Success in the business world is not just about profitability but also about adherence to laws, policies and other regulations to ensure an equitable and sustainable society !
Anurag Iyer, our next pathbreaker, Associate Consultant at KPMG, advises clients who work in the financial services space on matters related to governance, compliance and operational risks.
Anurag talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about taking up a career in consulting in order to work on a diverse range of business and market challenges.
For students, have the curiosity and the motivation to find answers to everything that makes you curious, and that includes your career !
Anurag, what were your initial years like?
I was born in Gujarat and lived there in my early childhood. My Father was a Cost Accountant and worked as a banker in a PSU Bank. My mother is a teacher who previously taught English in schools/ colleges. We moved to Chennai in 2008 and I have been living here since then. I was always interested in finance, commerce and business. Hence, choosing commerce group during my school days was a no-brainer. I also used to actively play sports back in school/college days – Tennis and Cricket, as physical fitness is an important aspect in life.
What did you do for graduation/post graduation?
I was always excited and drawn to stock markets from a very young age and pursued Economics for graduation and post-graduation with the objective of decoding human behaviour and understanding market structures.
I did my B.A in Economics from University of Madras (2019) and my MSc in Economics, Banking and Finance from the University of Glasgow (2020)
What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?
No key drivers as such, just followed my interests in human behavior, psychology and finance.
How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Tell us about your career path
I graduated in 2020 when the job market did not look very promising. Also, as my MSc degree was nearing completion, I did not visualize myself pursuing a career in economic policymaking. I learnt that Economics as a subject is more theoretical in nature and I was also not interested in academia. As a result, I wanted to get a job in Financial Services based on my current qualifications. As the job market was not great when I was graduating (both in the UK and India), I had to rely on my contacts. Based on an employee referral, I secured a job at KPMG India. I currently work in KPMG as an Associate Consultant in the Risk Consulting division of the firm.
How did you get your first break?
It was through an employee referral – College Friend
What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
Challenge 1: Lack of Job Opportunities during graduation – I used my personal contacts to get job referrals. I constantly followed up with my contacts once my CV had been shared, to get realistic feedback.
Challenge 2: Lack of job application responses as a fresher – I kept trying. I contacted the HRs on LinkedIn, whenever possible. I drafted personalized mails to companies to check if there was a vacancy. I also built a solid network to ease the process.
Challenge 3: Unsatisfactory compensation – Once I understood what the team expected out of me, I decided to put in my best at work. On an ongoing basis, I took initiatives to obtain feedback after every assignment and highlight the issues I faced, which sometimes involved having tough conversations with my manager. Also, I dedicated some time to host / organize social events at work. Afterall, being social helps! Fast forward to a year later, I got promoted solely based on performance (and existing qualifications) as all my efforts got recognised.
Where do you work now? What problems do you solve?
I work for KPMG India in Risk Consulting. The team advises clients who work in the financial services space on matters such as governance, compliance and operational risks. We assess the various processes/systems that our clients have in place and issue recommendations to make their businesses more effective and efficient. We also highlight any compliance and governance related issues that our clients face/could face in an industry that is highly regulated.
What’s a typical day like?
On a typical day, we are in contact with our clients (either by traveling to their offices or through meetings/phone calls) in an effort to understand their businesses, following which we analyze the information shared by the clients in order to form an independent opinion of their internal processes/controls.
What are the skills needed for your role?
Having competent MS Office (Word, Excel, PPT) skills are necessary for the job. Along with these technical skills, one must develop interpersonal skills. Proper body language, fluency in speaking/writing, negotiation skills, are just some of the qualities one must possess. To excel in consulting, one must be good at both technical and social skills. The best part of this job, or any job in consulting is the exposure you get by being a part of the growth journey of many many firms across (and not limited to) the financial services space – Commercial Banks, Investment Banks, NBFCs, NeoBanks, SEBI Registered Investment Advisors, Mutual Fund Distributors, Stock Brokers..the list goes on!
How does your work benefit society?
Though the services that we provide are focused on the financial services space, there are many other teams (within and outside the organization) that specialize in advising clients based in manufacturing, FMCG, ESG industries. Though these industries have a greater measurable impact on society, the skills learnt from my job are largely transferable.
The work I do benefits the society in many ways – We ensure clients are compliant with the existing laws and regulations. These areas are always of high risk since we assess companies that provide services to customers ranging from rural areas to retail/institutional investors.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
I have worked exclusively with an upcoming stockbroker in India and evaluated their end-to-end processes in a span of 1.5-2 months. During this time, I had undertaken an industry benchmarking exercise to assess all the stockbrokers in the country based on some specific parameters and reported my findings directly to the top/middle management.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
Have the curiosity and the motivation to find answers to everything that makes you curious. Balance is the key to everything – It is difficult to find balance when you are trying to study (college/professional certifications) especially while working full-time. Make sure you know your priorities. Hustling is important, but so is rest. Do always find time to network, your network after all is your net worth.
I am currently trying to find my calling. I have always been interested in careers in portfolio planning and wealth management as I was drawn to financial markets since a very young age. Though I have worked for many clients in this space, I feel I could do much more diverse work going forward in my professional journey. Having said that, I have enrolled for the CFA Level 1 examination this year in an effort to expand my domain knowledge.