- Hi, I am Akshay Bansal, a Chartered Accountant (CA) who joined KPMG as a fresher.
- I took the chance to join the Fintech startup PayU before the sector saw its booming journey in India.
- Eventually, I became the Associate Director (Global tax) and watched PayU become a multi-billion dollar company.
- Many fintech providers are leaving opportunities on the table when it comes to tax, and that’s where tax professionals with tech-savvy mindsets can add value.
Moving from Big 4 to Fintech
When it was time to pick a career option, CA came as an obvious choice. Other alternatives were out of my family’s budget.
I was selected by at least 4 large Indian companies (Infosys, TCS) in the campus placement program organized by the Indian Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAI). But my plan was to only work for one of the ‘Big 4’ firms and make moves depending on my inclination.
Thankfully I was able to start my career with KPMG in Audit & Assurance. I got the opportunity to work with some of the best minds, teams, and companies like Philips, Motorola, and Genpact.
KPMG was a great learning streak for me. But after two years I realized that I couldn’t slog for 15-16 hours a day for too long.
In 2017 the Fintech industry in India started growing.
One of the companies that were leading the revolution was PayU, a Netherlands-based payment service provider to online merchants.
I didn’t have much knowledge about PayU’s business. The only thing I knew was that digital payments will be an industry worth exploring as the transition from cash to digital payments had already started.
The startup culture may be on an all-time boom nowadays, but it wasn’t such a smooth ride in 2017. Because of this, the decision to leave a stable job at KPMG to join a fintech startup was not an easy one, though later it proved to be the best one.
I discovered that Naspers, a South African multinational internet, technology, and the multimedia holding company is their investor.
They had recently acquired a company, 1/3rd of the size of PayU at $130M (It subsequently merged with PayU). All of these factors made my decision easier.
I began my journey with PayU as a General Ledger controller.
My responsibilities included:
- Managing monthly closing/reporting
- Moving our flagship companies to the Ind-AS regime.
My leaders understood my aspirations and opened several doors for me. I got the opportunity to lead India Taxation.
Over the period I was able to prove myself and was given the opportunity to move to the Global Tax team of this multi-billion dollar group.
PayU has invested ~$500M in India and $1B overall in the last 6 years. Working in this high-growth and ambitious start-up has really been transformational for me.
At the Indian business, my key focus was to save cash, keep assessments at bay, have a healthy relationship with tax authorities, and help the business by proactive advice on various product launches and business restructuring.
As part of the global team, I have worked on several high-impact projects across organic growth initiatives, investment deals, and M&A. We have business in 19 other countries and assist respective tax managers in the project they run in their jurisdiction.
To manage Indian taxation matters, you must have sound knowledge of Income tax and GST.
At the global level, one should be well aware of International taxation along with all the changes occurring in this field.
Knowledge of FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) and ODI (overseas direct investment) along with some key aspects of Company Law has become a fundamental skill for tax professionals.
Budding opportunities for Tax Professionals
For businesses selling services or products online, chances are they’re touching on several tax rules/different rates/jurisdictions regularly.
To process transactions, they must get the tax rules right, and collect and remit taxes for every purchase/sale, which simply isn’t realistic without technology.
The opportunity associated with tax technology goes far beyond reducing compliance risks. One such company trying to grab this opportunity is Clear (earlier Clear Tax).
As fintech providers look to stay competitive in today’s omnichannel world, addressing every piece of the transaction — items, payment, shipping, and tax will be critical.
But How many of them understand the complex tax rules on mutual funds, stocks, and crypto? Some of their knowledge bases are only limited to compliance and paying taxes.
Regulatory technology (Regtech as they called it) has been a thing for a while now but somehow tax tech has not been able to find its place.
In my opinion, many fintech providers are leaving opportunities on the table when it comes to tax and this is where tax professionals with tech-savvy mindsets can add value.
Many people feel that tax is a super specialized role and their work is limited to that specific area. I used to think the same but the reality has been different for me. It may sound cliché but I would say the sky is the limit for people in the field of taxation.
In the past year, RBI has come up with a lot of regulatory norms and trying to put every possible fintech business under its umbrella. Hence compliance is/will be an even bigger aspect and it’s not legal responsibility alone.
Several startups are facing legal notice due to a lack of compliance and other such issues. Being a compliance analyst in the Fintech sector can immediately land you a job in the Internal Audit and Control, Finance, Legal, and Internal risk teams.
Is it wise to switch to a career in Fintech?
A funding winter, although might be harsh for the time being, will put an end to the frenzied ‘over investing’ and irrational hyper-valuation of startups.
Despite the slowdown of funding, good companies with solid business models and capable founders will continue to raise capital. When the funding winter ends, startups will have a more sustainable funding process.
That’s why it is one of the best times to leap into fintech but be aware. Fintech is a broad sector involving Lend Tech, Insurance Tech, and Wealth Tech, thus one should choose wisely and stay away from companies with crazy valuations with no profits.
Before getting on board with the company, ask yourself – “Are they solving a real problem or a non-existent one?”
Look up the founders and investors of the company, and you will have your answer.
Takeaways from my career
- If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later – quoted by Richard Branson. I am a big fan of saying “Yes” as opportunity favors the bold.
- Great is the enemy of good. Better to get it done than to be perfect. As you move up the ladder, you are being paid for how quickly you make decisions rather than being 100% correct.
- CAs are wired to focus on technical skills. But skills that will define and elevate your career would be an understanding of the business in which it operates and stakeholder management.