Transforming treasury and mentoring colleagues through innovation and determination
With her treasury career spanning over 20 years, to say that Deepa Palamuttam has a wealth of experience would be an understatement. Her title of Director Treasury, Cash Operations at Intel only hints at the enormous impact that her innovative and forward-thinking approach has brought to the business and to her colleagues.
Deepa’s entire treasury career has unfolded at Intel, where she started as a Senior Applications Developer, Treasury before climbing the ladder to her current position. Throughout her time at Intel, Deepa has led numerous projects whilst also helping team members and colleagues – both from treasury and other departments – to advance their own careers.
Advocating for technological improvements
Deepa regularly goes above and beyond her role, thinking outside of the box to solve problems for treasury and for the organisation as a whole. With a strong technological background – she has a Bachelor’s of Engineering in Computer Engineering and an MBA in Finance and Innovation in Technology – Deepa brings a unique and valuable perspective to the treasury and finance function and has a natural flair for bridging IT and business. Her approach has been to combine industry knowledge with internal treasury requirements to create a comprehensive systems roadmap that drives treasury, IT and accounting towards simplicity and strong controls.
Deepa has made it her personal goal to find existing tools that can be repurposed to increase automation and approvals across the treasury function, as well as the broader company. She has created a three-year technology transformation roadmap for the treasury organisation, which includes an end-of-life migration for nine custom-built tools – either by migrating those tools to cloud solutions, replacing them with other existing tools or changing processes to eliminate the need for a tool altogether. By the end of 2019, this roadmap was executed as planned and has set the treasury team up to further embrace robotic process automation (RPA) in 2020.
Deepa’s approach to business and technology innovation has been deemed light years ahead of other professionals, due to her desire to learn from peers and benchmark against best in class solutions. She utilises her industry connections to secure introductions to other industry leaders who can provide valuable insights into how they solved similar problems. This has allowed Deepa to tap into the latest thinking around treasury and IT.
One example of this was when Deepa recognised the need to solve a recurring treasury department requirement to fulfil information requests from various departments. She actively sought information from various groups across Intel in order to fully understand existing capabilities that might fit the needs. Consequently, she saw an opportunity to use the company’s Integrated Service Management Platform (ISMP), instead of outsourcing to an external provider. The ISMP is a standard tool used to handle requests and complaints from users, and Deepa opted to tailor it to treasury inquiries that come from any business unit.
The new internal solution provides much-needed data on the kinds of requests coming into the company’s back office and allows treasury to address the root cause of problems, better train users and create ‘how to’ documents within the tool. Deepa’s championing of this solution has eliminated burdensome email requests that could overwhelm back office personnel, and Intel now has a far more efficient process for handling these requests.
On innovation, Candace Wenzel, Director, Global Solution Sales, Treasury and Trade Solutions, Citi, and long-time business partner of Deepa, said: “She has always had the view that the treasury function does not operate in isolation and that its information should be shared amongst practitioners in order that the view of treasury is enhanced within corporates.”
Jumping cultural hurdles
Alongside being a voice for technological change at Intel, Deepa has also long been committed to supporting diversity and inclusion within the company. As a woman, she is keenly aware of the importance of helping to develop female leaders both in treasury and more broadly within finance.
Deepa has had to overcome her own cultural mindset, coming from an Indian culture where hard work is expected but seeking attention or praise is frowned upon. This has meant embracing the importance of speaking up, getting out of her comfort zone and actively competing in order to advance. She has taken these learnings and shares them with female colleagues and subordinates as often as she can, mentoring them on how to become leaders and advance their own careers. She has become adept at explaining the hurdles she has had to overcome, both personally and professionally, which has proven invaluable for allowing women mentees to relate to her experience, and in turn giving them greater confidence.
Sharing the knowledge
Deepa mentors women from within both the treasury and IT departments, with a focus on optimising work/life balance and ensuring that their voices and ideas are heard. A particular achievement came from her relationship with a female project manager that Deepa had recruited. The woman had just returned from maternity leave and was uncertain about her ability to take on the greater responsibility of leading a global treasury management system upgrade. Deepa helped to train and up-level her skills so that she could effectively and confidently manage the project.
Deepa prides herself on mentoring others, encouraging their strengths whilst assisting them in working on any weaknesses. Her goal is to provide each team member a project or task that leaves them more confident than before, while adhering to the company’s culture of learning. Candace notes: “She actively participates in treasury forums and conferences, not only to share her knowledge but to learn from others and share best practices. She is a leader in adopting market innovations and regularly shares her experiences with other corporate practitioners so they can benefit from the lessons learned.”
Indeed, Deepa is passionate about sharing the knowledge she has gained. She has spoken at numerous industry events, promoting the best practices that she has championed at Intel to help other treasury professionals. Rather than being guarded about the innovations she has fostered, she willingly shares them in the hope of helping others avoid pitfalls and make the best choices for their organisations.
Another project of Deepa’s has been the creation of a Controls Champion Team, consisting of five team members from each sub-group of treasury to help the Controls manager handle the various control checks of the organisation. Deepa’s vision was to include team members from all the relevant geographies, and to educate them on global rather than just regional requirements. This initiative is part of her inclusion strategy, which is designed to engage and grow employees from various functions of the organisation located in India, Amsterdam, PRC, Costa Rica and the US. Working across time zones, team members are able to grow in their roles, gain confidence to present to senior employees and look forward to the annual controls training session held at various sites.
Helping on home turf
On a personal level, Deepa has also played an instrumental role within the homeless ministry at her local church. She helps to host up to 15 guests in the parish during the winter months, where she provides home-cooked meals and spends time with each attendee, joining them for dinner and endeavouring to make them feel comfortable and welcome.
Candace concludes: “In all my interactions with Deepa, I have seen her passion to enable others around her to be the best that they can be, and to make meaningful contributions to the firm.”
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