Chief Future Officer: How Movate’s CFO is leading with a vision beyond finance

Leadership Beyond Finance: Movate CFO

Media: ET Insights

Ramaseshan K., Chief Financial Officer, Movate on how CFOs are becoming the future-makers of the corporate world.

Once upon a time Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) could simply finalize their quarters and analyze figures behind closed doors, without contemplating how to effectively convey this information to the board, wider management group, and employees.

Today, the role of the CFO is changing fast—it covers more areas, needs new skills, and involves more teamwork with other C-suite leaders.

I recently caught up with Ramaseshan K., Chief Financial Officer, Movate (formerly CSS Corp) to understand how he is steering strategies within his respective organization.

We spoke on topics ranging from technological shifts to data as an asset and the importance of ESG initiatives, all of which extend beyond the responsibilities of cost management, profit optimization, talent investment, and enforcing accountability.

Prior to Movate, Ramaseshan held the position of Global Business Services Head and India CFO at Cognizant. In his past roles, he served as the CFO of Tata Elxsi and SQS India BFSI (now Expleo Group), while also holding financial management roles at Wipro and IBM. Edited excerpts:

Q. In 1998, you started as a finance manager and went on to head the finance function of IBM’s Personal Computing Division. How is the role of the CFO different today from what it was 25 years ago? How do you see the future of finance function in an ever-changing world economy?

Traditionally CFOs were focusing on planning, budgeting, pricing, reporting, audit and compliance. These were the core finance functions.

Contemporary CFOs not only address fundamental financial aspects but also serve as strategic collaborators alongside CEOs, propelling revenue growth, market diversification, strategic innovation, and beyond. The CFO’s role has evolved into that of a transformative force, dedicated to reshaping the organization through digital prowess and organizational change.

CFOs don’t only have to anticipate what is next, they must predict what is next. In my perspective, the CFO has assumed the mantle of the Chief Future Officer. This embodies the transformation I’ve observed in the CFO role from its state 15-20 years ago to its current manifestation.

Moving ahead, the finance function will embrace a greater array of technologies to enhance its operational capabilities. Once characterized primarily as a reporting entity, the finance function now holds the responsibility of delivering more profound business insights.

Q. Can you share an example of how you are delivering these business insights?

As an MNC we operate in multiple geographies and there are several functions, all of which bring in myriad complexities.

For instance, at Movate, we are using automation tools to generate dynamic business insights. These insights encompass daily profit and loss reports, performance evaluations of business units in specific geographies, project assessments within defined timeframes, and more. These insights delve deep into the data, showcasing the agility that data-driven decision-making provides.

Q. How are you placing increased emphasis on data and leveraging it at every stage of the business value chain?

Finance has always been a data-driven function. However, the advent of big data and the expansion of data analytics proficiency have elevated its significance further. We use data-driven analytics for both strategic and operational decision-making. For all this to happen, one needs to have a proper data architecture in place. The accessibility of data is also critical. We are enabling the access of data through a cloud-based architecture that gives us quick data access.

Q. What’s your personal view on companies listing ‘data’ as a tangible corporate asset on their balance sheet?

I’ve had affiliations with various IT services firms in the past. A couple of decades ago, all these companies were contemplating the inclusion of their human resource capital on their balance sheets. The resources were considered assets, a perception that remains valid to this day.

Drawing a parallel to the present scenario, we can observe that data has been transformed into an asset. This mirrors the discussions around human resources as assets. Undoubtedly, data is an asset, but it requires careful consideration of intricacies and a discerning approach to assigning value to data as an asset. This process will require time and deliberation.

Q. Does the CFO position provide a unique visibility into companies’ efforts to deliver sustainable, inclusive growth? What’s been your focus on driving ESG initiatives?

ESG initiatives and practices are becoming more business-driven. CFOs are best positioned to integrate ESG initiatives into the organization’s core business objectives. When they engage in the development of ESG programs, the outcomes indicate a heightened synergy with the company’s essential goals. For example, CFOs can allocate resources, they can identify, measure and report ESG data.

At Movate we do all this. Our corporate vision is to advance our ESG practices to evolve and balance the relationship between planet, business, and communities. There is a team that drives our ESG initiatives, tracks movement and measures it from time to time.

Q. The world has been captivated by the profound metamorphosis promised by Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI). How are you looking at Generative AI tools?

Generative AI tools are a big shift in the industry. Anything that is new will have some teething problems, but it will stay for long. Being an IT services provider, we need to embrace Gen AI. We are looking at offering generative AI-based solutions across our business units covering our existing and future clients.

Internally, we are looking at using generative AI tools for our forecasting models using historical data, trend analysis and so on. If you fine tune some of the aspects of these models the insights that they provide are of immense value.

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