The Finance Futurists are an elite group of leaders who embrace constant evolution as a necessity in the ever-changing world of finance.
More than number-crunchers, these leaders represent a new era for finance—one defined by a shift from pure analytical expertise to emotional intelligence and strong communication skills as well. Here, we spotlight one of this year’s futurists, Hemant Kumar, CFO at SOL-MILLENNIUM Medical Group, and what he believes the future holds for the finance function.
Hemant Kumar has finance in his blood. Being born in a family of finance professionals, Hemant was predestined to become the trailblazing financial leader he is today. This background led him to his current role as CFO and Board Member of SOL-MILLENNIUM Medical Group, a global medical device company.
Hemant has a demonstrated track record in partnering with Board and C-Suite leadership to achieve critical strategic and tactical business objectives. His proven ability to surpass expectations in demanding Fortune 250 corporate environments such as Baxter, American Express, and General Motors, as well as high-growth smaller organizations, exemplifies his breadth of financial and leadership experience.
We recently chatted with Hemant about his storied 25–year career in finance, how the finance function has risen to become a strategic business imperative, and why he’s passionate about giving back and mentoring finance professionals to achieve their best work.
When and how did you start your career in finance? Why did finance appeal to you at the start of your career?
Hemant Kumar: I grew up with finance professionals around me and got exposed to the stock market very early in my life. I also had an interest in understanding the business and am strong in mathematics — all of that combined, led me to pursue finance for education.
When I took my first finance course in commerce and accounting, I was drawn to the business side of it — how one can run a business and how finance can support a business to grow. After graduation, I did my Chartered Accountancy (CPA eq.) and Management Accountancy (CMA eq.) from India. I got a rank in the All India Merit List for CA exams and joined the largest pharmaceutical company there at the time as a management trainee in finance. Early on, I was exposed to various facets of finance, the overview of its function, and its impact on making a business successful – all which made me want to continue with it.
What is the initiative or accomplishment you’re most proud of during your career?
HK: When I joined SOL-MILLENNIUM Medical Group, systems, processes, and finance teams were at an early stage. We were doing everything in Excel – even our presentations! Since then, we’ve moved away from legacy in a big way.
I helped bring this company from an early stage to a state of sophistication in analytics and reporting. Now, we’re creating and accessing information in real-time. This is helping us grow at an unprecedented speed. Last year, we made the decision to become an e–commerce and distribution company, in addition to being an innovative product company. We are able to successfully transition from a systems and processes standpoint, thanks to our agility and preparation. As a CFO, your role is to setup the foundation and mitigate upstream risk to enable high growth.
Much of that growth you mentioned is undoubtedly due to the rise of technology in finance. What do you view as the biggest impact technology is having on finance today?
HK: Whole transactions and processing are now done outside of finance—this has happened because of technology. In my previous roles, most of the reporting and number-crunching was happening in systems, but Excel still played a big role. All of that manual work in Excel sheets is slowly going away. Now, the focus is shifting to real-time, continuous reporting.
In a way, the finance function is losing the historical bread and butter, where you were spending a lot of time in transaction processing, reporting, etc. In my view, because of the tech change, finance has become a bigger strategic partner. The idea is to decipher those numbers to come up with a sound decision that can really drive the business forward.
What skills do you think are paramount for finance professionals today? What about finance professionals of the near future?
HK: Technology has become such an important skill. In addition to technical finance skills, it is of utmost importance for a finance professional to be proficient in financial tech tools. This learning is dynamic and constantly changing with the financial landscape, so it is important for finance professionals to do continuous education in this space.
For upcoming finance professionals, the good news is that the education imparted already covers a lot of tech tools – which was not the case in the past. Another important aspect is how an individual applies that learning when joining an organization.
In my view, when you join a company, try to be broad-based in your early years. Instead of focusing on money or vertical growth, one should focus on as many different areas of finance as possible. Learn about corporate finance, operations finance, accounting etc. Once you have a broad-based set of learnings, you will be able to contribute much more to a business and career vertical growth will come faster.
What professional opportunity in the coming months or years are you most excited about?
HK: Since I joined Sol-Millennium, we have been able to transform it from a small to mid-size company. I see myself continuing to grow the organization and build it into a large company. I really enjoy being a strong partner to the CEO and BOD and helping to drive the profitable growth of the business. I am excited to fast-forward the CFO role as a business partner to a higher level.
Outside of work, I engage with various forums to share my experiences with peers and new finance professionals, which allows me to give back to the community. I have been in three different industries outside of my current position: GM, AMEX, and Baxter. I have worked around the world, and I am fortunate to have those experiences and exposure to different cultures and organizations. I try to use these learnings and share them with people to make the best use of my experiences. I can share the perspective from both large and small size organizations, as well as from a local and global point of view.