Q+A: Meet Shobhan Agarwal, Routable's new VP of Finance

As we continue to experience rapid growth at Routable, we’re thankful to have Shobhan Agarwal as our new VP of Finance. He recently shared why he chose to come to Routable, his plans for the finance team and how he developed his leadership style.

Q: Can you share more about your background and what you were doing before coming to Routable?

A: I have spent nearly a decade in high-growth, product-focused organizations in fintech and SaaS companies. I have been part of or led finance teams in Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A), Strategic Finance, Treasury, Product Finance and Corporate Finance at PayPal. Immediately before coming to Routable, I led Revenue FP&A and Strategic Finance at Dropbox.

Prior to moving to the tech sector, I spent over a decade between investment banking at Citibank in New York and consumer banking in Asia, Europe and Middle East, working in finance, analytics and product management.

I am educated as an engineer and product manager. I have a bachelor in technology from IIT (India), a post graduate from IIM (India) and an MBA from Yale School of Management.

Q: Why did you decide to come to Routable?

A: I am excited about the intersection of finance and technology (aptly, named fintech), and I strongly believe finance can help accelerate and enhance product development for truly remarkable change and impact lives beyond the scope of the product.

I have seen firsthand how fintech can help increase financial flexibility for millions of people around the world and how innovation can help small and medium-sized businesses grow, thrive and react to a rapidly changing business environment. B2B currently is at the same early stage of innovation that B2C was in 2014 and 2015 (B2B innovation typically lags behind B2C by six to eight years).

When I met Omri and the exec team, I was not actively looking for a change. But after talking to him, getting a demo of the product and understanding their view and focus on product and customer needs, I knew this organization would build a truly innovative product that can impact small and large businesses by making their financial processes more efficient and flexible. I wanted to be part of this journey. It’s been four months since I joined, and I am more excited about our future than I ever was.

Q: Routable is making strides in the fintech space. What does it mean to be a part of this team?

A: Finance is an inherent part of any business. And a critical (and often most inefficient) part of the finance process is paying vendors and partners and reconciling that payment with accounting systems.

I like to give an example of where the need for Routable arises. Imagine you are training for a marathon. You start working out, running, hitting your stride and start clocking one to two miles. But at a certain level you plateau. No matter how much you try, you are not able to break through. It’s only when you realize that you are wearing the wrong shoes and switch to the right ones that you’re able to reach your next milestone. Automating account payables is akin to getting the right financial processes, the right foundation to support your growth. Most businesses ignore this aspect of the foundation and then try to solve it by increasing their manual processes, thereby making their financial foundation even more cumbersome and complex.

Routable is uniquely positioned for that need. I love client calls, and it makes my day when a client appreciates the product and our team. I feel we are truly making a difference, and I am honored to be part of the team doing that.

Q: What are a few goals you’re prioritizing for the Finance department this year?

A: Our first goal is investing in product without compromising our focus on execution. A great product is the foundation of a great business. As Finance, we engage regularly with our department heads to ensure we are investing according to the changing needs of our business and the overall economic environment.

Next, data is the core of our business. We are in the process of building an analytics team that is structured and equipped for the next 10X growth in our customer base.

We also plan to focus on a consistent analysis of risk. We continue to enhance our risk controls as we scale monthly.

Last but not the least, you really can’t do all the above without a robust finance team!

Q: How do you plan to support Routable’s rapid growth?

A: Growing at the speed that we are now and that we hope to in the future has its own challenges. Being a fintech product-focused company, Finance supports not only the organization but also engages in product discussions and other facets of the business. I love the fact that we are investing our resources in creating great products, and I enjoy the decisions we need to make to optimize our spend and growth. There is no dearth of opportunities, and we need to continue to focus and execute on our priorities and multi-year plans.

Q: The VP of Finance has to collaborate across the organization. How do you like to collaborate with different departments?

A: It is quite interesting how Routable’s departments are so engaged with each other. The exec team has a smooth flow of information and an appreciation of the common mission that we are all striving to achieve. We are a remote company so we have executive and departmental check-in meetings and a healthy dose of Zoom calls and asynchronous collaboration. And talking to people to understand their needs is the best way to understand the pulse of the business.

Candidly, based on my last two decades of work, this is the most engaged, collaborative and supportive culture I have seen. That is the secret sauce that I feel will make us successful. (I guess, it’s not a secret any more!)

Q: What are some leadership lessons you’ve learned in your career?

A: Intellectual Curiosity: I have come to appreciate the importance of intellectual curiosity in business (and generally in life!). I spend dedicated time every week just going through business metrics and data on our customers, trends and analytics, or going beyond the financial impact of a product or feature (e.g., fund flow, UX, design—things not related to finance). Getting to understand the “pulse” of the business is important for any finance professional.

The Power of Listening is critical for any professional. In face-to-face meetings, I usually switch off my phone or keep it upside down. It gives an indication to the meeting participants that I am dedicated and focused on the task at hand.

But now we are remote. With Zoom calls, Slack messages and a consistent barrage of emails, I found I was getting distracted. So I now block my notifications in every call, and I leave 10 min between meetings to check all messages or send emails. I also have dedicated “no meeting times” every day.

It is not only important to listen to others, but also to yourself. Developing that intuitive sense of a business will help avoid pitfalls and open new opportunities. But that happens when you remove distractions, which comes to my next principle.

Focus: I love this quote: “It is not daily increase but daily decrease, hack away the unessential. The closer to the source, the less wastage there is.”

In business, as in life, a focus on key variables or drivers will bring you far ahead than a mix of busy, probably unnecessary “work.” I remember a very short story that brings forth this point:

Imagine you want to fill a glass with a mix of sand and rocks. If you fill a glass with sand, you won’t have space to fit in the rocks. If you fill in the rocks, the sand will find its way in. The rocks are those critical variables that drive the business. (Separate point: In life, the rocks can be key drivers of happiness, personal development or growth. If you focus on those rocks, you will always find the time, sooner or later, to catch up on the next episode of Squid Game!).

Q: What do you like to do for fun outside of work?

A: Apart from reading (I read a lot!), I love nature and I love to hike. I am blessed to be in the Bay Area where there are numerous trails and hikes. I am also an amateur writer and just started taking courses to improve my creative writing. Trying to check an item off the bucket list!

Being an ex-banker, I am definitely obsessed with Wall Street and the overall economic environment. The current dynamic geo-political and economic environment presents new opportunities to entertain. Who needs the story twists of Game of Thrones when there are such wild swings in real life economic markets!

Q: What three adjectives would you use to describe yourself?

A: Persistent, open-minded, versatile

Come join the Routable team! Take a peek at our Careers page for current openings.

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