Shagun Malhotra is a certified public accountant and internal auditor who established SkyStem in 2009, a leading organization that equips executives with an efficient tool to simplify and expedite the close account reconciliation and flux analysis process. After completing her education from The University of Texas at Arlington to pursue a B.S. in Accounting and Economics, and American College of Switzerland to pursue an Associate of Arts degree, Shagun began working as an auditor at MFR P.C., a Houston based CPA firm. After working there briefly, she was hired by Marriot International to work as a Senior Manager in 1998. She spent seven years with the organization and then moved on to work as a Senior Manager in the Internal Controls Department for Freddie Mac. Then in 2007, she moved to New York and was hired as part of a clean-up effort of a multi-billion-dollar corporation that had found itself in a huge compliance predicament due to a failed regulatory audit. Shagun was contracted to lead a year-long remediation project to help the organization rebuild a disjointed close and reconciliation process that was complex, exhaustive, and consumed by a myriad of spreadsheets. Finally, after 12 months of dedication by Shagun and her team, the publicly traded global financial services company was able to deliver a clean audit and retain its banking license.
Through this experience and the others before it, Shagun developed a clear picture of the number of issues and risks that exist while reconciling accounts and the month-end close process as a whole. The only applications that were available to automate and cut-down this extensive process were inaccessible and uneconomical for mid-sized companies. This reality motivated Shagun to explore and build a reasonably priced solution that would help small and medium businesses gaining control of their accounting process. Hence, along with her team, she created ‘ART’, an on-demand software solution that automates various accounting tasks such as reconciliations, close checklists, flux analysis, real-time reporting, and certification to validate the balance sheets so that companies can efficiently manage the financial close cycle. Speaking about the cornerstones of developing ART, Shagun says, “ART was designed to meet four criteria: robust in features, easy to use, fast to implement and reasonably priced. SkyStem’s core belief is that software should be robust, but never break the bank or cause unnecessary business disruption. As a reflection of my background in the hospitality industry, SkyStem emphasizes a customer-centric philosophy.”
A Toast to Innovation, Growth, and Balance
Shagun is one of the few people who have managed to turn their dreams into reality. She has successfully established a thriving business and is recognized as a leader in the fintech industry. However, being a minority woman in a male-dominated field, she too had to battle some significant challenges to break through the glass ceiling. As a CEO, this inspired her to mentor females’ employees from diverse backgrounds to help them take on growth-oriented roles in their career path. She asserts, “I aim to put a dent in the gender imbalance in the finance and tech industry, which is why I have always been an advocate for growth of women in the workplace.” The thing that encourages Shagun the most as a female leader is to stand by her convictions even when she seems to be in the minority, and to be vulnerable enough to allow growth to take place.
As an entrepreneur, Shagun sees mistakes or breakdowns as an opportunity for growth. She emphasizes customer satisfaction as her primary focus. For her, success goes hand-in-hand with satisfied customers. This empathetic approach is reflected in SkyStem’s award-winning 97% customer satisfaction rating. The company currently has offices in California and Maryland, with its corporate headquarters in New York. SkyStem’s solution is currently being used in over 15 different countries. As for her future goals and ventures, Shagun already has a clear philosophy to keep on innovating and a forthright objective to satisfy customers. She says, “Automation brings increased productivity, but ART also focuses on helping the accounting team deliver high-quality reconciliations through system checks, quality markers, and other features that are unique to the solution. Change is constant and SkyStem is always looking to build and refine the product to mirror customers’ needs. SkyStem releases various upgrades to ART during the year. We want to continue to inject intelligence into our tool, thus enabling our customers to do more with less. SkyStem is building more modules that will expand our offerings and enable customers and prospects to infuse automation in various other processes.”
The Formula for Success
Even in hard times such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, SkyStem has maintained its presence by continuing to offer its award-winning CPE webinars to help accountants and finance professionals staying up to date with current professional developments, and providing relevant information to prospects and existing customers. Shagun shares, “Communication and strategic planning have always been and will continue to be a recurring theme in our company to get through the most difficult times. This has helped us stay connected to the finance and accounting community. The webinar series has covered a variety of topics such as benchmarking the accounting function, fraud and the SEC, how to streamline month-end close, and topics around organizational risk. Being that we’re a fintech company, we will always need to adjust and evolve quickly. Thankfully, we have a great team, some of whom have been with the company since the start. We continue to stay focused on our customers, and our solution has assisted them with working remotely during the pandemic, which keeps them safe, secure, and productive during this time. That is highly rewarding. We are experiencing increased appreciation for our product more than ever before.”
It is no secret that one’s habit and goals lay the foundation of his or her success story, and Shagun’s journey to success is no exception. Each day she starts her day with an early morning 6 AM virtual yoga session to strengthen her mind and body, which sets a rosy and confident vibe for the day. When she needs to unwind, she finds comfort in spending time with family and friends, while also taking on new adventures to explore the world as a traveller. However, when asked what her secret for success is, Shagun simply says, “There are all kinds of leaders that have proven success, so I don’t believe there are a few magical attributes that make it happen. However, in my opinion, it is important to have passion, patience, and a strong commitment to customers and colleagues who make the vision a reality. No business can be built alone and it is necessary to always remember that.”