Impact Of Digital Transformation On Financial Industry & Womanhood

Experts Column

Impact Of Digital Transformation On Financial Industry & Womanhood

Deepika is a self-motivated leader with over 20 years of expertise in numerous corporate financial responsibilities such as investor relations, treasury, capital raising, and due diligence.

In the financial services industry, digital transformation was once just a concept that has now become an integral part of a successful business strategy. The impact of digital technology, and by extension, digital transformation, has led to possibilities vis-a-viscost-effective operations, quick action, fulfilment of work deadlines, better customer and employee experience, error-free operations, and standing out among competitors. “When it comes to digital transformation, everyone is doing something new. It improves not only the consumer experience but also the efficiency and productivity of employees”, says Deepika Gupta Padhi, Head-Investor Relations, PNB Housing Finance.

Deepika Gupta is a business leader with two decades of experience across sectors in a range of functions like corporate finance, investor relations, treasury and fundraising. She has created functions from the ground up with well-defined policies and procedures. At PNB Housing Finance, Deepika is responsible forfund raising and developing and executing investor relations and stakeholder management strategies for the Company. She played an important role in initiating the company's transformation process and is currently a director on the board of PHFL Sales and Divergent Engagements. In a freewheeling conversation with Women Entrepreneurs India, Deepika talks about the digital transformation in thefinance industry, how it has evolved and how the industry can be more women-friendly.

With Almost Two Decades Of Experience Across Industries Including Financial Industry, How Have You Witnessed The Financial Industry Change Over The Years?

I began my career working for a mutual fund distribution firm. It was not at all like what I see now. I used to visit clients' offices, fill out physical forms and submit the applicationsthe next day. Things have completely changed now. When it comes to the financial industry, there have been numerous developments. The first and most significant change is in the area of digital transformation aseverything is done digitally. The ease of convenience has become a subject of growing interest. On the regulatory front, there have been a lot of changes as well. The RBI and other authorities have made regulatory modifications as a result of changing digital landscape. All regulators have become more stringent and watchful, but I believe this is the need of the hour.

Other changes that we are all aware of include the regulators’ efforts to evolve and expand their influence across the country and financial ecosystem. Payment banks and small finance banks are two examples of new banking models. Yet another development that has occurred lately is the convergence of finance and technology to provide services tocustomers via laptops and systems, rather than through physical interactions. These are some of the developments that have occurred over time. I believe these will continue to evolvein the next few years, particularly in terms of digital transformation. In today's world, digital skills are critical and the coming generationmust be educated in these areas to be future-ready.

How Has The Financial Industry's Digital Transformation Progressed Over The Past Few Years? What Impact Has This Transformation Brought About In The Way The Industry Functions?

When we walk into a conference or a boardroom, we can see ‘digital transformation ’everywhere. As a result, the number of firms are growing including in the financial world, whether it is mutual funds or the stock market. Because of the digital changes occurring in finTech organizations, the number of people who are investing today is far greater than it was a decade ago. Besides, efficiency levels have improved; cost efficiency is something we are looking into, and there will be some cost benefits that will trickle into any organization’s ROI. While digital transformation has resulted in error-free operations, there is also a flipside to the digital shift. When we discuss digital transformation, we must also include cyber fraud, data protection, and other aspects of security. There is a need for extreme caution. However, the government is coming up with a slew of new regulations for the digital ecosystem. I won’t say it will go away over time, but it will make individuals more cautious when transacting online, which will help mitigate or reduce cybercrimes and data privacy concerns.

Being The Head Of Fundraising Activities, How Do You Handle Investor Relations And Fundraising In Your Current Role?

My job profile is indeed dynamic in nature and it requires me to be well-informed at all times. I have to stay abreast on key developments on macro economy and understand its impact within the organization as well. I make sure that all our stakeholders, both Internal & external get regular and updated information. To achieve this, team collaboration is important. It’s imperative that each team member has clearly defined roles and responsibilities. So, at the end of the day, I think its constant touch, perseverance, and empathetic approach that help me deal with all of the stakeholders and evolve in this field of investor relations and fundraising.

