Recognising finance heads driving business sustainability

Nobert Kagoro, the country managing partner at Deloitte Uganda spoke to The Independent about the forthcoming fifth edition of chief financial officer awards.

What should the public look out for in the forthcoming 5th edition of Chief Financial Officer Awards?

The fifth edition of the CFO Awards have brought together two global brands, ACCA and Deloitte, to recognize the role played by finance heads in driving sustainability in business. This year’s theme “Finance leaders as drivers of Sustainability in business” comes at the time when investors are seeking to understand how organisations/companies are disclosing information on environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance. Our own President, in a statement submitted to the World Leaders Summit, called for urgent measures to avert the climate change crisis. It will not be long before some regulators demand for accountability on ESG. We have gone through the response and recovery stages of the COVID 19 pandemic. As we think of striving, we cannot do it without thinking about sustainability. Therefore, we will be rewarding finance leaders that are driving sustainability.

What impact have these awards had on the general performance of participating organisations?

Finance leaders have always been referred to and seen as ‘number crunchers’. The roles they play as catalysts of behaviour that enables strategic execution, as drivers of performance, and as key contributors to strategy has now come to the forefront, courtesy of these awards. We have seen a number of companies embracing these awards by recognizing the roles played by their finance leaders. Some of the past winners have gone ahead to take other leadership positions and we see them driving growth.

Who qualifies to participate in these awards?

The awards are open to all finance leaders, whether in the public or private sector, multinationals or SMEs. We have also identified other categories that need to be recognized. The judges’ selection process also considers how the finance leaders are driving sustainability in the categories that the awards relate to.

How do you describe the current state of professional and ethical values that big organisations like yours are using in your routine activities?

The day we launched the CFO awards, was the day reserved for ethics. We cannot talk about professionalism without talking about ethics and integrity. Ethical behaviour is at the heart of our profession and is key in driving organizational value. Various regulators are increasingly enforcing ethical behaviour. Passing a fit and proper test for directorship is now a mandatory requirement and to drive sustainability.

How best in your view should the government fasten COVID-19 management to cause the highly needed economic recovery?

The year 2020 brought a host of challenges for the Government of Uganda. As a country we kept pace with COVID-19 as well as other economic and social disruptions. The pandemic changed digital from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have’ for governments around the world. We need to look at embracing the accelerated digital tools that the government has been using during the pandemic to drive improved efficiency in government business. That way, we can leverage technology to drive seamless service delivery in government. Furthermore, COVID 19 accelerated transformation and embracing transformation will accelerate the digital agenda in government. The agile methodologies, such as the speed in decision making that government deployed in combating COVID 19 can also be leveraged to drive sustained agility in the government.

Lastly, we need to tackle public trust in government, by ensuring that data collected communicates the right information, builds greater transparency and trust in the government digital systems, services, and data initiatives.

How do you advise struggling young entrepreneurs to manage the current COVID-19 challenges that have caused closure of some businesses?

The pandemic has heightened the need for entrepreneurs to be prepared, adaptable, to collaborate more, and foster trust in their businesses. They need to be flexible and innovative in the way they adapt their businesses to fit the changing environment. While there are number of things to think about, I strongly believe the young entrepreneurs need to look at the purpose of their organisation beyond profit. They also need to look at the current challenges and draft solutions, for example, if capital is a key challenge, they should engage accelerator organisations to help them draft a road map to access to capital. They need to prepare for talent disruptions as we are seeing great demand for talent from developed markets. They need to bolster liquidity with aggressive approaches to working capital management. They also need to drive operational excellence and manage risk by leveraging lessons learnt from the impact of COVID 19.

Play the long game by pricing their products and services competitively without compromising on quality – short-term gains through opportunistic pricing will cost them long-term loyal customers. Focus on customer lifetime value and not just a one-time sale.

Use transaction and customer data to guide business decisions and improve the quality of their products and services. Seek to understand their customer needs and pain points and take to market products and services which solve for specific customer needs.

Focus on customer experience. Put the customer at the centre of everything they do and establish processes to engage and stay connected with their customers. They should also seek feedback from their customers and use it to improve the quality of their products and services.

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