He has over 20 years of diversified experience in Asia -Pacific region, Africa and Middle East across wide spectrum of industries and a proven track record in his career. Chalapathi Rao, Director of Audit for Ghana’s leading retail company, Melcom Group has shown his mettle in the accounting field over the years. In this Interview with The CFO he talks about the evolving role of CFOs and other sundry issues.
How would you describe yourself?
I am someone who is candid and believes in integrity. Every day I work to improve upon myself and my skills. I think positively and prepared to take challenging tasks. Would like to control a situation rather than allow a situation to control me.” I am the type of person who meets challenges head-on rather than sweeping them under the rug and hoping they go away.
How did you climb the success ladder?
At the outset I would like to thank my parents, my teachers and the Almighty without their blessings I would not have reached this position. I am thankful to my wife and my family who have always supported me and stood by me in times of need and grateful to my friends and my team who have always encouraged me.
I qualified CMA (Cost & Management Accountant) from India in June 95. My career began with ALSTOM Limited a French MNC as Branch Accountant and has thereon successfully risen through the ranks by handling multidimensional assignments and heading major functions in different companies in different countries at various points of time. I have worked with MNCs like WILMAR International Limited, CANPACK, and diversified Groups like JAYPEE, Galadari Brothers, Gulf Warehousing Company etc. in different capacities like CFO, Vice- President, Head of Internal Audit and Director etc.
Currently I am on the advisory board of ISMA (Indian Society of Management Accountants). I hold other certifications which helped me in my career like CFE, CMA, and CRMA from USA. I am also a qualified public accountant from Australia.
You were CFO until your recent promotion as Director; what does your new role entail?
My activity involves working closely with the Chairman, Board members and other Department Heads and trying to take the company to the next level. Present job profile is to focus more on Strategy, Risk management, internal controls, audit, operations etc
What are your major Goals as Director of Audit for the Group?
My major goals include implementing ERM – Enterprise Risk Management System, ensuring corporate governance, improve the Process/ Systems/ Internal Controls and implementing modern business tools appropriate for the business
What is your take on Ghana’s 2017 budget?
Government has introduced a number of tax reliefs in the 2017 budget statement and economic policy, the Finance Minister, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta has announced. I am sure these measures taken by the government will put the Ghana economy on sound footing and will propel the growth of the private sector and boost job creation. The free Senior High school policy is laudable. Furthermore, businesses in Ghana are upbeat about prospects for expansion and growth following a 2% reduction in the prime rate of Ghana’s Central Bank. It’s a good move.
What is your typical day like?
To list out the important tasks to be completed during the day. Guide my co-workers in fulfilling their tasks. Attend Internal and External meetings. Review the completed tasks and set out priorities for the following day.
What are some of your remarkable achievements in your career?
As CFO was able to successfully syndicate a loan of 135m USD, as Chief Audit Executive (CAE) I was the Lead Investigator for multimillion dollar frauds. Achievements include successfully revamped & restructured loss making companies and transformed them in to profitable one when I was working in the capacity of Vice- President.
How should the CEO and CFO work together to improve the quality of planning and forecasting?
CFOs are increasingly playing a more critical role in shaping their company’s strategies today, especially in light of the highly uncertain macroeconomic environments, where managing financial volatilities is becoming a centerpiece for many companies’ strategies.
The CFO is now expected to be a key player in stockholder education and communication and is clearly seen as a leader and team builder who sets the financial agenda for the organization, supports the CEO directly and provides timely advice to the board of directors.
The relationship between the chief executive officer and the chief financial officer is one of the most important relationship in any company in general and especially to improve the quality of planning and forecasting. The CEO needs the CFO to share his or her view of the company strategy and then work in concert to implement it. The CFO is responsible for ensuring that the finance team works in alignment with the company’s wider strategy.
The expectation, therefore, is that the finance department will work to support the business units rather than “run its own race,” and where change is needed, it is the CFO who is expected to make it happen.
How did you feel winning the CFO of the year Award for the Retail sector at the 2016 Ghana CFO awards?
It’s a great honor to be recognized in my core field. This award means a lot to me. It brings happiness, confidence and will keep me on my toes to do my best.
