10 Questions for HCL Technologies CFO Anil Chanana
Name: Anil Chanana
Time with company: 27 years
Education: Bachelor of Commerce with honors, Chartered Accountant, Institute of Chartered Accountants of India Hans Raj College
Company headquarters: Sunnyvale, California, (U.S. headquarters) and Noida, India, (global headquarters)
Revenue: $3.9 billion
Number of countries: 26
Number of employees total: More than 80,000
Number of employees the CFO oversees: 11 direct reports, with 1,000 total in finance
About the company: HCL Technologies is the information technology and services arm of HCL and provides enterprise and custom applications, infrastructure management, business process outsourcing and engineering services across a range of verticals such as financial services, manufacturing, consumer services, public services and health care.
1. Where did you start in finance and what experiences led you to the job you have today?
I started my career in finance 30 years ago as an accounts officer in Ansaldo Impianti SPA, an Italian company with offices in India. My first stint with HCL was way back in 1985. During my tenure with HCL I held a variety of positions and was involved in almost every aspect of finance function ranging from financial planning, business finance, and fund raising, to secretarial and treasury, investor relations, global taxation, corporate restructuring, legal and negotiations of several multimillion dollar contracts with both customers and partners.
I have either been part of the team or have personally led the negotiations for joint venture with various partners including Hewlett-Packard, Deluxe Corporation, Perot Systems Corporation, Deutsche Bank, and British Telecom.
After spending four years with HCL-America as the head of the Strategic Initiatives Group based out of California, I became an executive vice president of finance for HCL Technologies Ltd. and for the last four years, I have been holding the position of the chief financial officer for the organization.
2. Who was an influential boss for you and what lessons did they teach you about management and leadership?
I was lucky to work under three great individuals who influenced me during the different stages of my career. My first boss was from Italy and he had a terrific philosophy that one should stand firm when they believe that they are right and not be afraid of facing any adversity. I was fortunate enough to learn this early in my professional career and still adhere to it today.
My second boss was Mr. KPG Nair, who was the head of finance in Hindustan Computers Ltd. He provided me the opportunity to work across different areas in finance and taught me to be up-front and firm in my behavior.
The third individual was Mr. Subroto Bhattacharya, who also worked for HCL Technologies and I can still look to him for advice. I admire his knack of looking at finer details and reading between the lines.
3. What are the biggest challenges facing CFOs today?
The hardest part of operating under today's environment of uncertainty and volatility is the decision-making process. Right decisions at the right time and speed are critical in such a dynamic environment. Therefore, the CFO's role is as much a business strategist as a financial expert.
4. What is a good day at work like for you?
This is a very interesting question. For me a good day at work would be viewing my team passionately, motivating them to achieve their goals while at the same time looking for value inputs. Also, it is such a satisfying feeling to see business growing at a healthy pace.
5. How would you characterize your management style?
My management style is flexible and participative. I don't like to control or micromanage people. I hire good people and then let them take control of things. I like to see my team taking up initiatives and I support them wherever required while keeping a close eye on the results. I am proud that my company, HCL Technologies, has a culture that supports and encourages my style and practices. We call it the "Employees First" management style.
6. What strengths and qualities do you look for in job candidates?
When I interview a candidate, first and foremost, I like to understand how much a team player the prospective candidate is because at HCL we have worked very hard to create an environment that is very much collaborative and transparent. Here everybody is an employee -- the CXOs included -- and we want every employee to lead. When we identify a problem, we try to think of it as an opportunity. So when interviewing, it is very important for me to understand how open the candidate is to working in a close environment, as well as how he or she might react in certain situations that involve problem solving. The positive outlook and openness to working with people is definitely a draw for me.
7. What are some of your favorite interview questions or techniques to elicit information to determine whether a candidate will be successful at your company? What sort of answers send up red flags for you and make you think a job candidate wouldn't be a good fit?
The first important thing to know is whether the candidate knows what he claims to know. If the candidate can't explain what he or she is doing, the interview is over. Also, I like a candidate that communicates his or her determination to learn and that clearly has a hunger to excel. After all, passion is what defines a person. If you are not passionate about your job, you won't fit the bill.
8. What is it about your current job, at this particular company, that sets it apart from other chief finance positions?
What sets it apart is the business and environment challenges arising from the fast-pace innovation in this sector. If I may paraphrase the famous tagline of Citibank in a technology context then it will go like "we never stop to innovate."
9. What do you do to unwind from a hectic day?
My family and books help me unwind from a hectic day. I cherish every moment that I can spend with my family. Reading also helps me de-stress. I have just finished reading Steve Jobs biography. I like reading biography/autobiography, world history and so on.
10. If you weren't doing this job, what would you be doing?
Since I love cooking a lot, I would have opened up a restaurant.