Michael Adewuyi ACCA, Lagos Nigeria native and Central West Africa Area CFO at Maersk, has a knack for creating award-winning, world-class finance teams.
As the finance lead responsible for ocean, logistics and services, depot and inland services in a number of countries across the region, he credits his ACCA Qualification with equipping him for a globetrotting career.
‘In any country I've worked in, my first focus is on the team. When you get the team fully engaged, the results start coming’
CFO, Maersk Central West Africa, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire
CFO, Maersk Southern West Africa, Douala, Cameroon
CFO, Maersk Angola Cluster, Luanda
CFO, Maersk Congo DRC, Kinshasa
Project analyst, then workstream leader, Maersk head office, Copenhagen, Denmark
Cost controller, then finance analyst, Maersk Nigeria, Lagos
Line accountant, Maersk Nigeria, Lago
‘Having the opportunity to work for such an international company in so many countries has been one of the great rewards of my long career with Maersk,’ says Adewuyi. ‘My ACCA designation gave me that kind of mobility.’
His ambition to have an international career was at the core of his decision to study for the ACCA Qualification. 'I wanted a qualification that could go with me wherever I went. I never regretted that choice because you can use that qualification as your stamp; people recognise you’re a true professional,’ he says.
After graduating from the University of Lagos with a degree in economics in 2004, like many accountants Adewuyi started his career with an audit firm. He soon realised that his interests were more tailored to a career in industry, and in 2006 joined Maersk Nigeria as a line accountant.
Maersk is the world’s largest ocean-going container shipping company, with operations in roughly 130 countries around the world. Adewuyi's evolving roles eventually led him to Maersk’s Danish headquarters where, among other things, he spent four years building new P&Ls for the global liner companies and aligning various finance systems to provide what he calls ‘one ledger, one truth’ reporting.
Back to Africa
In 2012, the year he received his ACCA designation, Adewuyi returned to Africa, taking on the role of CFO at the company’s operations in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
While the transition into the finance leader’s job was smooth, moving away from his European home required a considerable adjustment.
‘At first I was a little apprehensive about moving to Congo because of the civil war in the eastern region, but after spending time in Kinshasa and other areas in the west, I realised it was just like any other African country,’ he says. ‘This put me a lot more at ease and I was excited to take on the opportunity.’
Three years later, Adewuyi was on the move again, moving south to take on the job of CFO in Angola and completing an MBA in the same year. There, he won Maersk’s global finance ‘One Team’ award, presented to the team that delivered both outstanding financial results and team engagement.
During his Angolan tenure, Adewuyi would see team engagement grow from the lowest in the regional cluster (54%) to the highest (89%), while also achieving the best results worldwide.
‘By inspiring the team and giving them more responsibility, it basically switched the situation in Angola around,’ he explains. ‘For me, in any country I've worked in, my first focus is on the team. When you get the team fully engaged, the results start coming.’
Working across Central and Western Africa, Adewuyi has found that each country has a unique financial management issues, each move changing the focus of his role.
‘While every role involved the core responsibilities of the CFO, when I was in Congo, my duties were very heavy towards regulatory compliance – tax and legal and risk management,’ he says. ‘In Angola, it was all about treasury management, with cash and foreign exchange issues a priority.’
In his current role, which covers seven countries (Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Togo, Burkina-Faso and Niger) and 15 different entities, ‘we’re focused on growth, working capital management and receivables, and investing in expanding our land warehouses’.
In the past year, for Adewuyi, as for many other CFOs, the global pandemic has necessitated he keep a closer eye on cash management.
‘It’s been an even more delicate balance than usual because of Covid-19,’ he explains. ‘Customers were taking longer to pay, or they didn't have enough cash to pay, while our vendors wanted us to pay on time.
‘We needed to redouble our focus on working capital to make sure we could run the business and keep our customers, while making sure we were not taking too long to collect on overdue accounts.’
AP Moller–Maersk is a Danish integrated container logistics company operating mainly in ocean and inland freight transportation, supply chain management and port operation, as well as offering inland services, intercontinental rail and air freight facilities.
The company began life in 1904 as the Steamship Company Svendborg, founded by AP Moller and his father Peter Maersk Moller, who first went to sea as a cabin boy in 1850. With US$39.7bn in revenues, around 80,000 employees, and subsidiaries and offices in 130 countries, today Maersk is the largest shipping line and the 62nd largest company in the world.
All about empowerment
As to how his future career will roll out, Adewuyi notes that there’s always room for mobility. ‘Maersk is a company that offers a lot of opportunities and things can happen very fast,’ he says. While he might yet travel to other countries as a CFO, ‘the shipping industry is definitely home’. It’s a global business, he adds; ‘I’m very thankful to be exposed to many different cultures. I’m not sure a lot of other sectors can offer that.’
Wherever he might next land, as a CFO, one of the things that gives him the greatest satisfaction is being able to mentor the talent that will be left behind. ‘Developing talent has become a passion,’ he says. ‘One of the things that is always at the back of my mind, if I’m going to be leaving a country, is that I want local talent to replace me.’
In his last move, he explains, his replacement was a woman. This was, he concludes, ‘doubly rewarding in terms of contributing to diversity and inclusion at the management level’.
It's a sentiment that bodes well not just for the business, but for the sector and the continent as a whole.
‘Wherever you are, no matter what the role, make sure you always bring your best to work.’
‘When you’re doing a good job, make sure that those who matter know you’re doing a good job. Don’t let yourself be overlooked or undervalued.’
‘Don’t be afraid to reach out of your comfort zone.’
‘In building great teams, you first need to build trust. When you are open to people, they generally respond. You also need to give people opportunities and have an open mind.’