The finance function has considerably changed over the past five to ten years. Whereas finance professionals were once considered number crunchers, now, and irrespective of their seniority, they’re key cogs in the business from a strategic standpoint. Not only has this meant that the function has developed, it implies that finance leaders have had to cater their skills to a new type of finance professional in order to get the best out of them. Vighnesh Shahane, who is the Chief Executive Officer & Whole-Time Director of IDBI Federal Life Insurance Board, has joined IDBI Federal Life Insurance in April 2011 as President, Bancassurance. The only inspiration that drives him is adding great value to shareholders, employees and customers.
Vighnesh was responsible for the Company’s growing Bancassurance, Group & Alliances operations. In January 2014, he was elevated to the post of Chief Executive Officer & Whole-Time Director and is also a member of the Company’s Board of Directors. In his career spanning over 20 years, Vighnesh has worked with leading financial services organisations across different geographies. He is a post-graduate from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai and has also represented Mumbai in the prestigious Ranji Trophy.
Grounds that Led the Company’s Commencement
Four years ago IDBI Federal embarked on the journey with an aim to unleash the collective potential of all the people connected with them and whose lives they touch– customers, employees, channel partners, investors and their community. Their vision was firmly focused on the higher summit of business and community success.
Vighnesh proudly affirms that his company’s gross written premium has almost doubled in three years in a challenging operating environment proving that more people are willing to invest in their firm. In a recent report, published by IRDAI, they were mentioned as the only life insurance company to have retained over 50% of their customers for over 5 years, evidence of their constant focus on post-sale engagement. Their vision is to ensure that IDBI Federal becomes one of the top 10 life insurance players of the country. The future growth will be a result of consistent efforts made over a period of time.
Epitome of Perfect Leadership
Own the vision: Company’s vision is to help individuals live the life and lifestyle of their choice. Vighnesh sees it imperative to be able to describe it in a clear, engaging and exciting way for all their stakeholders. All the players in the organization should understand how this direction affects their job and daily responsibilities. It’s important for the employees being able to live the life of their choice and in turn they must strive to help company’s customers do the same too. This brings the next most important aspect of resource management.
Provide proper resources: It’s important to balance resources — the two most important ones being capital and people. Insurers who offer superior employee value propositions will enjoy greater loyalty in an era where the workforce is younger; geographically mobile; technologically skilled. As an organization, they have taken a number of unconventional steps in this area. From flexi work hours to work from home and dress down policy IDBI Federal has a lot packed here. Their efforts are clearly in the direction to support a workforce that demands more flexibility, looks for work-life balance and expects greater learning opportunities. They also understand the importance of being aware of what competitors, both within and outside the sector, have to offer them as a value proposition. Their human resource practices are grounded in this new reality.
Build the culture: IDBI Federal’s culture is the set of shared attitudes, goals, behaviors and values that characterize the organisation. It adds up to how things get done at their company and influences the entirety of the employee experience and thus the customer experience. Vighnesh encourages all teams to live up to those values and believe in creating an environment where members communicate fearlessly.
An ‘Uninsurance’ Company
IDBI Federal Life Insurance has coined a unique term to describe themselves. They address themselves as an ‘Uninsurance’ company because they are an insurance company but they don’t operate like one. From flexi working hours to dress down policy in their HR practices to doing away with mainline advertising for their marketing, they have always taken the road less travelled. This has allowed them to set apart in a cluttered marketplace.
In fact their marketing efforts through cricket at the grassroots level and now in badminton and mass participation events like running have improved their visibility and branding. Running culture is spreading and badminton as a sport is picking up in India. Four years ago, people were not aware of IDBI Federal as a life insurer. Today that has changed. Apart from their business growth of over 25% on a Y-O-Y basis, they were also recognized as the most trusted life insurance companies of India as per Economic Times’ Brand Equity Annual survey.
Following your Instinct is the Boldest Element to Success
I have always believed in the adage, ‘Fortune favours the bold.’ You will not always find set rules to do things. Nobody in the history of this world ever got successful following a set formula. I believe every organisation is different and it needs to set its own rules basis its strengths, limitations and growth stage. While integrity, prudence and passion to make a difference have to be the foundation of your organisation’s culture, it’s imperative to challenge status quo and create new horizons. Our growth has been a result of our unconventional and, at times, contrarian thinking.
Multiple Roles of a Leader
Leaders balance many roles and serve multiple audiences, all while communicating one primary vision. In any given business day, a leader might serve the role of a creative business thinker trying to inspire stakeholders then morph into an industry expert role helping to advance not only one’s own company, but the entire industry. Taking on the role of a leader means wearing multiple hats. While most of these are extremely critical roles, there’s one thing that I feel is absolutely inevitable. It is to know what you stand for and be able to communicate it to all your stakeholders. You are the face of the company and should be ready to take up the gauntlet. Every action you take for your company should be aligned to your vision or end goal. This helps you distinguish yourself from the competition and is a mark of a true leader.
This being said, according to Vighnesh, the paramount responsibility of a leader is to galvanise the team. It is people that make an organization and keeping them engaged, motivated and hungry is the main job of a leader.
Taking Stand and Commitment to Work Consort with a Leader
Being an effective financial leader requires a lot of balancing. Heightened expectations from shareholders, dynamic regulatory environment, stiff competition and rapid technological advancements are adding to the list of growing demands on CEOs and financial leaders. While these are massive challenges, they are not completely insurmountable.
Here are a few ways in which these challenges can be tackled:
- Commitment to ethics and integrity should remain the cornerstone of your decision making.
- Be willing to take a stand on challenging or risky matters. Sitting on fence will only waste time; you fail fast and learn quickly.
- Balancing act of finance and technology cannot be undermined. Efforts should be made to safeguard the integrity of financial data and to improve efficiency through sophisticated systems.
- Master the art of wearing multiple hats. Financial leaders are pulled in many directions—providing advice on a business deal one minute and offering input on a regulatory change the next.
- Motivate others. Last but not least, taking along everyone with your vision and goals is the most important thing you need to do. Your stakeholders should be able to see a reason behind your decisions. At the end of the day, no support means no success.
Guiding the way for Budding Entrepreneurs
Vighnesh’s message to the youth is to definitely enter this industry. If it interests you to be in an industry which is exciting, interesting, and challenging and the one that keeps turning on its head every three months it is the right place to be in.