What is your advice for new entrants in the industry?
In recent years, the role of the CFO has evolved significantly. Traditionally being viewed as a financial gatekeeper, the role of the CFO has expanded and evolved to a strategic partner and advisor to the CEO. With an increasingly integrated world economy, the new CFOs should be prepared to respond to higher levels of both risk and opportunity. A strong balance sheet is a tremendous asset when managing though periods of volatility.
The primary mandate of the CFO is to be the guardian of shareholder value for the company. Traditionally, this was about managing risk, but today CFOs are expected to balance risk and opportunity. It’s become quite a quite multi-dimensional role.
In making decisions, there are really three important roles that new CFOs should perform.
Firstly, to make the right investment decisions to drive growth. Secondly, ensure that we turn that revenue into strong earnings and cash flow through smart resource utilization and cost management. Finally, we need to optimize our capital structure and make smart, strategic use of the cash that we generate. My best financial advice is to surround you with the right team and ensure continuous communication and interaction with each other. One must not only provide leadership but also have to give the team authority and accountability. It takes the entire team to be successful.”
The modern CFO should be a big-picture thinker, rather than detail-oriented, outspoken rather than reserved, prefer to delegate rather than be hands-on, emphasize what gets done rather than how things are done, and make collaborative rather than unilateral decisions.
What advice would you give a company on surviving cash shortfalls?
Collect Receivables ASAP, encourage Customers to Pay up Faster, boost Sales with Creative Incentives, designate a Cash Flow Monitor, maintain Some Cash Reserves, renegotiate payment terms with Suppliers ,preparing sensitive cash flows where we consider the optimistic and pessimistic situation, monitoring the fluctuation in currency exchange, look out for cost effective funding.
Where do you see you self in the next five years?
Coming 5 years, I would like to see myself to equip with a good knowledge and better skills while taking more responsibility and contributing for growth of the company.
If you had three wishes, what will they be?
I wish was able to spend more time with my parents, create a difference in the lives of others by uplifting the underprivileged people, I have observed that wealth, people, relations, friends, youth are snatched by time in the blink of an eye. So my wish would be giving up this illusory world and attain the supreme.
If you were not an accountant what other would you have chosen?
My initial ambition was to join the Air force as a Fighter Pilot.
Dependence On Govt Killing States’ Chambers Of Commerce- RUWASE
Mr Babatunde Ruwase is the President of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, also an astute boardroom guru. In this interview with Akin Naphtal, he speaks on the various advocacies of the chamber and the need to revamp the economy for growth, among others. Excerpt:
The chamber has been leading in the era advocating for best business policy and practice. Can you share with us, your challenges and achievements over the Years sir?
The business started as the Lagos Chamber of Commerce 130 years ago, in 1888, which actually pre-dated the land space which God has given us today, which we call Nigeria. One can say the Lagos Chamber of Commerce had been an institution in this space even before 1914, when Nigeria was put together and most of the corporates that were there then are members. The one that can readily come to mind is UAC. First Bank that also celebrated 125 years are members. Our member also happens to be the first to finance the first port of UAC, we called it harbor then. Bringing of electricity to Lagos was also financed by our members in the 18th century. We were on ground when Nigeria came into being, with Lagos being the center of commerce and governance.
We’ve been doing a lot of advocacy – although when the petrol dollar came in, government became very rich. In those good old days, government would wait for commerce to be able to do their budgets because it was seen that the prosperity of business dictates how far you would go and what was government for then? It was to protect the environment and people – they were not doing business, but then, over time, money came in and government was in charge of petrol dollar. They looked beyond waiting for taxes and duties, they now had a source of wealth on their own.
How healthy an economy is depends on the political environment because when you do your projections, the government is not going at the same pace with you, you could be working at cross-purpose. That also gives us a big challenge at our own time when we now have to see how we will navigate through this difficult terrain. I would also say that in recent times, we have a government that recognizes business – at least we can talk to them, they listen to us, they see it as positive criticism. They don’t see it as them and us.
We talked to the government about ease of doing business and they listened to us. It is now being chaired by the VP. We have access to them and we tell them the problem that we have they also have a sub-unit in that office that deals with different session of business and we are doing well. The only thing is that at the early stage we were not able to reach out; people don’t really know much about what we are doing; and people don’t know that those things are there but we are getting there and hope it will continue to get better.
