The Tool Collector: Vikram Savkar Brings a Varied Skill Set to Risk Management and Regulatory Compliance

by Brianna Wilson
Vikram Savkar
Executive Vice President and General Manager
Wolters Kluwer Compliance Solutions

With a professional background that has spanned theoretical physics, music, law and healthcare, Vikram Savkar has always found success while moving between industries. He is currently aiming to do so again as the leader of Wolters Kluwer’s Compliance Solutions business, which provides financial services clients with risk management and regulatory compliance services, content and technology solutions.

In his freshman year at Harvard, Vikram Savkar expected to pursue a career in theoretical physics. However, despite studying the subject (as well as advanced mathematics), as his career progressed, he found himself more drawn to developing, building and launching products and driving business growth than he was to the career of a research academic.

For the last 10 years, Savkar has been pursuing those passions for Wolters Kluwer, first as a vice president and general manager in its legal and regulatory division and then in its health division. Over the course of the last decade, he has played a key role in accelerating growth in some of the company’s brands in the legal and health markets (including Aspen, Kluwer Law, Ovid and Lippincott) through a sharp focus on digital transformation, customer-centric innovation and an ambitious portfolio strategy.

In his latest endeavor with the company, Savkar will have even more chances to pursue his passion for business growth, as earlier this year, he was named executive vice president and general manager of Wolters Kluwer Compliance Solutions, a provider of risk management and regulatory compliance software. In this role, Savkar oversees a business within Wolters Kluwer noted for its product innovation, technology advancements and domain expertise.

Savkar was named leader of the business earlier this year following the promotion of Steve Meirink, former head of Wolters Kluwer Compliance Solutions, to CEO of the firm’s financial and corporate compliance (FCC) division, which is home to the Compliance Solutions unit as well as CT Corporation, a provider of registered agent services, incorporation services and legal entity compliance.

“The leadership transition process that I’ve been a part of over the past six months is a good reflection of how we do business at Wolters Kluwer,” Savkar says. “We take a thoughtful, methodical approach to everything we do, whether it’s analyzing the markets we want to move into through acquisition or organic expansion, or leveraging senior leaders to accelerate portfolio growth.”

Silent Conductor

Savkar’s professional career spans more than 25 years, including three “life experience” years with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra followed by more than a decade in the education technology and publishing industries with Pearson and Nature Publishing Group (now Springer Nature). In his work with Pearson and Nature Publishing, Savkar drove business transformation that led to higher growth by taking advantage of emerging technologies.

“I like to transition into new markets,” Savkar says. “I think you learn a lot each time you move into new businesses and new markets, and I think you then have a lot to cumulatively bring to your next business because you have built a diverse repository of leadership experiences — including best practices and case studies and industry dynamics — from which to draw.”

Savkar’s career has obviously diverged quite a bit from his early symphony days, not to mention his collegiate coursework, but he feels he learned one of his most important professional lessons during his time with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Benjamin Zander. According to Savkar, Zander would often say his defining moment as a conductor was when he realized the conductor doesn’t make a sound; all of the music comes from the musicians on stage — and it’s the conductor’s job to get the best sound out of them.

“As the leader of a business, you rarely make the spreadsheets or the presentations, and you certainly aren’t making the products,” Savkar says. “Instead, you derive your effectiveness from your ability to inspire and guide your team to accomplish what they are capable of. I think there’s a sense of leadership and vision you have to have but also a sense of humility about your role in relation to your team, and I try to keep that very much in the foreground as I lead this and any other business.”

The Perfect Fit

A passionate advocate for product development, Savkar has been particularly interested in transitioning toward artificial intelligence- enabled solutions. “I started my career in the content world with technology as an enabler of content creation and consumption, but I’ve gradually moved more and more towards markets where pure technology products can drive scale and transformation for enterprise customers,” Savkar says. “For me, this new role is an opportunity to live completely in that space and help lead the way for how advanced technology can continue to drive evolution in financial services worldwide.”

Savkar was initially attracted to Wolters Kluwer because he says the company has a very clear, focused and consistent strategy of value creation, built on creating expert solutions that combine deep domain expertise with technology to deliver value for enterprise customers. “We have the right strategic and cultural context for driving value and longterm success through innovation,” Savkar says.

A New Mission

Through his transitions between different businesses and industries, Savkar has developed his own “leadership toolkit,” which he describes as an evidence-based and time-tested collection of strategies and structures that help him drive success in new businesses. Of course, as he points out, he still has to be an adaptable and responsive leader because every business and every market is different.

For example, when he transitioned from Wolters Kluwer’s legal and regulatory division to its health division, he shifted his management and cultural approach, as his customers and staff changed from legal experts to medical professionals.

“I certainly had to learn how to adapt my toolkit for that different cultural context, and the same is true here [in Compliance Solutions]. This is a market that’s filled with quantitatively oriented financial services professionals,” Savkar says. “And I’m already well into the process of calibrating my strategic approach for this context. That fresh challenge is a big part of what makes it stimulating to move to new businesses and new markets.”

While working in the healthcare space for Wolters Kluwer, Savkar had a very clear mission: to save lives. Now in the financial services space, Savkar still has a mission: to help people and businesses achieve their goals and fulfill their potential. The firm’s Compliance Solutions business that he now runs has varied products that can provide numerous services, such as helping first-time home buyers receive a mortgage or assisting entrepreneurs in attaining small business loans. Additionally, Wolters Kluwer’s software can help banks, independent lenders and other financial organizations contribute to a functioning economy.

“I think that’s incredibly meaningful, and it’s a real privilege and a pleasure for me to be a part of the chain of something that affects all of our lives,” Savkar says.

Savkar has been impressed with his new team during his first few months in his new role, describing his colleagues as “passionate, talented, experienced and willing to think in fresh ways.” He is also optimistic about the division’s future, with his top priority the successful management of innovation. He says his team is brimming with ideas, but “there’s a limit to how many ideas and directions a team can successfully pursue at once,” noting that it’s his job to ensure his group pursues activities that can be delivered successfully and that add value to customers. Therefore, his current goal is to help define, and to make sure the team at large clearly understands, what the top areas of strategic focus are so he can ensure the correct level of time, energy and capital is invested into those areas.

His other main concern right now is the down market, with high interest rates having a deleterious impact on lending rates while equities decline as well, negatively impacting banks and other Wolters Kluwer customers. This challenge, however, creates an opportunity for Savkar and his team.

“These down markets are the markets that really separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of which businesses are built for the future, and I think we have the right strategy and products for the future,” Savkar says. “I’m certainly looking to take advantage of this period to make sure that we emerge out of the bear market into the bull phase with all the software, the tools, the products, the services, the strategies and the tight operating discipline that we will need to be successful as the market returns to health.”

And the guiding force for that journey, according to Savkar, is customers.

“As our customers manage through this turmoil,” he says, “they are looking for partners who can help them chart a confident, efficient and creative path to business success. And I’m proud to say that they know that we are an ideal partner, focused on empowering them in their transformations. We are squarely focused on positioning ourselves to support their success because, ultimately, this will mean our success.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brianna Wilson is editor of ABF Journal.