From CA to CPA Australia to beyond – the importance of continuously upskilling oneself & how it pays off
- I am Anand Krishnan, a CA and a CPA Australia.
- I am the CFO of Foods & Inns Ltd, a company listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange. If at all it serves as an inspiration, I am not a first attempt CA but a multi attempt one.
- However, having the right mentors early on helped me make the right choices. I firmly believe that the only way to succeed is through upskilling oneself and networking - quite literally Network = Net worth.
- In 2019, after having worked for a few years, I knew it was time to pursue an international finance degree for professional development and of course to grow my international network.
- I did a lot of research and realised the MRA between ICAI and CPA Australia. That's how I decided to pursue CPA Australia.
- In this article, I reflect on my career to date and the importance of professional development in helping me remain relevant in today’s competitive business world.
During my schooling days, I would do well in academics and had a lot of interest in extra-curricular activities like sports, elocutions and performing with percussion instruments. (Credit for this goes to my parents who never pressured my siblings and me to focus solely on academic studies, whilst ignoring other facets of life.) Also growing up in a joint family with 30 plus family members living under one roof helped me in polishing my interpersonal skills and building my Emotional Quotient (EQ). Why CA? Coming from a business family CA seemed to be an obvious choice. I understood that a CA degree could empower me with great flexibility in terms of choosing career options whether within the family business or with other corporates or in terms of setting up my own practice. Also, I was aware that a CA would be in demand across sectors of the economy as every corporate requires a CA. The fact that the passing rate in the CA profession in India is quite low drew me towards the profession considering the Demand-Supply equation. So here started my CA journey.
My CA journey was very challenging - definitely not a straight road. One of the best things that transpired in my journey was the opportunity to do Industrial Training with 'Infina Finance Pvt Ltd - an Investment Company jointly owned by one of India’s richest banker! Back then, Infina had a small team of around 3 to 4 Investment Managers reporting to the CEO who used to manage the investments in the style of a hedge fund. I received incredible exposure and learning opportunities due to the nature of the job & the networking potential it presented with the management of listed companies. Fast forward, after qualifying as a CA, I knew that I wanted to continue working with the firm. During my time at Infina, Mr. Venkat Subramanian (the CEO) was liberal enough to entrust a rookie like me to meet the management of investee companies and be a part of various important decisions. He gave me the opportunity to work for the fund and enhanced my analytical abilities by exposing me to sectors like Cement, Real Estate, Textiles, Brands, Aviation, Media & Retail. (To date, I am so thankful to Mr. Venkat for all the opportunities and mentoring.) Not to mention, this acted as a catalyst for my career growth.
Bitten by the Entrepreneurial bug only for it to die soon
After working at Infina between 2010 and 2017, I decided that I wanted to start my own fund - very ambitious, I know, but I was driven by the thought of being in charge and creating value for the people who believed and invested with me. One of the biggest challenges of starting your own fund is needing to register as a Non-Banking Financial Company ('NBFC'). The compliance that comes with being registered as an NBFC is enormous and not to mention the large cost factor involved! I soon realised that without having demonstrated performance or having a brand, it is difficult to raise money in an exotic product like a hedge fund especially given that only 2% to 3% of India’s population invest in the stock market! After almost 3 months, we took a collective decision amongst the LLP partners to wind down the fund. What next?
Starting all over and realizing the importance of an international degree
Luckily, I had built up a very good network when working at Infina. Towards the end of the unsuccessful startup stint, I met Mr. Bhupen Dalal, who was considered to be India’s foremost FII broker, M&A specialist & Merchant Banker, at a point in time. I joined him as a consultant for M&A, Business Strategy, Investor Relations & Treasury operations across his various group companies. During my tenure, I realized that the world is one global village and that we as a company had great potential for exports. That put seeds of thought in me to pursue a global degree and have global connections. I was also very keen on developing a good strategic sense and developing from being just a finance professional to a business leader. So intending to widen my horizon and be internationally relevant…I knew it was time to pursue an internationally recognized qualification.
