The Covid-19 pandemic has brought transformation to the finance space and particularly to the role of CFO, according to Anand Soni, Group CFO at Dubai-based AAB Tools Group, with diversified business interests.
Anand, who has over 28 years of experience managing financial and business affairs across multiple markets and business verticals says the main difference is risk perception in current times.
“Risk in pre-Covid times was should I go for a merger, should I go for an acquisition, sell my business? The whole idea was strategic,” says Anand. “Now, in Covid times, the risk horizon is practically everyday things. At best you can probably look at three months. So, you’re literally looking at the going concern of the company.
“The going concern is a technical word, which means whether your business will survive, going concern means any business survive financially, will it collapse, this sort of risk assessment was not there in pre-covid times. And this assessment you have to keep doing every day, literally every day in these pandemic times.”
The CFO transformation
The next generation of CFOs will have to manage this uncertainty going forward, which Anand believes has transformed their roles from just CFOs to ‘Business CFOs’.
“I don’t consider myself today as only a finance professional,” says Anand. “As a Business CFO, you’re not just a finance professional, you’re more of a business professional whose job is to manage the business financially and commercially from one level to another.”
Now, CFOs need to help organisations manage risk, take the business to the next level, ensure survival, growth, acceleration and consolidation.
“On top of it, you have to get your shareholders on board,” says Anand, which requires plenty of perseverance, patience, and passion.
His ideas for managing this ‘mayhem’, as he calls it, are to first understand the nuances of the business financially and commercially. Then, CFOs need to assess, manage and mitigate the risks facing the business – whether Covid related or not. After this, Anand says it is crucial to have a solution-focused attitude.
“It might not be the perfect solution,” says Anand. “It may be a half-solution, mid-way solution, imperfect solution, but you must keep having a solution-driven approach.”
He also thinks CFOs need to have the belief that they can get through these uncertainties and difficult times.
Monitoring and making change
“If you have belief, that’s the way you manage mayhem,” says Anand. “In the current uncertainties in Covid times and beyond, keep revisiting those strategies and monitoring them. And if you have to change, by all means, change,” he says.
This belief and the idea that you should better yourself are things that have driven Anand throughout his career, 22 years of which has been in the Middle East, working with businesses across manufacturing, contracting, construction, real estate, petroleum, property, retail, trading, distribution, e-commerce, pharmaceuticals, services and investment.
“You must compete with yourself,” he says. “When you compete with yourself, you then know your own mistakes, you own up to them, you learn, unlearn and relearn. Am I doing better than yesterday? It increases your self-belief.”
While Anand always wanted to go into finance, he’s equally passionate about public speaking, writing and instilling belief into others.
“I love professional speaking,” says Anand. “And many times people ask me – because public speaking is supposed to be the biggest fear after death – what is it that excites you about public speaking? And it’s one area where there are no strings attached to me, I speak from both my head and heart, and that is satisfaction.”