Many countries, many duties: inside the role of ANZ Pacific financial controller

In 2013 Swastika Devi joined ANZ Pacific, where her challenge has been the enormity of the role.

The role Swastika Devi CPA holds with ANZ Pacific encompasses 11 countries, but she still finds time to give back to the accounting profession and her children's school.

There are no accountants in Swastika Devi CPA’s family, only teachers, doctors and engineers.

“However, I had a strong ability in maths and economics at school, and both of those teachers were my mentors,” says the financial controller, ANZ Pacific, based in Fiji.

With the highest scores in both subjects, Devi won a scholarship to attend the University of the South Pacific, where she completed a bachelor of arts, with double majors in accounting and economics in 2004.

She was hired straight out of university, as a graduate accountant, by global firm Ernst & Young (EY), rising to the rank of senior manager in the course of eight years.

“I was never bored, I learned all the practicalities of technical accounting and we worked with clients in manufacturing, banking, government, retail and wholesale, so I learned about many different businesses.

“I also had the chance to develop softer skills such as teamwork, people management, building relationships and networking.”

In 2013, Devi left EY and joined ANZ Pacific, where her challenge has been the enormity of the role. Her work includes, but is in no way limited to, assessing provisions and discretionary expenses, providing information to business partners in forecasting and budgeting, fostering strong relationships with every department, identifying compliance risks and issues within the banking hub, and assisting in proposing and implementing remediation plans.

“I look after 11 countries, monitored by 11 different regulators, and thousands of subledgers,” she says. “Even at ANZ, no one would have an end-to-end view.”

With two reporting lines and 25 people reporting directly and indirectly to her, Devi believes strong values are the foundation of her career, and help her deliver on strategy and purpose.

“These allow me to take ownership and accountability, to speak honestly, and to always challenge myself to do better with improved processes,” she says.

In only 14 years in the finance industry, Devi says she has built a formidable blend of hands-on experience in commercial operations, financial and management accounting, statutory reporting, staff management, planning and analysis, assurance and liaison with regulators and tax offices.

“I am yet to get out of my comfort zone because I am continually dealing with new challenges,” she says.

“One of those is definitely changing technology. We now look at robotics, artificial intelligence and a move towards greater automation to keep pace with change.

“With technological improvement also comes the benefit of having access to real-time data.”

Devi became a CPA Australia member in 2008. “It has helped me polish my professional skills around communication, understanding businesses and code of conduct. As a recognised brand, it also assists me to make contacts wherever I go.”

She is also a committee member of the Fiji Institute of Accountants, chair of the Fiji Institute of Bankers and a council member of the Fiji branch of CPA Australia. In 2017, she completed the Asian Development Bank Women Leaders Program, which encourages senior female executives to develop leadership skills, and says she would like to see more women on company boards.

Devi married fellow accountant Nitesh Lal, CEO of Dominion Finance Fiji, and has two children: a daughter, Nishtha (10), and a son, Nidhish (8), who attend The Learning Centre, a private school in Suva, Fiji.

“I’m the treasurer; I oversee the school’s finances and prepare budgets,” she says. “I believe in giving back to your community.

“My parents also told me to always be passionate about what I do. I am fortunate that I listened to my heart.

“To be successful, you need to lead by example, be authentic, be trustworthy and stay motivated.”

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