Deciding on the CPA Australia Designation
After researching the MOUs that ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) had with various foreign accounting bodies I came across the MRA that ICAI had with CPA Australia. My self-coined mantra of "Network = Net worth" pushed me to grow my network internationally. This is really what drew me towards CPA Australia. The fact that CPA Australia provides regular forums for member interactions globally, assured me that I was on the right track. I knew CPA Australia would be the right path for me to grow my international network. So in 2019 while still working full time I enrolled for CPA Australia.
Getting a leadership role: From a Consultant to CFO
Fast forward, I qualified as a CPA in February 2020 and in October 2020 I was offered the role as a CFO of a company listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange known as Foods & Inns Ltd. (The company is one of India’s largest Mango pulpers supplying to the likes of Pepsi, Coke & Unilever worldwide. It is also in the business of manufacturing frozen food). Did I get the CFO role because of my CPA Australia designation? I would like to believe that it was due to:
- The better insights that I could provide as a result of my sector agnostic analytical abilities gained from my previous work experience at Infina;
- The strategic and leadership knowledge gained through the CPA Australia curriculum; and
- My basic qualification of being a Chartered Accountant.
All of this would have contributed towards me getting recommended for the post of CFO. I always consider the initial qualification to be the entry pass into corporates after which only continuous upskilling helps to create value for the individual and the organisation.
Having completed the CPA Australia degree, the idea is to acquire similar recognition in more countries to multiply the networking opportunities across borders. Soon after qualifying as a CPA Australia, I went on to become a Registered Valuer and I know this is just the start. Questions I get asked often:
“Did you pursue CPA Australia so you could immigrate to Australia?”
I wanted to do CPA Australia not necessarily to immigrate but to become globally relevant.
“Balancing work and studies.”
It is always challenging to study and work. But the best part was that I was working across the function of building Business Strategy for the Bhupen Dalal group companies. The subject of Global Business Strategy & Leadership covered under the CPA Australia curriculum helped me do better justice to the role I was performing. Hence, studying along with work became fun as I started implementing everything that I was learning.
“Did CPA Australia help you in your career?”
Always consider the initial qualification to be the entry pass into corporates after which only continuous upskilling helps to create value for the individual and the organization. CPA Australia did make help me perform my role as a strategist better. Subjects like Global Business Strategy & Leadership as well as Ethics & Corporate Governance are extremely relevant for the modern-day and age. If one needs to climb the corporate ladder and needs to provide strategic solutions and be aware of the best practices of corporate governance. The above-mentioned modules covered by CPA Australia transformed my strategic thinking abilities and widened my vision for creating value for all stakeholders vis a vis only shareholders.
“Did CPA Australia help you in your goal of networking?”
The CPA Australia sessions that were conducted in India helped me connect with a diverse pool of minds consisting of people working in different sectors of the economy who had a lot to innovate in their respective careers despite being a CA or a CPA at their core. Whether it be the Fund Management, Consulting, IT, Insolvency & Restructuring or setting up their own practice, each one had their own story to tell and experiences to look up to.
I am not a first attempt CA but a multi attempt one. For all those who have the wrong notion that only first attempt CAs succeed in their careers, I can reassure you, that it is not true. Staying honest about what we do is the shortest way to success apart from smart work and good interpersonal skills. International qualifications help, but I would place more importance on upskilling at every stage of life rather than only a formal /foreign degree as a necessity to climb up the corporate ladder. Want to grow in your career? I would suggest that one should first gain ‘broad financial experience’ with a certain degree of Operational exposure. Next, back it by broadening one’s understanding of technology and always be eager to take expanded roles outside of traditional accounting and finance to take top management roles. Last but not the least, Network and keep upskilling yourself! If you want to know more about the MRA between ICAI and CPA Australia please write to email@example.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org! You can also leave your details HERE.
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