We’re excited to present the fifth feature in our new series – “FintekNews Celebrates #WomenInFintech“!
This week, we’d like to introduce you to Chitra Baskar, co-founder and COO of Viteos Fund Services, which was founded in 2003 and provides customized straight-through-processing and integrates post-trade operations across virtually every asset class, currency, border, or structure for the alternative investment management industry in the United States, Europe and Asia. It is a leader in shadow-accounting services, middle- and back-office outsourcing services and licenses its platform to investment managers.
NAME: Chitra Baskar
TITLE: Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer
COMPANY: Viteos Fund Services
WEB ADDRESS: www.viteos.com
1) What does your financial technology firm offer?
Viteos, a pioneer in modern shadow accounting, provides hedge fund operations services, primarily for the middle office, using advanced technology and customized reporting. We are currently expanding our accounting and technology operations model to serve the private equity industry.
2) What was the personal motivation for you to launch your firm?
My co-founders and I shared the initial vision, unique at the time, that hedge funds needed to consider themselves as business entities and that an outsourcing model would lead to strategic results. That view has proven accurate. We continue to innovate and anticipate client needs.
Our success has not come easily. We began in 2003 with a view of middle office as a process (through the use of advanced technology) – that might better serve the strategic interests of fund firms for performance and success – rather than as a sequence of tasks.
At that time, hedge fund firms were largely trading operations. Middle and back office operations were seen as costly, yet necessary burdens, rather than as contributors to success. Viteos changed that perception.
We built globally, scaling to industry growth and outpacing competitive offerings. Through innovative ideas, including the development of shadow accounting, through anticipating client needs for interoperative technology, and in demonstrating that outsourcing middle office would prove more accurate and reliable (being the sole focus), we constructed and led the teams that resulted in Viteos becoming a premier player in hedge funds worldwide.
3) As a female entrepreneur, do you feel any advantages/disdvantages in being female as you are seeking capital to grow & build your businesses?
We had a solid base of sophisticated initial investors who focused on our vision and competence as opposed to gender. As we were human resource lean in our beginning, we were able to build the firm’s culture on the principle that we would resource with the best people regardless of gender or other like considerations, keeping in mind that we sought a diverse group. The promotion of women both in the industry and in our firm is an important priority for me and my colleagues. We were recently acquired by PPC and their organization shares our view.
Our growth has been organic from a small BPO into a critical player in the hedge fund industry worldwide. We focus on skills: seeing what is required internally for the organization to build worldwide; communicating with and securing interdepartmental delivery to specific objects in defined timetables; responding to challenges even as we built a global franchise; and creating a culture of internal enthusiasm and external reputation for excellence.
We were delivering advanced technology combined with accounting when there was in fact market resistance. We educated the industry as it grew, architecting for our own success (including recruiting and retaining top talent). This innovative approach as we bring our model and services to private equity.
4) Do you feel you are at a competitive advantage – or disadvantage – as a female fintech entrepreneur – or neither?
I am aware of the need for work/life balance, particularly as it affects the demands placed on women. I mentor women in hedge funds and a founding member of a recently formed network of senior women operational executives. We look to a time when gender will not be a category that is an advantage or disadvantage. Outside work, I have led efforts in cultural exchanges in music programs between India and the United States.
5) Do you feel there are more women starting financial technology companies than in other business sectors? If so, why or why not?
Startups in financial services are difficult. I believe that women in technology is growing and women in finance is growing: the challenge ahead is to get the Venn diagram right. Financial services histroically has been open to innovation and creativity, and has opportunity for women solving problems or fuilfilling needs. Our industry, precisely because it is regulated so heavily, demands that entrepreneurs demonstrate domain expertise in complex global markets across complicated asset classes. So barriers to entry can be high. But are women up to the challenges? Yes, I see more and more women entering the space every year.
6) Do you think the trend will continue where we will see more women in leadership roles in fintechs (Yes/No) and why?
Yes, it is increasingly seen as a critical management issue. That said, the challenges women are facing across tech sectors in general andf FinTech in particular are well known. It it important that women begin affirmative programs at an early age in STEM education and to combine these “hard” skills with innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. Studies show diverse environments generate better performance. At the same time, women already established in FinTech will play a pivotal role in creating opportunities for other women while also fostering a culture where we are valued. The result will be more women entrepreneurs and exponential delivery for firms. For our part we have increased the number of women in the firm from 13% to 23% in the last two years alone.
Chitra Baskar is the co-founder and Chief Operations Officer at Viteos. Ms. Baskar manages technology and global operations and plays a key role in the overall strategy of the firm. Prior to co-founding Viteos, Ms. Baskar invested more than 20 years in the securities market. She was Chief Operations Officer of Securities and Transaction Processing Services at IL&FS. She holds a bachelor degree in accounting from the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAI), the equivalent of a US Certified Public Accounting degree. She earned a graduate level degree in Cost Accountancy (CWA).