In this feature on #WinWithWomen, we speak to Avani Ajmera who is the Finance Director at Brankas. Avani has over 15 years of experience in finance and started her career in KPMG before finding her way into the FinTech world. She shares about how conversations with her family over breakfast sparked her love for finance and business, and her career journey from KPMG to Brankas, a FinTech company delivering open banking solutions in Southeast Asia.
Hi Avani, you have an impressive 15-16 years of experience in finance. Could you share your career journey with us?
I started my career with KPMG as an Audit Executive. I expanded my horizon by taking roles in M&A (Financial Due Diligence at KPMG and PwC), Financial Accounting & Tax, Business Partnering, FP&A and finally becoming a finance head.
I am currently the Finance Director at Brankas which is a payment infrastructure company motivated to improve financial access amongst the underserved population in the Southeast Asian (SEA) region.
When I was recommended for the role at Brankas, I was very excited. The role at Brankas offered me the opportunity to work in a sunrise industry, a startup where I could leverage on my experience and establish the finance framework and exposure to the SEA markets. What further excited me about Brankas was the fact that India was already experiencing the benefits from Unified Payments Interface (UPI) India payment stack and that I could already see the potential in the SEA market.
After building a career at KPMG, a leading professional services firm, what led you to pursue a career in FinTech and how did you kickstart that journey?
Born in a traditional Gujarati business family, I grew up discussing business over the breakfast table. The concepts of finance, strategy, competition, even customer service were embedded early on, at home and in school. In my pre-teens, I was interested in architecture and dreamt of building my own animation studio. But my first love has always been business finance, and that ultimately led me to become a Chartered Accountant. For me, business is the centre of any vocation, and if I ever landed on a different path, business and finance would still be my stronghold.
I was fortunate to land at a FinTech company, a credit reporting agency (TransUnion), post my consulting days. It exposed me to how technology was changing the lives of millions across geographies. At the same time there were businesses evolving at a rapid pace in comparison to the traditional brick and mortar businesses. I could already envision the role that FinTech would play and how every organisation was thinking about its role in the whole value chain.
It sounds like you knew what you wanted to do at a very early age and your entry into FinTech was an unexpected albeit welcomed transition. Do you have any advice for young women who are trying to enter the FinTech or finance industry?
I think both men and women need to be agile and an enabler of businesses as industries and finance roles are changing at a rapid pace.
I believe that there are 3 key virtues that should be adopted by both genders to build a successful career. Firstly, increase their risk-taking ability over a period or alternatively, develop a peer group who would enable them to build that capability. Secondly, deepen their network in areas outside their functional role. Thirdly, develop sound financial knowledge as it impacts the decision-making process.
What do you think can be done to encourage greater gender balance in technology companies?
To encourage women employees in the tech industry, especially in tech roles, companies could do the following – in addition to providing opportunities, provide an ecosystem for women to experiment and expand their horizons. Also, to encourage work shadowing.
Lastly, before we end this interview, I think our readers would love to know what has made you successful in your 16-year career? Has there been a lesson you’ve learnt in your career that has resonated with you?
Each one of us has the same 24 hours. You can either spend it protecting your existing position or spend it exploring and expanding your horizons. This choice will shape your life.