As CFO and general manager corporate services at Bank of South Pacific (BSP) in Fiji, Rajeshwar Singh CPA has to multitask, while overseeing the finance and human resources functions of the bank.
At a glance
- Joined Bank of South Pacific in 2014 as CFO and, in 2019, also took on the role of general manager corporate services, overseeing the bank’s HR functions.
- Head of corporate and regulatory affairs at British American Tobacco (Fiji) from 2007-2014.
- Prior to that, he worked in top finance and management roles at The University of the South Pacific, Carpenters Fiji, Warwick Fiji, Best Western Berjaya Hotel and Colonial Mutual Life Insurance.
- CFO’s team: 27 in total, including the finance and corporate services divisions.
My role: a juggling act
My day starts at 4am when I get up, prepare for work and drive to the office, getting there at about 6.30am to beat the notorious Suva traffic. Once in the office, I usually organise my diary and address all the important emails and other pressing issues until 8.30am, before preparing for planned meetings that stretch until I finish for the day after sunset.
I like such routine and structure, and it helps me balance multiple roles at BSP, spanning the management of financial operations, strategy and planning and the additional human resources function I have recently taken on. It’s an interesting combination of roles – we usually think of a CFO as being black and white and a straight shooter, but now I have to be a people person, too. Although I studied HR as part of my earlier business management education at Melbourne Business School, I never imagined I’d later be engaged in an HR role.
Nevertheless, I enjoy multitasking and interacting with staff.
With six banks in Fiji, including BSP, the banking sector is very competitive, and there’s never a dull day. My work day typically lasts for 10 to 12 hours, so by the time I get home I’m exhausted, but ready to do it all again the next day.
Game changers: hunger for knowledge
During my senior school days, I was a pure science student, and had a keen interest in subjects such as physics, chemistry and biology. I particularly found the concept of photosynthesis fascinating. However, at tertiary level, I switched to business and economics, and I have no regrets.
Throughout my career, I have embraced education at every chance. In addition to finance and HR, I’ve also studied international trade affairs, diplomacy, forensic accounting and fraud investigation, as well as attending training courses in areas such as quality management, process re-engineering, industrial relations and leadership.
The tendency is to say that a CFO should focus on being a finance subject matter expert, but I’ve always felt that I shouldn’t restrict myself from a personal growth viewpoint. Ongoing studies have enabled me to develop a broad range of skills and knowledge, while fostering a strong social network and honing my engagement skills. This has given me a real edge. Where possible, as leaders, we should try to become a legend and leave behind a legacy.
Before joining my current employer, I worked for British American Tobacco (BAT) (Fiji), and this proved to be a great learning experience for me. Although the marketing of tobacco products is restricted, BAT had extensive training programs around mass media, communication, CSR, project and crisis management, and the regulatory and legal environment. I enjoyed my time with the company, but finance is in my DNA, so I have relished working for BSP for the past five years. BSP is a dynamic employer that presents lots of opportunities.
My challenges: keep learning and evolving
During the course of the past 30 years, I’ve worked in insurance, hotels, retail, education, manufacturing and banking, while also taking on various business council leadership positions and community roles in business, sport, non-profit organisations and more. Such diversity has enhanced my business and leadership skills. Indeed, colleagues used to call me “the vacuum cleaner” because I’ve gone into a lot of places to clean up some serious management issues.
While the management structure and experience at BSP is strong, there are always challenges in the banking business.
There’s also a lot of work required behind the scenes to support the management team and ensure we deliver on our strategy and financial numbers. We believe in responsible banking, so a customer-first mindset cannot be compromised.
On a personal and professional level, I keep upgrading my technological skills so I can continue to communicate with millennials – and my two children! Living with an aspiring medical doctor and an engineer can be very interesting for an accountant. My wife takes the credit for dealing with the three professions under one roof. We live in a digital world, so it’s important to embrace and embed changes, as this is the only constant that will happen.
I face challenges every day, but I see challenges as opportunities. I’m 49 years old, and I am determined to keep making a difference at work and helping and inspiring my team. After all, the success we have on the balance sheet at BSP ultimately comes from our people.
Lessons learned and best advice
1. Work smart
I’ve always advocated that people should work hard, and they will be rewarded accordingly. Now, in a digital world, I’d refine that to say people should work smarter and they’ll definitely be rewarded.
2. Value interpretative skills
Always identify clear relevance when doing a task. Financial numbers lose their significance unless you can commercially interpret them and communicate their meaning to others.
3. Embrace mentors
The business world can be a brutal place and, at every opportunity, we should listen to and learn from mentors. Now that I am in a senior executive role, I’d add that I act as a mentor for others, so I can share my professional knowledge and experience.
4. Help others
Always ask what you can do for the next person and the community, and live up to your values, thoughts and beliefs. I was fortunate to be named Chartered Accountant of the Year in 2015 by the Fiji Institute of Accountants on the back of my professional contribution to the local economy and community work for various organisations, including the Frank Hilton Organisation, which assists children with special needs. I want to keep giving back to the community.