We’re Involved In Financial & Tax Reporting Funds Across Globe: CA Shabarish Sesh

In an interview with BW Disrupt, CA Shabarish Sesh discusses his role, business, market and more

From a staff accountant at KPMG India to the Vice President of Operations and Business Development at Basiz Fund Services, what has the journey and the transition into strategic roles been like for you?
In 2014, while studying to be a Chartered Accountant, I worked as an audit staff accountant for KPMG India, with a focus on ITES companies. For the audits of these multinational information technology companies, it was critical that, in addition to being familiar with India's Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), I had to be familiar with globally practised GAAPs such as IFRS and US GAAP. This provided me with a thorough understanding of the business models, which was extremely beneficial when I joined Basiz in 2017 following my chartered accountant qualification. At Basiz, I joined the operating team at the preparer level to learn the nitty gritty of operations right at the start. Then there was a process of job rotation and it has taken five years to reach this level.

I always believe that operational knowledge and strategic execution are inextricably linked.  My new role has taught me that it takes effort to move pace and build a global network, but as long as you start with the end in mind and have a clear agenda, an impact-oriented and problem-solving mindset will come naturally. In addition to broadening my professional horizons at work, I believe in simultaneously expanding my horizon of knowledge which is why I pursued my Certified Public Accountant (CPA) course in the United States. 

Our goal at Basiz has been to be a one-stop service provider for our clientele. With clients in Singapore, the United States, Luxembourg, Ireland, the GCC, the United Kingdom, among other countries, my global domain knowledge comes in handy for developing and implementing strategies. Providing a comprehensive product and more so a comprehensive service solution is always riddled with challenges. With the right combination of People, Processes and Technology, I have managed to increase the value add in our services. We have added more than USD 2 billion under administration including in exotic domiciles such as Latin America and Cyprus. We have also stepped up on the US taxation and financial reporting fronts increasing the Assets under reportage by more than USD 30 billion since mid-2021. We are one of the Largest Third-Party Agencies involved in financial and tax reporting for funds across the Globe.

How has the ever-changing regulatory environment impacted your business, given that you operate in a variety of markets, asset classes, and reporting environments?
Regulation and increasing compliance is here to stay and we have to stay abreast of it. The regulatory environment all over the world is ever-changing and is critical for making businesses actionable and accountable. The approach Basiz adopts is to stay abreast of regulatory changes using a mix of extensive research, regulatory watch and usage of automation tools.

The difference with the approach at Basiz is that we regard the process of handling regulatory changes as a field of specialization rather than just a compliance requirement. For us at Basiz having a full-blown in-house tech team is a boon, as we have integrated several bespoke automation tools seamlessly into our operations, to track the most relevant information among the vast amount of data. A most recent example would be the fine-tuning of our existing in-house software tool that we use to generate quarterly regulatory reports for AIFs in India, to be in line with the amended reporting formats which shall kick in from the quarter ended September 30, 2022. 

Customer retention has always been a challenge in the financial services industry; what gives Basiz an upper hand in client retention and delivering consumer expectations?
The gamut of fund administration, investor services, fund taxation and allied requirements, is far too complex and diverse for an AIF and the fund manager to focus on. Fund administration and its allied activities have Zero ROI for the fund manager, who would rather focus on returning better results for the investors via the investments made while leaving the back room operations to agencies specialised in that field.  Our thorough, specialized processes are supported by rigorous execution, state-of-the-art and in-depth knowledge, that offer high levels of accuracy in deliveries and result in the best possible Return on Investment (RoI) for the Fund Manager. Our latest offering is a classic example of our effort to add value to our Fund Manager clients. Traditionally we were always engaged in onboarding of the investors including the AML/KYC processes. We have now come out with the Basiz Digital Investor Onboarding Platform, which digitalizes and streamlines the entire onboarding process for investors, including digital signature facilities.

Basiz has undertaken remarkable projects thus far—it is the first fund administrator to have a license in GIFT IFSC and commence fund administration operations in Tripura in collaboration with the state government—what projects lie ahead and what are your future plans?
Our Honorable Prime Minister stated that the vision of India's future is linked to the IFSC at GIFT city. We have been supporting and evangelising the Honorable Prime Minister’s vision through various media interactions and our cohesive action on ground zero at GIFT IFSC, for a long time now. We were among the first on the block, and it has been a continuous project for us to generate interest in IFSC at GIFT city among all our current and prospective clients. One of the most significant benefits that GIFT IFSC offers to potential funds and investors is that it is a clean jurisdiction with no FATF baggage and an extremely proactive Regulator.

In relation to the establishment of the first fund administration operations centre in Tripura, we are honoured to have this long-term partnership with the Tripura government. The centre will create numerous job opportunities throughout the State. We've already employed more people than we committed to, and this is just the beginning. Our Agrahi (Aspirational) Tripura team has been training candidates to induct them into their roles and is making excellent progress. We look forward to providing Tripura with even more value in the future. 

As our great nation celebrates its 75th Independence Day, we believe our movement towards the eastern part of our great country is our small contribution to the motherland we call fondly recognize as Bharat, where the generations born in the post 2000 era can find fantastic career options sitting in the comfort of their own hometowns. As we move forward, I believe that the future for us and the industry as a whole is digital. We already have advanced technical capabilities such as the Digital Investor Onboarding Platform,  but we will strive for an even better balance of speed and efficient checks and controls, with blockchain support driving the entire ecosystem. 

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