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Pandemic has digitized spend management, workflow & payments

Kunal Sanghavi, Chief Financial Officer, HDFC Securities talks about changing costs during pandemic & adoption of latest technology for simplification of customer process:

Ravi Lalwani: What are the 3 things that have seen maximum cost decrease during the pandemic?

Kunal Sanghavi: Pandemic has shown many cycles across the commodities, people cost and in stocks. At the inception of the pandemic there was crash in stock markets, then hospitality business taking a crash including hotels, travel becoming very cheap and so was ground level labour who struggled to meet their needs. Most of this was for a brief period. Interestingly, the scepticisms has led to a reduction in the cost of various properties including digital properties for advertisements like Facebook, etc, as people were uncertain for the future moving to lesser spending.

What are the 3 things that have seen maximum cost increase during the pandemic?

The government took a very strong call to infuse large amounts of monies in the economy and this liquidity injection helped businesses to survive, meet their expenses and pay salaries to their employees besides making payments to their vendors ensuring no defaults. This has created inflation which is today also visible, and it is one of the biggest risks. Prices of metals, chemical inventory did see a great rise, and needless to mention stock prices went very bullish after the initial one month. Liquidity in the ecosystem not only provides certainty and confidence back in the investors, but also created sufficient demand to push the prices up.

What changes have been made in accounting and finance software considering the pandemic-related issues?

We used this time to initiate the digitization of the overall processes in the finance team. It requires a different mindset and is an overall change management process and we have successfully embarked on this journey. Spend management, workflow for approvals, ease in processing payments, etc, are some of the focus areas.

What were the work-from-home-related issues faced by the finance and accounts team of the company?

The future of work is a hybrid wherein people will either work from the office or work outside of the office. When one works outside of the office, it can be any place like home, hometown, co-working or rented a place near the house, etc. One had to change overnight and work from home, get access to systems, software’s had to support work from home, space in the house had to be identified at home are the typical issues faced initially which everyone got used to over time.

What is your perspective on the use of newer technologies like blockchain for accounting? What initiatives has the company taken in this regard?

Some of the new technologies are path-breaking. A lot of it solves today’s world problems, besides a lot of others create ease, agility with improving time to market and scalability. Not only for accounting but within the organization, we are working on adopting cloud infrastructure for various applications and our technology team is in the process of setting up a landing zone which is the security perimeter and connectivity to various cloud infrastructure providers. This will allow us to utilize various other technology by direct access from marketplace on-demand and utilize it on the go within our environment along with our data making it contextual to us. Increased experimentation on the go will lead to more iterations done rather than only brainstorming leading to larger innovation in a short period. Eventually, it is expected to transform the way we operate.

How are AI & ML making an impact on finance? What initiatives has the company in this regard?

AI makes it possible to write algorithms that not only automate processes but intelligently learn and improvise as it gets more and more exposed to multiple scenarios. We have large plans to use AI. We have started using AI & ML in areas like digital account opening, signature identification, customer segmentation, etc. Over time, it is helping us to provide hyper-personalized experience to our customers leading to more contextual and relevant offerings.

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