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Alumni of the month – May 2014

Vibha Padalkar
Accountancy (Foundation Degree), 1986

Robert Humphreys

Vibha Padalkar is Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer at HDFC Life, one of India’s leading life insurance providers and currently the only female CFO in the private life insurance industry.

As a young student, Vibha was interested in business and commerce and, with high-ranking bureaucrat parents as her role models, she knew that a successful career within the world of numbers would soon follow. At the tender age of 17, she joined LSBU to pursue a pathway into chartered accountancy: “This was a well-regarded institution offering the course I wanted and was close to where I lived at that time; just a 20 minute bus ride away…route 68 if my memory serves me right!”

Studying at LSBU provided the ambitious Padalkar with the ideal learning situation along with fellow students from diverse backgrounds: “I was like a sponge soaking in a new environment that was inclusive in its outlook. This was perfect given that I was from a very different background and was fortunate to have good professors teach me. This set the foundation for me to become a global citizen and strengthened my decision to course ahead in the field of finance.”

The opportunity to interact with an international set of students and expert tutors, along with a new-found independence as a student in London, were important learning experiences for Vibha: “It opened my eyes to the fact that if I did not do well, I only had myself to hold responsible. There were endless possibilities for me to understand and appreciate cultural diversity.”

After graduating from LSBU, she started work as an apprentice with Cohen Arnold, an Anglo-Jewish audit firm but it was a visit to India in 1993 which led to relocation to the country thanks to its growing economy. Vibha joined HDFC Life in August 2008 following a seven year stint as Executive Vice President-Finance at WNS Global Services; a NYSE listed leading global business process outsourcing company. Vibha's key achievement during her tenure at WNS was to lead a team that successfully completed the Group's IPO on the New York Stock Exchange in a short span of six months.

Apart from the Finance function, she heads HDFC Life’s Legal & Compliance, Risk Management & Internal Audit and Underwriting & Claims functions, as well as being a Board member: “My main challenge is to balance the differing roles that I’m required to play. This could include anything from safeguarding the company's assets to being a business enabler and sounding board to the CEO and other executive committee members.”

She recommends that current LSBU students make the most of their opportunities from both an academic as well as a personal growth point of view: “It’s useful to be focused on what one wants to pursue post LSBU. This means you can anticipate the potential obstacles and be better prepared to work out solutions. Whenever I recruit students, regardless of their backgrounds, I always look out for a spark or keenness to learn and desire to get ahead in life.”