CFO of a large company is a lucrative, yet stressful job – says Shailesh Agarwal, CFO of Asahi Glass in conversation with MentorClub.in

Shailesh Agarwal (Chief Finance Officer at Asahi Glass; 2500 crore annual turnover)

Insights

  1. At my level, where I head the finance of Asahi Glass, clear communication with people of all levels is probably the most important skill required.
  2. This job requires immense teamwork, and that causes a lot of stress, as you have to constantly monitor your team members’ work.
  3. There is no room for even small errors, as even a slight mistake can become a big problem. Attention to details is the most important skill to do well in finance.
  4. A person who does not mind doing a desk job will be happy doing this job.
  5. Sometimes, it becomes difficult to balance between personal and professional life because it is a time-consuming job. On an average, I work 12–14 hours a day, 6 days a week.
  6. I couldn’t adjust in a BPO, because of timing issues.

Profile Details

Name – Shailesh Agarwal

Profession – Chief Finance Officer (CFO) at Asahi Glass (2500 crore annual turnover)

Age – 50

Gender – Male

City – Delhi

Industry – Automotive and float glass manufacture

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/shailesh-agarwal-b725811a/

Where have you been born and raised?

I was born in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh and was brought up in New Delhi. I don’t have any siblings. From classes 1 till 10, I did my schooling from Kendriya Vidyalaya, RK Puram (sector 8). But in 11th grade, I shifted to KV, RK Puram (sector 2) to opt for commerce stream, which was not available in Sector 8 school. I graduated from the school in 1985.

What is your family background? Who all had the most influence on you and how?

My dad was an engineer and the Director of Central Electricity Authority. He retired in 1993, 24 years back. My mother was an MA economics and taught in a government school in RK Puram and retired around early 2000. My mother had a huge influence on me, as she worked very hard. She used to get up early in morning at 5 and travel long distances for her job and at the same time somehow managed to get me ready for school too. I would be in awe of her seeing her work so hard. My father also influenced in a way because he helped me get the education in a day where education was tough to get.

Please give us a summary of your career and your journey to becoming a CFO.

I completed B.Com. (Honors) from SRCC, University of Delhi in 1988. Then I did CA (Chartered Accountancy) from the Institute of chartered accountancy in 1992. I started as a junior officer in Polyplex Corporation limited in 1993 and was there for 11 years. In 2004, I joined Munjal Showa, which manufactures shock absorbers for automobiles and two-wheelers. As the head of finance, I reported directly to the managing director. In 2006, I joined HCL BPO Private limited in Noida. The service sector was quite distinct from manufacturing and I left in 15 months. The issue was timings as BPO work till late night.

I joined Asahi in 2007 as Head of Corporate accounts and later became the Chief Finance Officer (CFO). We manufacture automotive glass which commands 77% market share in the industry. Our turnover for the previous economic year was roughly 2600 crore and we have a pan India presence.

Which institutes are best to attend if one wants to become a CFO?

I would suggest Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, the top IIM’s of the country and SP Jain School of Global management for CA and business management respectively.

How much does it costs to do a CA and MBA respectively?

If one has to do CA, costs can be anything from 2 to 5 lakhs for the entire course; and if one wants to do business studies, it can go up to 20 lakhs.

What is the requirement to get a job in the finance profession?

The minimum requirement is to be a graduate. One can have an undergraduate degree in B.Com. or Economics. However, I recommend doing post-graduate for specialized knowledge.

But if you are looking at CA specific jobs, then you have to clear the CA.

What is the range of remuneration one can expect when starting out in the finance field?

5 years of experience – 8–10 lakhs per annum

10 years of experience – 10–25 lakhs per annum

20+ years of experience 25 lakhs – 1 crore per annum

Please describe your work as a CFO of a company.

Since it’s a public limited company, we have to work very diligently within the policies and guidelines given by the Government of India in preparing financial reports. For every quarter, we compile financial results and publish the results in the newspaper and there are a timeline and deadline that we have to adhere to. I have to also conduct all sorts of board meetings and discuss the outcomes with the directors of the company. My job also includes preparing balance sheets. On an average, I work 12 -14 hours a day and 6 days a week.

What are some of the positives, which would encourage someone to go into finance?

Income is great, to say the least. Finance people, in general, are paid the best across industries and job roles.

Because we are so close to accounting developments and financial situations around you and of the country, we can help our company strategize better.

Once you are a senior officer, you get to interact with top management of the company and this helps in boosting your official and personal reputation.

What are some of the challenges that you would want someone to be aware of when considering choosing finance as a field?

Some of the negatives or challenges are that you have to devote a lot of your time to work and sometimes it becomes difficult to balance between your professional and personal life.

This job also creates stress, as you have to be on your toes all the time because there is a constant pressure of timelines and deadlines.

Because it is a team effort, it becomes a huge problem even if one person on your team does not do his/her work properly. On top of that, you have to constantly monitor your subordinates.

What are the relevant trends/skills/technologies that are currently commanding a premium in finance?

The most important skill required to do well in finance is communication whether it is interpersonal or intrapersonal. It is important to communicate your ideas very clearly to your peers, seniors, and juniors because miscommunication can lead to huge problems and nuisances.

One must also be aware and be constantly updated with the latest information in your field because the micro and macroeconomics of an organization or country change very rapidly.

What kind of person would be happy in the finance sector?

Finance is a job in which if a person would not mind doing a desk job, will be happy. One who wants to be outdoors and is looking for field work can’t be happy here. One must also have a lot of teamwork spirit because, in this profile, individual work does not matter as much as teamwork does.

What would be your advice to students or professionals who are just starting their journey on a path similar to yours?

Be very serious as CA is not an easy course to get through.

Contributing Writer – Surabhi Sanghi

You may also like to check out A Day In The Life Of A CFO from Investopedia.