“It was a high-impact learning experience, which not only led to professional enrichment but delivered a complete professional development package”
The benefits of an international upbringing laid the foundation for Fouad’s career path of going beyond the obvious answers. Today, Fouad is based in the UAE where he works for an international energy conglomerate, overseeing financial affairs for two separate legal entities, Project Company and the O&M business for an Integrated Water and Power Project (IWPP) which generates 2,250 MW of electricity and 150 million gallons of water per day.
From his early days at Ernst & Young in Islamabad, Fouad has never been daunted by the prospect of straying from the conventional path expected of an accountant. In fact, he often went in search of complementary professional challenges. His diverse professional experience has gone beyond corporate finance to include responsibilities in business planning, treasury, risk & contract management, project finance, business development and strategy. He has even had stints in HR, internal audit, insurance and providing support for project agreements and legal documents. “Working in different functions of a company helped me to understand the business more holistically, and transformed my career,” Fouad explains. “This gave me a definite edge compared to others in my field”.
The ability to stretch yourself and look past the obvious was exactly what Fouad found particularly valuable in CIMA’s Corporate Business Leaders Challenge. The programme offered him the opportunity to go beyond the narrow confines of the technical aspects of management accounting in order to gain a more global understanding. “The challenges were captivating,” Fouad enthuses. “They provided the impetus to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions”.
Fouad explains that a finance professional’s role should be business-centred in order to be perceived beyond just a -support service. “The image associated with our profession is not of a business driver. It has been generally overlooked how management accountants can truly be harnessed as strong business partners,” he shares. “I have always looked for ways to identify and deeply analyse the linkages between business drivers and the financial results to demonstrate how management accountants can help control the business beyond conventional reporting”.
The Corporate Business Leaders Challenge immensely focused on this crucial objective that has long propelled Fouad’s career. The programme was able to refine business skills of the participants by pushing them to analyse challenging business scenarios and put up practical solutions to demonstrate how management accountants can help -top management drive business performance. Through the programme, as Fouad puts it, “You could see how to deliver value to the stakeholders by producing actionable takeaways from high quality analyses”.
The 4-week course provided a comprehensive professional development opportunity alongside gaining an internationally-recognised qualification. “It made everyone more business-oriented, to push forward beyond conventional approaches on problem-solving. It was about how you should act, not just report, to enhance stakeholders’ value” Fouad clarifies. “I don’t see any other institute providing such a business skills development opportunity”.
Fouad was also particularly happy with the high quality of the programme delivery mechanism, a key aspect of which was the Business Challenge itself whereby presentations were made to a simulated Board of Directors whereas the Directors were actually industry leaders with extensive experience, who served as judges to the Leadership Challenge and provided great feedback to the participants. “The depth of the programme was proven when I had to take the exam,” he discloses. “I had a particularly busy period at work and was not able to revise as much as I would have liked. However, because of how in-depth the challenges had been, I was able to pass the exam on my first try, while ending up as one of the runners-up to the Challenge was a pleasure to cherish anyway!” Fouad proudly exclaims.
Passing the Corporate Business Leaders Challenge on the first attempt meant that Fouad could move on to the Global C-Suite Business & Finance Programme, and take the final exam on the CIMA qualification – the Strategic Case Study exam. Excelling at this level too in first attempt, Fouad is now awaiting his hard-earned CGMA designation and membership into CIMA.
To sum up, the world is currently facing many disruptions to business as usual. Although it makes for exciting times, it does mean every professional has to remain flexible and ready for change. “There is a need for accountants to adapt to such dynamic environments. It is imperative to not only be technically sound but also deepen your overall business understanding so that you are not redundant in the face of new technology, machines and AI,” Fouad cautions. And this is where a programme like CIMA’s Corporate Business Leaders Challenge can transform any management accountant into a dynamic business partner crucial to any sector of the global economy.