’ she says. ‘We reward brave behaviour. This allows you to be more proactive rather than reactive, there’s more time to take a step back, bring people together and brainstorm what the options are and what the best solutions are, rather than running after the clock to get things done.”
Some organisations, according to Usha, are less collaborative and are missing out as a result. For example, one of the biggest challenges she has faced in her career is unconscious bias.
Experiencing workplace bias
“When you’re a female of a certain age, there are these preconceptions of your responsibilities at home and your day to day. What you will and won’t be able to achieve,” says Usha.
“Especially in male dominated industries, when you’ve got ambition and you want to progress, it’s not easy when there is unconscious bias.”
In order to try and tackle this and encourage inclusivity in the next generation, Usha mentors ex-colleagues and reports and speaks with her friends in the business world to try and share ideas on how to speak out.
“I offer advice and help them go through those day to day challenges. I think that’s valuable as someone who has been through it too.”