7 Questions with Deepa Chandrashekar
Name: Deepa Chandrashekar
Current title: Financial Advisor to the Group CEO
Current organisation: Qatar General Insurance and Reinsurance
Finance Executive with over 25 years of diverse industry experience, Dr. Deepa Chandrashekar, is currently working as the Financial Advisor to the Group CEO in Qatar General Insurance and Reinsurance Company. She brings strong financial leadership in relevant functional areas and has garnered respect and industry award recognition (CFO MENA Excellence award in the category of Women in Finance, 2017).
Deepa was also the Chairperson of the Members Advisory committee for ACCA, Qatar and is a member of ACCA’s global forum for corporate reporting. She graduated with a Doctor of Business Administration from the International School of Management, France and a Master of Commerce from Annamalai University, India. She holds a Fellowship with the Chartered Certified Accountants in the UK and the Insurance Institute of India and is also a Chartered Professional Accountant. Happily married with 2 adult daughters, Deepa is an accomplished instrumentalist and advanced scuba diver.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
Influencing and obtaining consensus from all stakeholders within a tight timeframe on process changes required to be adopted with emerging technologies and increasingly complex compliance framework.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I’ve been working in the finance industry for over 20 years, with small, medium and large size enterprises and in various sectors that included Asset Management, Investment Banking and Insurance. In my current company, I was hired initially to address a dearth of financial leadership and enhance the quality of business decision-making in a limited segment of the Group i.e. insurance. During a course of 3 years, I was able to positively influence my team, colleagues and senior management on enhancing the efficiency of various business processes and simultaneously cutting down on costs. I proved myself very quickly and gained the trust of the senior management and the Board. Besides, my prior experience having worked in various sectors also allowed me to see unique perspectives: from managers to CEOs, and down to the customer. This eventually led to a promotion to a senior executive role for the entire Group when an opportunity came by.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I like having a disciplined and structured routine with some flexibility built in. I plan all the household chores including meal preparation for the upcoming week ahead of time. This way I know what I need to do and eat on each day. I always allocate an hour in the early morning hours for myself where I do yoga and meditation. Thereafter, its all about focusing on getting to work and completing the required tasks for the day. Post work, my time gets split between my family, friends, pets, music, walking and reading. My work sometimes requires me to put in long hours; but, I ensure spending time with my husband, daughters and pets everyday before going to bed and with my other near and dear ones at least once a week.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Leadership is a continuous process of learning. Reflecting on the Pandemic and its impact globally, I learnt not to let negativity encompass and stop me from being the best person I can be.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
The book that had an impact on my leadership is the "Global Leadership-The next generation" by Marshall Goldsmith. The book provides unprecedented insights into new challenges of leadership. It opened my eyes towards the concept of global thinking, appreciation of diversity and how to lead people whose backgrounds and values are radically dissimilar from ones own. It gives a good framework for anyone looking to become a successful global leader and work with a multicultural and diversified team.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
First, lead by example. Second leaders need to show genuine interest and care in leadership development. Finally, recognize talents early on and empower employees. Just delegating responsibilities is not sufficient.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
This incident happened during a very busy period. One of my team members had issued a payment with an erroneous amount in the name of a highly valuable client, who belonged to the royal family. I was on my leave when this incident happened, and I got a call from the CEO who was put to embarrassment by the client due to this mistake. He wanted me to identify and fire the employee immediately. I calmed him down by assuring to rectify the error as a first step and then to investigate. After investigation, I realised that it was a genuine mistake made by the employee who was working under pressure. Hence, I refused to disclose the name of this employee to the CEO and accepted the blame instead. The CEO understood and closed the issue without further discussion. This instance led to significantly winning the trust and respect of my team and the news spread across the company. I had several colleagues walk into my office and appreciate the stand I took. I felt good.
My inspiration comes from what late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, former President of India had once said; “A leader should give the credit of the success to the team members. But when failure comes, leaders should absorb the failures and protect the team members”.