Steve Fray FCCA, CFO of Goldmoney, was always destined for a top finance job. But as a new immigrant to Canada, he knew that the journey to CFO would not be easy. He has succeeded in his adopted home, he says, through hard work, perseverance and a life of continuous learning.
‘It’s my belief that as an immigrant to any country, one has to work twice as hard to achieve your goals,’ Fray says.
‘Sometimes there will be low points, sometimes there will be great sacrifices that have to be made, but I believe there can be a clear trajectory to the office of the CFO if you are willing to do the preparatory work needed.’
Fray’s career journey began in his home country of Jamaica. Armed with a talent for accounting and a family tradition of entering the profession, he joined KPMG as a junior accountant.
‘I have two older brothers, Andrew and Garfield, who are both accountants, and one is a fellow of ACCA, which was a big influence on my career choice,’ he says.
‘I was also able to identify at a very early age that I had a passion for accounting. I was a leading student within the classroom for accounting and business, so I naturally gravitated towards it.’
As part of the professional development programme at KPMG Jamaica, Fray was encouraged to pursue the ACCA Qualification, which, he says, was the logical credential for what he wanted to accomplish.
‘With Jamaica being a former British colony, ACCA was the most popular accounting designation offered in terms of what the marketplace required,’ he says. ‘It also provided the widest breadth of exposure to the skills needed to translate between industries.’
It was during Fray’s time at KPMG that he was given some sage advice that guided his path. ‘John Waite, my manager at the time, had a unique way of looking at a career path in accounting,’ he recalls. ‘He said, “Steve, you must ensure you maintain a blend of academics and progressive work experience”, and he would raise his two hands in the air – one to represent professional development and the other professional experience.
‘What I’ve tried to do, and continue to do in my career, is to blend academics with knowledge gained through the widest possible practical experience.’
‘You’re actually the communicator of financial performance – the story of the business – and you need to be able to deliver the overall tone at the top’
During his 11 years working in Jamaica, Fray experienced both the audit and corporate financial management sides of the accounting profession, all the while pursuing a longer-term strategy of emigrating to Canada.
As to why he chose the North American country, he explains there were several important considerations. ‘It was a combination of factors, but my first goal was to be closer to family that had already migrated there,’ he says.
‘Second, Canada presented a more seamless path to getting settled as an accounting professional. Toronto specifically is a hotbed of diversity and internationalism, and it provided opportunities for foreign-trained professionals – not just accountants – to come and experience something different.
‘But it also provided opportunity to grow one’s career. There are far more readily accessible first-world opportunities in Canada compared to other jurisdictions.’
From Bermuda to Canada
His international journey to Canada began with an opportunity in Bermuda, for which Fray made the leap into public sector accounting as the senior accounting manager in the accountant general’s department.
‘I saw that the opportunity in Bermuda would help me to gain and develop my international experience so that when I arrived in Canada I would be able to meet with recruiters and prospective employers and say, “Listen, I’ve worked in two different jurisdictions, and I believe I can integrate into your team and your work environment seamlessly“,’ he says.
Fray landed his first job in Canada in 2011, as a senior accountant and project controller at H&K Canada, a key supplier to McDonald’s Restaurants that delivers complete kitchen packages to new or existing restaurant sites. Fast forward nine years, and he now has the title of CFO at Goldmoney, a Toronto Stock Exchange-listed gold-based savings and payments network with subsidiaries in Jersey (Channel Isalnds), New York, London, the British Virgin Islands and Hong Kong.
In addition to overseeing operations of the global accounting function, Fray has performed three equity-raising rounds, manages global cashflow, ensures legal entity compliance for 20 legal entities, and is responsible for Canadian Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.
Fray also is also responsible for Goldmoney’s merger and acquisition activities. ‘It’s that activity within finance that’s most exciting in my opinion,’ he says. ‘It involves so many different players, coordinating with lawyers, investment companies and target teams, and the process involved with the regulator is quite extensive.’
Communication is key
As to what young professionals need to understand about achieving the role of CFO, especially when they are coming from another jurisdiction, Fray says that in addition to having the technical expertise to do the job, communication is key.
‘You’re actually the communicator of financial performance – the story of the business – and you need to be able to deliver the overall tone at the top. The CFO is an extension of the CEO in terms of delivering the message of the future financial health of the business and its growth trajectory.’
2018 to date
Group CFO, Goldmoney, Toronto, Canada
Managing director and board member, Goldmoney UK
FD, later senior vice president finance and CFO, Goldmoney, Canada
CFO, audit committee and board member, Mene Inc, Canada, a Goldmoney Inc associated company
Corporate controller, later FD and vice president, finance, Guestlogix, Toronto
Senior accountant and project controller, H&K Canada
Senior accounting manager, accountant general’s department, Bermuda
Senior financial auditor and assistant audit manager, KPMG, Jamaica
Audit manager, James Allen & Company (chartered accountants), Kingston, Jamaica
Controller, INC, Kingston, Jamaica
Staff auditor, KPMG, Kingston, Jamaica
‘Our responsibility is to mentor the next generation of CFOs, successful senior planners and executives’
At the same time, having the support of more experienced colleagues is also vital, Fray says, acknowledging the importance of having had a mentor to lead him through some unknown territory.
‘I was very fortunate to have a mentor, Patrick Leung, CFO for Guestlogix, the airline retail technology provider, who would help me work through some of the acquisitions we were undertaking,’ he recalls. ‘It was someone to rely on who could walk me through some of the more complicated stuff instead of me just reading about the theory or having an adviser walk me through it.’
Now that he is a CFO, mentoring others is, he believes, a crucial part of his role. ‘Our responsibility as CFOs is to mentor the next generation of CFOs, successful senior planners and executives,’ he says.
‘The best way to do it is to help your team members build on their skills, offer them the opportunities for growth, and provide guidance and recommendations around academic training and professional development.’
‘I have met a lot of brilliant people in my career. They know their numbers, their principles and their accounting standards, but at the end of the day it’s the ability to communicate a message to your audience that will separate you from the rest of the pack.’
‘The more diverse exposure you have, the more value you can add to your organisation, and the more likely you will be to achieve your goals as a senior financial executive. Embrace technology. It provides you with a more rounded résumé and will make you a more attractive candidate in the job market.’
‘The core strengths finance professionals can bring to their roles are hard work, knowledge and critical thinking. Those are the attributes that will always work best in situations that are non-routine, complicated or new.’
‘Seek out a mentor, someone who is already in the position or who has spent time as a CFO, to guide you through the phase of moving from a controller, director or VP finance positions. At the same time, always be building your support network. You cannot know everything. What you need to have is the ability to consult a friend, colleague or adviser.’
‘Pursue an MBA. Apart from the ACCA Qualification, it’s one of the best investments I have made in my career. You should also build a strong resource library of materials that you can refer to; you can’t remember or know everything, but you must have the tools at your disposal.’