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Interview of Rikhil Shah: CFO at SBI General Insurance Company Ltd.

If we look back at the path, he has traversed it has been a splendid personal and professional journey. He has always loved numbers; they told a certain story and his pursuit to be able to tell an extremely well-concocted story is what drove him to where he is today. Right from his time with The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) over 18 years back to being the CFO of SBI General Insurance, one of the fastest-growing General Insurance firms, the key catalyst has always been the inquisitiveness to understand the planning, strategy, and execution from numbers.

What inspired you to join the above company or this sector?

SBI General Insurance was a new organization and I knew the opportunities will be ample. The scope of innovation, growth, planning could be in any direction and that excited me. After my interaction with the CEO, I felt reassured and I knew I wanted to join SBI General Insurance. I am still very content and happy I made the decision.

What is your life mantra?

I believe one must not get too comfortable with anything since that is when learning ends. If one fears change, there is no avoiding stagnation. Growth also changes and to get there, everyone has to step out, work hard and only then face the glory that comes with it. If I had not decided to join SBI General when it was young and not seen the opportunities that came with it, I wouldn’t have been a part of the SBI General and its impressive success story.

What was the most challenging part of your journey till now?

When you step into the role of being a CFO of a brand name like SBI General Insurance, it brings along a lot of unanticipated responsibilities with it. Some may be in the form of jobs you have never forayed into before, completely out of your comfort zone. It was obviously no different for me, I had to look beyond numbers and handle larger roles and I certainly wanted to make a substantial positive difference. It took some effort but today the positive graph of the Company makes me immensely proud.

How do you protect yourself from the problem of brain drain?

Brain drain is something I feel you cannot completely protect yourself from but most certainly can work towards reducing it or being prepared for it. To attract or retain talent, we work with various teams like HR, Learning, and Development, Corporate Communications and others to understand and cater to an employee’s work requirements. The key things that they usually look for are, job security, a great work culture, value for their effort and the learning environment. We ensure that while the Company grows, it is symbiotic to the employee as well, he/she has some stimulation to keep going and they have a vision on their career progression. We try to have a benchmarked and structured payment process where they feel adequately compensated or incentivized for the efforts they put in.

I also have an open-door policy for the team to come and share any concerns they might have. I also believe that having robust processes help us run an organization better since it facilitates the seamless transfer of job roles and responsibilities to anyone who comes in.

Share one habit that you think makes you more productive?

I think there is no replacement for reading, it helps you keep constantly learning. I like to keep myself abreast of what is happening around me.

Positive discussion with my peers and senior colleagues also helps me get various vantage points on everyday activities which definitely helps.

Answer in one line:

One tip to success – Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone

One mistake you believe every individual must avoid – Repeating the last one

One most important lesson that you have learned until now – Working for a higher purpose and always working in a team.

Share a quote that inspires you the most:

“Life starts at the end of your comfort zone” by Neal Donald Walsch

What makes you excited about Mondays?

The opportunity to handle new situations and working together in a team keeps me going. It is rewarding to see something that was just an idea take shape and finally yield results. I am surrounded by an enthusiastic lot, the energy rubs off. It never gets mundane.

According to you how self-worth and happiness important in a job?

Without self-worth, you have confidence. When you are expected to make strategic decisions to the highest possible standards of excellence, the last thing you can do is doubt yourself. It becomes even more robust when you have senior colleagues to guide you through it. It is extremely gratifying to see your efforts reflect in the Company’s growth and if that doesn’t make you happy in a job then what does?

Describe some difficult leadership situations and how you managed people through them?

For the second year in a row, SBI General has been one of the few multiline general insurers to have positive underwriting results and I am proud to have been a part of it.

There was a need for business-friendly MIS reports and the risk of not having adequate MIS reports, was quite high. We as a solution generated utilitarian MIS reports. Data volume and the methodology of managing the same was the key to generate business reports with insights and accuracy. Heavy data was being maintained under several software databases which allowed the finance team to handle business requirements with ease. It turned out to be highly beneficial for business channel heads, regional branch managers and department heads amongst other stakeholders.

What’s your opinion about StartupLanes?

It’s a good platform for young entrepreneurs. This provides them with the opportunity for fundraising and networking. Many such platforms should come up to let the culture of entrepreneurship thrive and contribute to the holistic development of society.

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