Article: Nilam Patel on nurturing a people-first culture at S&P Global


Nilam Patel on nurturing a people-first culture at S&P Global

Nilam Patel champions employee well-being as the cornerstone of his leadership. In an exclusive interview, the chief of India operations at S&P Global imparts captivating insights into driving growth and transforming the financial information and analytics powerhouse.
Nilam Patel on nurturing a people-first culture at S&P Global

At the heart of S&P Global's ethos lies a deep belief in a people-first culture. The information services company that specialises in data, analytics, and ratings, places a profound emphasis on nurturing a diverse and inclusive work environment which has recently earned them a spot among the top 10 best workplaces for women.

Overseeing a team of 12,500 employees, the MD of India operations, Nilam Patel, says employee wellness is one of his key priorities and that he passionately advocates for diversity.  

In an exclusive interview with us, Nilam divulges profound insights on steering a world-leading provider of financial information services, how next-gen tech can transform the space, and his vision to drive growth while nurturing a thriving work environment.

Nilam also gives us a sneak peek into his ambitious plan to integrate Gen AI into their product platforms within the next 18 months.

Here are the edited excerpts from the exclusive interview.

What brings the most excitement to your role leading a team of 12,500 employees in India?

It's our vibrant company culture. A customer-centric approach underpins our culture, which defines conventional hierarchies. This instills a profound sense of pride in employees with empathy and mentorship at its core. They're not just employees; they're integral to our mission.

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We highly value diverse perspectives as part of our culture. Many believe that 80% of an organisation's success hinges on a conducive work environment.

With over twenty years in the financial sector, how have you seen the financial services and data analytics landscape change, and what's your perspective on the current scenario?

The service sector has seen substantial growth, leading to a surge in job opportunities  and a more competitive landscape that demands proactive recruitment strategies. Yet, it's a positive sign for individuals seeking employment. Technology has been a cornerstone in this transformation, transforming how we collaborate in real-time . 

The rise in tech also emphasised the need for a commitment to continuous learning and adaptation to remain competitive. It’s akin to the shift from a bullock cart to a high-speed car — working smarter, not just harder. Therefore, when discussions arise about technology 'displacing jobs,' it's not about loss, but rather the evolution of roles, urging us all to grow and thrive.

A prime example is the peak of COVID-19, which compelled us to adapt swiftly. We upgraded all systems with top-of-the-line laptops for every team member, including executives.

How is technology, especially AI and machine learning, integrated into S&P Global's operations today?

In the financial services industry, our focus centers on various areas, including data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and an array of robotics process automation (RPA) tools. 

Machine learning serves as a powerful tool for automation, particularly in tasks that involve repetitive processes. To handle the vast amount of data, we leverage thousands of public data sources. Web crawlers diligently monitor company websites, promptly notifying us of any changes. Achieving this level of efficiency and accuracy manually would be a herculean task given the sheer volume of companies we cover.

Data science is equally key. We offer consulting and intelligence services, empowering clients to assess potential risks and make well-informed investment decisions. For example, if a client is considering establishing a plant in Mumbai, our data-driven intelligence can uncover potential risks, such as the likelihood of a disruptive event like a hurricane. With this information, clients can better evaluate their risk tolerance and make investment choices based on robust data.

Python, alongside various machine learning tools, has become integral to our operations. Its application extends across all functions, including the vital role of data stewardship. 

Are you undergoing a reevaluation of job roles in light of the rapid advancement of technologies like Gen AI? 

Advances in technology, such as gen AI are reshaping job roles, sometimes rendering tasks free from human intervention. Interestingly, our team members lead these shifts, embracing a move from monolithic work processes to skill-intensive workflows.

We've fine-tuned our staffing efficiency, ensuring internal management of any expansion and aligning our workforce with technological leaps. We act as a learning hub, actively encouraging employees to dive into training. This not only enriches their skill sets but also positions them for fresh assignments and team movements, often resulting in promotions and compensation hikes.