You know we have various chambers in Nigeria but the LCCI has been the leading factor. What are the unique things that make LCCI unique among all chambers?
The secret is that most of the chambers we have in Nigeria are promoted by government. State governments, for instance, and they have this government involvement in putting together such chambers. So, when you have government putting a chamber together, it is very difficult to be independent which is not so in our own case. It is difficult to start a chamber taking into consideration the mentality of our people.
Can you shed more light on the national body that was put together and what was the motive behind it?
NACCIMA was created and founded by the Lagos chamber, we worked with them and act as mentors to those who come around and encourage them and I think some of them are doing very well but then, the factor of not knowing that you must put your money where your mouth is comes to play and the problem of looking out for immediate value in something are things they need to get out of, and I always tell some of them to be independent of government as much as possible. Being tied to the apron string of a ministry of commerce somewhere before they can do anything is not good and should be avoided.
Looking at the current view on Nigeria economy towards economy diversification, what are your views looking at the current situations?
One will say we are making some progress but then they are low side of it. We have this problem of infrastructural decay which is making us to spend money on everything we have to do. In your private life you have to provide your own water, security; you have to think how to get from point A to B. Those are to be in the realms of social service. For a business man, you also have to contend with high cost of funding, if you have to go and borrow to do business, you are talking of two digits and that’s not the fault of anyone it’s just the economy where we have found ourselves but as a people we have not managed our resources very well and the level of inflation too determines the cost of funding.
So if government is doing double digit borrowing by the way of Nigeria Treasury bill, there is no way there will be a single digit. With double digits, borrowing is very difficult for you; you can only do things that are short term and then be profitable, if not you will find things difficult. We have corruption that has even gotten us to where we are. But the good thing about it is that we are at the peak of it, people are talking about it, people are making attempt to solve those problems. We look at what is happening in power, the problem of power is not even the generation because we generate actually what we can’t distribute. There’s lack of capacity to distribute because of the ageing infrastructure. These are the factors that are identified and things are being done; we are talking of mass transportation, agric.
Also we have to be sincere government should have to be at the vanguard of patronising made in Nigeria goods. And as Nigerians we should be patriotic enough to patronise made in Nigeria goods.
We create jobs by producing what we use locally, unfortunately, what we can boast of currently is crude oil. Crude oil does not create more employment as you get from manufacturing, even in Agric. So we need to patronise what we have, interestingly, for instance in Ghana, Nigeria goods are cheaper in Ghana. We don’t realise what God has given us as people, we are always looking beyond this land we don’t have confidence in it. The Asians are doing what we don’t want to do; they are into farming in large scale. Even this manufacturing we are talking of we have them there. So there is something they are doing right that we are not, it also has to do with the way we organise our lives, approach to business. We have a CEO riding expensive vehicles; they don’t even have vehicles for operation. You have factory outside Lagos and you want to live in Lekki but if it is an Asian, he will live there. So we have attitude problem to business. So we don’t realise what God has done for us, we keep on complaining. People are coming in to take over our economy because we have what they need as a country which we don’t see or value.
We should have maximum orientation to take advantage of it. We have a good economy and we need to fight corruption in every sector. The country is potentially great and we need to face some facts. You can’t subsidise consumption and get growth, you can only subsidise production. It is even more vulnerable to exploitation and corruption. When I look at our budget, we have 305 billion naira for fuel subsidy, that’s money that should be directed to some other things like production that can create employment. People buy fuel but the poor are not affected directly because the vehicles that they use, use diesel (AGO) and is deregulated. We need to take hard decision and also spend money on human capital development training in skills, because we go outside the country to bring in vocational skills worker. We need to focus on human capital development. The problem we also have is we do more of politicking, because politics has influence on our business terrain. That’s why we say government has no business in business. They should just set standard and regulate, they shouldn’t be in business. There’s a bureaucracy that take a big chunk of what is meant for business. Running cost takes a big chunk in business. These things affect the economy and also affect us as a people and its pull business down.
