CFO roles change rapidly so learn something new every day

Ronesh Dayal CPA, CFO Bank South Pacific. Photo: Rocky Roe.

As CFO of Bank South Pacific, which has the largest branch network in Papua New Guinea and South Pacific markets, Ronesh Dayal CPA is constantly seeking to fine-tune the bank’s operations.

Fact file

Promoted to CFO at Bank Pacifc Pacific in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, in January 2017 PNG; CFO
Qualifications: Accounting & Information Systems, University of the South Pacific
Formerly: Deputy CFO at BSP's Fiji branch; financial controller at BSP’s Fiji branch; and finance manager at Colonial Fiji Life Limited
Finance team: 67
Annual revenue: A$750 million, with group net profit after tax of A$300 million.

1. The role: “great job”

I oversee the finance team of Bank South Pacific (BSP) Papua New Guinea (PNG) and my responsibilities include financial accounting, regulatory reporting, management reporting, procurement, payroll, treasury middle office, and group insurance functions. 

In addition to my team in PNG, we have local finance divisions that have a functional reporting line to me from our operations in Fiji,Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and our recently introduced asset finance business in Cambodia.

It is a great job and the scope of the work – and support of our board – shows how CFOs are very much part of the C-suite these days. A large part of my role includes helping advance the strategic imperatives of the bank. 

We are rolling out a new core banking system for all BSP banking operations. I have to ensure that all finance-specific requirements are covered, including chart of accounts, data migration and reconciliation, and various reporting enhancements which are expected out of the new system. 

The upgrade is a significant step and involves a large expenditure for the bank, so it is important to get it right.

Process improvements have been my key focus during the past three years and, combined with better systems such as a new general ledger system, we have made some good inroads in terms of service delivery to our internal and external stakeholders. Suffice to say that there has never been a dull moment in PNG!

2. Game changers: "amazing experience"

I started my career in the insurance business working for Colonial Group, a subsidiary of the Commonwealth Bank, which was later acquired by BSP in 2009. After spending six years in insurance, I was very comfortable in my role as finance manager.

Following the acquisition of Colonial Group, I was given the opportunity to join BSP’s banking business as a financial controller, reporting to the CFO. I was very nervous about taking on a senior role in the bank without any banking experience, but I accepted the challenge and found the banking business to be equally exciting.

After a year in the role, I was promoted to CFO for the BSP Fiji branch. It was a very proud moment as I was the business’s first local CFO, reflecting BSP’s intention to hire and promote local staff. The opportunity to be part of the executive team was a game changer for me. My fellow executives were highly experienced bankers and working with them was an amazing experience.

3. Challenge: "tough decision"

In 2014, I was offered the role of deputy CFO at our head office in PNG. This was a career opportunity not to be missed, but moving to a new country with a young family and leaving behind the broader family support system at home was not an easy decision. Having an understanding and supportive family, however, has made it possible. 

My older son, Rishav, was aged two and my younger son, Kayrav, was only three months old when we moved to PNG. Rishav did miss his grandparents a lot at first, but acclimatised to PNG when he started going to school. PNG is home for Kayrav, who loves to be with his bubu (grandma), our local housemaid.

The reality is that my CFO role is not an eight-to-five job, but I make sure when I am with my family that we enjoy quality time – we don’t just sit around watching TV.

Now as CFO, I lead a team of almost 70 and the “group” role entails a broad scope, including consolidation and policy formulation at a group level. Changes to accounting standards – such as the introduction of IFRS 9 effective 1 January 2018, which resulted in significant changes to the bank’s calculation methodology of expected credit losses – had to be implemented at head office and cascaded down to our subsidiary operations. Such tasks make the job challenging and exciting.

Professionally, the role has been challenging, but very rewarding. I have a great team to work with, led by very experienced and hardworking senior members of the executive team. Moving to PNG was a tough decision, but it has been a challenge worth taking.

Lessons learned and best advice

Take advantage of the digital age

With the internet, everyone has access to the same information, so it is up to us as to how we utilise it. Spend time each day learning something new because CFO roles and the expectations of our roles are rapidly changing.

Do the basics right

Wake up early, work hard, spend quality time with family, exercise regularly and be disciplined. This will help avoid bigger problems in the future.

Live by your core value

Identify what matters to you and stay true to your values. This makes day-to-day decision-making in life much easier.

Protect the environment

Climate change is real and smaller islands such as my home country of Fiji are already feeling the environmental and financial impact. Do what you can in your own small way to make a difference.

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August 2018
August 2018

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