We're on a mission to ensure our employees have a lasting impact in the industry. By investing in their continuous learning and adaptability, we're securing their relevance for a decade or more. This forward-looking approach sets us apart from historical instances where technological shifts left entire industries behind.

With our internal platform, Essential Tech, we empower employees to explore and master new technologies. Plus, we offer access to a trove of online tutorials and courses, fostering a culture of continuous learning. This not only benefits individuals but also propels the overall evolution of our organization.

Do you have a strategy in place for leveraging Gen AI?  Is there anything currently in the making?

S&P Global Market Intelligence has introduced an AI-powered workflow tool on S&P Capital IQ Pro as part of our efforts to enhance the platform's search and analytics capabilities. This enables users to efficiently search for and extract relevant insights from vast volumes of text-based documents, such as filings, transcripts, and presentations, to uncover valuable information, facilitating timely and data-driven analysis.

The rebranded S&P Capital IQ Pro platform now offers real-time market monitoring, robust screening features, data visualization tools, and mapping capabilities. 

We're integrating Gen AI into all our 400 product platforms within the next 18 months. This initiative is aimed at enhancing the user experience and justifying the value of our products. We're focusing on optimizing search functionality, aiming for responses in less than 15 seconds with a more user-friendly interface. This ensures that our clients receive swift and reliable information for their critical decisions.

Ultimately, we believe in evolution and are committed to exceeding our clients' expectations while staying true to the principles that have defined us for generations.

As a vocal advocate for employee well-being, your efforts are evident in S&P Global India's recognition among the top workplaces for women. Could you shed light on the specific strategies and initiatives that you have implemented to bolster employee wellness, diversity, and inclusion?

Being named among the Top 10 Best Companies for Women and Top 15 for diversity and inclusion is a significant achievement. The introduction of "People First 9.0" reflects our dedication to supporting over 12,500 employees in India, ensuring a culture of inclusivity and belonging. This policy embodies our commitment to prioritise the well-being and growth of our employees, both personally and professionally.

We're committed to creating an environment where every employee's voice is heard. Our bottom-up approach ensures that every question raised in our employee town hall is carefully reviewed and considered. 

  • We've introduced recently wellness benefits to encourage proactive health check-ups, including specific cancer screening tests. Our maternity policies provide ample time for new parents to adjust. We offer six months of leave.
  • To foster a balanced work-life dynamic, we've instituted the practice of shutting down operations for five days a year.  
  • At S&P, we have a robust system for internal mobility. And about 50% of our job postings are filled internally.  
  • Our policies are not just about work; they're about supporting the holistic well-being of our employees and their families.

What are your top priorities and focus areas in 2023 and beyond to drive growth and foster a thriving work environment?

Employee well-being is a top priority. I am personally very passionate about wellness. Creating an environment where people feel motivated and valued is key to fostering a thriving workplace. We also focus on continuous learning and development to ensure our team members stay at the cutting edge of their fields.

Adapting to Evolving Work Models: We understand the importance of flexibility in today's work environment. We're continuously refining our approach to hybrid work to ensure it meets the needs of our employees and the organization.

Innovation and technology: We're committed to staying at the forefront of technological advancements. This involves harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics to enhance our products and services.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: We aim to maintain an inclusive work environment where every individual feels valued and supported. This involves ongoing initiatives to promote diversity and ensure equity across all aspects of our operations.

Customer-Centric Approach: Our commitment to providing accurate, reliable, and timely information to our clients remains central. We continually seek ways to enhance user experience and add value to our products and services.

Global Sustainability Efforts: We're dedicated to making a positive impact on the environment and communities where we operate. This includes initiatives to reduce our environmental footprint and support local communities.

Dive into our first series of exclusive interviews with CEOs and MDs of leading organisations by clicking this link. As part of this ongoing series called LeadingEdge, we contrinue to bring you fresh insights from top leaders in India, Singapore and beyond. Stay tuned!

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Topics: Culture, #LeadingEdge, #CEOseries, #ArtificialIntelligence

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