On area of gender equality, how is the chamber faring?
Yes, we are very mindful of that, my past president is a lady and my deputy is also a lady. We are very gender sensitive. Of course, we operate in international space and that is something that comes up when you are doing peer review. They want to know what position you have for women. In the real sense we are in business and business does not talk about gender. We have a very strong women group, which is one of the focused groups and they are doing fantastic well. And then we also mentor young ones too.
What are you doing to revive the moribund textile sector?
What is affecting textile basically is not an isolated thing from what is affecting our industry. The textile companies went moribund because of the harsh economic environment. Let’s take power for instance, they don’t have power. They could not replace their engine equipment due to funding challenge that we talked about earlier. There was a time when those who are cultivating cotton realised it was no longer profitable; they moved to other areas. Some were rearing bees at a particular time and I am sure now they will be doing rice.
It is imperative for Government to go back and do backward development, and let us rejuvenates these textiles factories and let us see how we can produce what we need, and of course Government also needs to patronize the textile industry. We all need to be sincere about this because we all know the reason why they went moribund, it was because they never had good patronage and they could not compete with imported items. Even though it is not possible to solve all the problems of textile industry in isolation, if we solve the problem of manufacturers we have solved half.
And how do you balance your personal and professional life?
I always believe that what is worth doing at all is worth doing well, i am not different from anybody of my own generation. My own type of growing up, we were not pampered; some of the indulgence that people kept now, can only be done if you are a rascal. I came from a very disciplined background, the type of training had as an audit training also folded me, and it prepares you for life.
I solidly believe in hard work, and i also try to be quiet, i do not impress people rather i always want to be myself, balancing the two has been easy i mean coping with this modern days is not very tasky, you could feel bored if you do not have things to do, you know a lot of activities that you are subject to.
If you were to make three wishes, what would they be?
I wish for Nigeria to be a better place for us, and also for Nigeria to attain its potentials. But you know we cannot achieve this unless we take money out of politics.
I wish we can get it right as a people. Nigeria is my problem, and also our problem because I know we can do better than where we are today, God has blessed Nigeria, He just need to help Nigeria.
Google to Buy Looker Data Sciences for $2.6B Cash
Google has announced decision to buy Looker Data Sciences in a bid to expand its offerings to help customers manage data in the cloud.
The acquisition recently announced, gives Google a new tool in its campaign to sell more cloud storage and software. Google plans to buy Looker for $2.6 billion in cash.
The deal will blend Google’s in-house analysis tools such as BigQuery with those built by the Santa Cruz, California-based Looker. It also sets up a new competitive front with Microsoft and its Power Platform/Dynamics.
This marks Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian’s first major acquisition in his tenure. The former longtime Oracle executive replaced Diane Greene in November 2018.
“For any business that is looking for a partner to help drive digital transformation, the combination of Google Cloud and Looker will offer an incredible data management and analytics platform,” Kurian said in a Google blog post announcing the deal.
According to him, Google intends to use Looker’s tools alongside its BigQuery database to offer “customers a more complete analytics solution from ingesting data to visualizing results and integrating data and insights into their daily workflows.”
Since taking control of Google’s Cloud computing division, Kurian has unveiled plans to double down on enterprise sales and will now extend Google’s overall enterprise software pitch with Looker.
Earlier this year, Kurian said he intend to invest and expand the business significantly, adding, “You will see us accelerate the growth even faster than we have to date.”
Google parent company Alphabet has already invested in Looker through its venture fund, Capital G. This purchase will be Google’s biggest acquisition since it bought smart home company Nest, another Alphabet-funded company, for $3.2 billion in 2014.
Google has been trying to gain market share from industry leader Amazon Web Services, which reported $7.7 billion in revenue for the last quarter.
“When Thomas Kurian approached us to become a cornerstone of his new path forward, a light bulb immediately went off for Lloyd (Tabb, founder, chairman, and CTO) and me,” Looker CEO Frank Bien wrote in a blog post about the deal.
Google held 7.6% of cloud market share at the end of 2018 compared with 13.7% for Microsoft and 32% for Amazon, according to a report from Canalys.
Analysts commended the sale and credited it for providing “a unified platform for business intelligence, data applications, and embedded analytics.”
