Puneeta Kapoor, FPAC, made the transition from accounting to finance when she realized that she wanted to have a more proactive role. Having learned about the interplay of different financial operations, she is now focused on ways FP&A can add value to the business.
“Whether we call ourselves an FP&A function or a finance business partner varies,” she said. “But to me, we’re there to consult with the business and to have a seat at the table.”
As part of our series profiling AFP Asia-Pacific FP&A Advisory Council members, AFP’s Director of FP&A Practice, Bryan Lapidus, FPAC, recently sat down with Puneeta to talk about her 15-year journey in finance, and how the FPAC certification enhanced her career.
Bryan: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Puneeta: I am a commercial finance manager supporting the global sales and marketing team at Navitas, a diversified global education provider that offers an extensive range of educational services for students and professionals. We have physical offices and people on the ground who help recruit students to pursue higher education overseas. I provide financial planning and analytics function in my current role.
My first professional break was as a Fund Accountant at the National Australia Bank, focused on distributions, financial accounting and regulatory reporting for managed fund clients. I completed my CPA alongside. However, I realized rather than focus on financial accounting, I wanted a role which is more geared to being a ‘value adding’ partner to the business. I wanted to become an influencer, to work with senior executives and provide guidance on the direction the company needs to take.
With my focus on partnering, I found different stints in the bank that would provide me with greater insight and experience. I worked in the institutional bank, digital and direct business units. In my role in digital and direct, the finance partner provided me opportunities to partner and interact with the business, which added value to my work. Pursuit of partnering opportunities led me to my current position.
I am originally from India and came to Australia to pursue higher education. I really loved it here, so I stayed on, and now it's home. I am currently based out of Perth, Australia.
Want to take a more proactive role in adding value to the business? Learn what it takes to make the transition from accounting to FP&A.
Bryan: You have the FPAC certification. What made you decide to pursue the FPAC?
Puneeta: I chose the FPAC because while we are very good at the financial planning side of things, it's the analysis with which we need to be more proactive. I also chose the FPAC because it’s globally recognized, and it has a good developing footprint in the APAC region. Plus, I just really wanted to do this course; it opened me up to different ways of thinking and the different tools that are available in the ever-changing landscape.
The program is well-designed and practical with lots of case studies. The platform is really good, there is great support, and the videos were helpful and complemented the printed material. The talk on variance analysis and price volume matrix was an absolute standout for me. I loved the experience. Absolutely get certified!
Stand out as a strategic business partner with an understanding of the entire business. Become a Certified Corporate FP&A Professional (FPAC).
Bryan: What kind of projects are you working on these days?
Puneeta: Like many companies, we have been on data journey, with the goal to harmonize data, so the information available through the data engine is good quality and can be used as is.
The next step is utilizing Power BI to develop insights from the data. The key for me is to influence the business to make the best decisions possible on capital deployment, thereby generating the greatest ROI.
Bryan: I know that one of your focuses is establishing, maintaining and developing a good corporate culture. If you were a leader trying to define a good FP&A culture for your team, what would you say?
Puneeta: A simple culture of openness is very important. There needs to be a feeling of psychological safety and the ability to have different opinions, but in a respectful manner; boundaries are important too. Technical skills are a given and something you can always learn.
It is also about having the right mindset. It is about having people in the team who take ownership and are willing to sit and work with the business, not just sit in their pigeonhole, but who take the time and interest to understand the key drivers of the business. That's the pulse, right? That's where you get a lot of information.
All of those different elements have to sit together. You must also have buy-in from your executive leadership team and your CFO — that the FP&A team is a really important one to have. And you could either have FP&A embedded in the business or be standalone, but even if it's standalone, it must be recognized for the greater good of the business. In my company, finance is considered part of the team, and it does matter quite a bit.
Bryan: I was surprised when I first heard that you are considered part of the business because certain parts of finance, such as treasury and accounting, are often considered overhead. This shows how much the business values FP&A.
Puneeta: When you're considered part of the team, you're not ‘that finance person’ coming in with a fixed mindset. I am also in a unique position because my role was actually created; it didn’t exist before. It was initially more about reporting, planning and budgeting, which still takes the bulk of my time, but I am also working with the EGM, GMs and Ops teams across our offices. I am bringing them on the journey, building a bit of financial acumen with them. Our team has a dedicated financial controller who acts as a gatekeeper, stepping in to make sure we are doing the right things. It frees me to partner with the business and be a consultant to the leadership team; that's where I see myself as a natural fit. It’s been a gradual journey, but a conscious one. I learned the interplay of all the financial operations, and now it’s more about how we can add value.
Whether we call ourselves an FP&A function or a finance business partner varies. But to me, we’re there to consult with the business and to have a seat at the table. You don't want to be reactionary; you want a bit of skin in the game.