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7 Questions with Rakhi Aswal
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7 Questions with Rakhi Aswal
Name: Rakhi Aswal
Current title: Chief Financial Officer
Current organisation: Saxo Group India
Rakhi Aswal is the Chief Financial Officer of Saxo Group India. Having spent more than a decade managing finance and account functions at leading companies, she now oversees the accounting, finance, compliance and taxation functions for Saxo Bank’s Indian subsidiary.
A qualified Chartered Accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, Certified Financial Manager (India) and Certified Public Accountant (State of Colorado, USA), Rakhi has completed Post Graduate Program from the University of California & Los Angeles, USA. She has also participated in various executive programs at IIM Ahmedabad and IIM Bangalore.
Beyond work, she is a voracious reader and the founder of a book club, which helps her curate her passion for books .
Being an avid traveler, she has visited over a hundred cities, in more than 20 countries.
She is mother to a little girl and thoroughly enjoys a fun time with her.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
I find building a great team, one of the most challenging, and the most rewarding experience as a leader. I believe, as a leader, you are only as good as your team. Your success and failure depends on the quality of your team and its performance. Building and managing a team which is motivated and ready to go above and beyond what is asked of them, is key to any leader’s success.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I started as a finance associate after qualifying as a Chartered Accountant and was soon promoted to the position of team leader, thereby managing a team of talented and highly qualified bunch of people. I was very clear from the very beginning that I would like to head the finance function of a reputable organization, some day. Therefore, all my efforts at work and learnings were directed towards that goal. Soon after, I got an opportunity to head the finance team for a US based company in India and thereafter to head finance function as the CFO of a startup. Currently, I am the CFO of an Indian subsidiary of a Danish bank. I truly believe that I have been blessed with a very supportive family, and mentors who have guided me in my journey to reach where I am today. They continue to put their trust in me to achieve furthermore. When we start our professional journey, we underestimate the enabling power of the guidance and mentorship from the right people to nurture our ability to create an impact, and scale up the ladder. This is one of the most important forces behind anyone’s success, along with perseverance and focus towards your goal.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My work day (or even non-work day for that matter!) starts at 6 am with meditation and exercise for about 30 to 45 minutes. I don’t believe in reaching out to my phone early in the morning to check work emails. My work routine for the day starts with a hand-written to-do-list and reaching out to my team members to prioritize the tasks for the day. Due to increased use of technology, I find myself in virtual meetings till late in the evening. However, if the weather allows, I like to spend my evenings outdoors, with my daughter, for at least 30 minutes. I am an avid reader and spend 30 minutes to an hour everyday reading, before going to bed. I find myself most productive when I have a clear structure around my work day.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Covid-19 has been an unprecedented time in human history. While these were the most difficult times for some organizations and people all over the world, there are others that have thrived during these times. How can such times impact organizations and people so differently? The answer lies in the difference in their agility, flexibility to learn and adapting to the changing times.
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?
One book that has had a profound impact on me is “Art of War” by Sun Tzu. I try to incorporate the learnings from this book in my leadership style. There are tons of leadership lessons in this book. The one I would like to mention here is “When one treats people with benevolence, justice and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders”. I have been extremely fortunate to have been able to appreciate, learn and incorporate this leadership style in my professional ecosystem.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Leadership capacity cannot be built overnight. It takes a lot of time, many trials and errors before you hit the right team. When I look for people in my team, I try to gauge their attitude and commitment towards work, rather than their subject matter knowledge and experience. I have always found that people with the right attitude, willingness to learn and do more, have been much better performers under the right guidance. Building the right leadership capacity also means that a leader herself should not be insecure. She should believe in the power of delegation for the team’s overall amelioration.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
During these Covid times my team was hard pressed with the workload due to few members being out sick with the Covid infection. In spite of the increased workload, the whole team came together and contributed extra hours to make sure that we as a team don’t miss even a single deadline. Only during tough times do we get the chance to understand the real meaning of teamwork, and being there for each other - personally and professionally. I am fortunate to have actually experienced the adage, “ When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” How true!