Subject to regulatory approval, the acquisition is expected to be completed later this year.
Google shares were down less than 1% to $1,037.83 Thursday morning in New York.
Azuri Tech To Invest $26m on Business Growth in Africa
Azuri Technologies, a leader in pay-as-you-go solar technology, has announced its decision to invest a sum of $26 million to expand its business growth in the continent and accelerate Africa’s transition to clean and affordable energy.
Being financed in partnership with Japanese Fortune Global 500 Company, Marubeni Corporation, with additional participation of existing shareholders including FTSE 250 Company IP Group Plc, the strategic investment would ultimately accelerate Azuri’s market growth plans in both East and West Africa and open up new opportunities for the business.
Azuri Technologies provides solar home systems to off-grid consumers in sub-Saharan Africa on a pay-as-you-go basis. These systems enable households without access to the grid to benefit from modern conveniences, from electric light to satellite TV and Internet access via Smart phones.
On the other hand, Marubeni Corporation has global interests in energy and substantial experience in Africa.
The capital infusion would enable Azuri to accelerate expansion in existing sub-Saharan Africa markets and roll out its solar lighting, TV and additional services into new markets, with focus on enhancing the lives of millions living without access to the grid.
Commenting on the investment, The Chief Executive Officer of Azuri Technologies, Simon Bransfield-Garth, was quoted in a statement to have said during the signing ceremony in the United Kingdom recently. “We are delighted today to announce the equity investment by Marubeni Corporation and existing shareholders. The entry of a leading player in the international energy market into this sector demonstrates the increasing maturity of off-grid power and its role in serving the 600 million people in Africa that still lack access to electricity,”
According to the statement, the Chief Operating Officer, Power Business Division, Marubeni Corporation, Mr. Yoshiaki Yokota, also said: “We believe that Azuri’s unique business model will have a profound impact on the growing off-grid energy market in Africa.
He further stated that, “The global energy market is evolving rapidly, with the introduction of new renewable technologies and energy-efficient devices. We are delighted to be a strategic partner of Azuri as a market leader and see their solar home solutions and services as catalysts for change in the African energy sector and beyond.”
Also Speaking, Partner at IP Group Plc, Mr. Jamie Vollbracht added: “As an early investor in Azuri, we are pleased with its growth to date, with over 150,000 systems sold, positively impacting off-grid households in Africa. Today we are delighted to welcome Marubeni to the business to help power the next exciting phase of growth for Azuri.
SPDC disburses N41.1bn on Rivers, other states’ projects
AfDB Advocates disclose $1.8tn AUM for Investment
Access Bank’s hits N1bn digital lending Daily
Absa’s ‘NewGold’ shows increase of 36% on Ghana Stock Exchange
Share capital hits GH¢3.8m in Bosomtwe Rural Bank
Bidvest Bank trading profit rises 3.5% to R6.7bn
Guinness Nigeria Declares N5.5bn Profit, N3.3bn Dividend
Zenith Bank grows profit to N111.7bn, in H1’19
Absa’s ‘NewGold’ shows increase of 36% on Ghana Stock Exchange
Access Bank’s hits N1bn digital lending Daily
AfDB Advocates disclose $1.8tn AUM for Investment
SPDC disburses N41.1bn on Rivers, other states’ projects
- SPDC disburses N41.1bn on Rivers, other states’ projects
- AfDB Advocates disclose $1.8tn AUM for Investment
- Access Bank’s hits N1bn digital lending Daily
- Absa’s ‘NewGold’ shows increase of 36% on Ghana Stock Exchange
- Share capital hits GH¢3.8m in Bosomtwe Rural Bank
- Bidvest Bank trading profit rises 3.5% to R6.7bn
- Guinness Nigeria Declares N5.5bn Profit, N3.3bn Dividend
- Zenith Bank grows profit to N111.7bn, in H1’19
- Shareholders Approve N1.4bn Profit As Conoil guarantee Improved Returns
- Guaranty Trust Bank declares audits results in H1 2019
- EFG Hermes net profits up 49% y-o-y to record EGP 304m in Q2 19
- Kenyan bank KCB Group profit rises in H1
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