Did Your Gender Ever Play A Role In Your Growth In The Finance Industry? Did Being A Woman Ever Come As An Impediment? If Yes, Please Elaborate.

That is not something I would say. Being a woman has never been an impediment in my job. But I'd want to highlight one thing: I believe sometimes a woman needs to work more than her male counterparts to achieve the same degree of success. This is because there are many demands that a woman manages both at work and home. To achieve all this, women have to put in a lot of effort. A global gender survey 2021 claims that achieving parity will take more than 100 years, if not longer, which I do not believe. We will see gender parity in our lifetimes, or perhaps in another two generations. Things are changing; corporations are becoming more aware of such issues; and policies and processes are being implemented to close the gaps, which is a positive indication. I feel that if organizations become more open-minded and start supporting their employees, both male and female, and implement policies that benefit women, the latter will be able to go much further in the middle and upper management levels than they do now. I believe it is a topdown strategy. It starts from the board of directors and management and once it has trickled down, it will undoubtedly help companies develop policies and practices that will lead women to progress in the same way as their male counterparts.

Much Like Other Industries, The Finance Industry Also Witnesses The Representation Of Women Dwindle As One Goes Up The Professional Ladder. What Is Your Take On This?

It's a proven fact. I don't believe there is much of a gap when we enter the workforce. To be honest, the gap is only noticeable once you reach middle management and above,because many women leave the workforce after a few years owing to other duties at home, where children, families and parents begin to take precedence. When faced with the challenging task of choosing between career and family responsibilities, women are expected to choose the latter thereby the gap gets more distant. So, what should be done? Not just at work, but also at home, support is essential. It's not just about implementing policies for women; if we want women to progress, we need policies that encourage men to support women in all aspects of their lives, so that women can perform the same responsibilities as their male counterparts. When it comes to home, both men and women should share responsibility.This will go a long way to bring equality of thoughts and execution to the younger generation.

"It starts from the board of directors and management and once it has trickled down, it will undoubtedly help companies develop policies and practices that will lead women to progress in the same way as their male counterparts"

In my opinion, it's not about men or women; it's about equality. People and organizations must realize this, although the government has taken some steps in this directionhoweverI believe much more has to be done. Yes, there have been policies in place regarding maternity leave, crèches at work place, and more but only a few organizations have implemented them wholeheartedly. So I believe there must be welcoming policies, where a woman feels she may return to work, as well as policies relating to remote work and other employment possibilities. With COVID-19, a lot of companies have realized that it is possible to work from home. As a result of these flexibilities; I believe that women will make up a larger part of the workforce in the coming years than they did previously. I can give an example: When I went to an investor relations conference during 2008-2010, I only saw one or two women in the entire room. Nowadays, if I enter a forum like this, there are at least 8 to 10 women present, and it's a pleasing sight. However, there is still much to be done. There will be many more opportunities for women to advance their careers in the future.

What Steps Must Companies, Policy Makers And Individuals Take To Bring More Women Into The Financial Industry?

When it comes to individuals, I believe career should remain as a priority. I totally agree that a woman's priorities alter throughout time, and they juggle through the same however career should not be tucked away in a corner. That is critical for anyone who wishes to advance in their jobs and do something beyond the household. From an organization’s standpoint, the policies and processes we implement, and the open-mindedness that exists, must improve. Women-friendly policies, such as returning to work after maternity leave and restart programmes, are critical. There are only a few companies that have implemented restart programmes, in which they encourage women who have left their jobs to return to work.

The other is making flexible options available to them, as it will help them take care of a range of issues that are equally essential. These are afew things that I believe are crucial from the perspective of an organization. Things are being done fromthe policymakers' side. For example, the government-mandated the presence of a female director on the board of directors. Maternity leave has been expanded to six months. Women entrepreneurs are getting financial and other assistance from the government. Infrastructure support, I would say, is the most important thing that we lack in our country. There are notmany joint families. We are all members of a nuclear family. As a result, working women would be unable to care for a child. So infrastructure support will undoubtedly aid in the general increase of women in the workforce. Last but not the least, I believe that sisterhood is vital which we lack in India.

Final Word

Companies can assist women advance in their careers by supporting them on several fronts. This in turn will contribute to the organizational and economic growth.