Sitting on a cabinet behind Takis Klerides FCCA in his office is a basketball. A former KPMG partner and finance minister of Cyprus, Klerides has had a passion for basketball since he was young man. He has played for the Cyprus national team and led his university squad when studying in the UK.
But the basketball in his office is emblematic of something that runs a little deeper in Klerides. Ask him about any aspect of his multifaceted career and he quickly credits others. Reflecting on his career since qualifying with ACCA back in 1974, Klerides goes back to a point he makes repeatedly throughout our interview: ‘Let me tell you, this was teamwork.’
Given just an hour to think it over, he took the finance minister job
Cyprus joins EU
Cyprus adopts euro
Annual GDP (2020), according to 2021 Cyprus Competitiveness Report
Born in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, in 1951, Klerides qualified with ACCA while studying for a business diploma in England. This came after telling his father, at age 13, that he wanted to be an accountant.
He worked in the UK for a few years before returning to Cyprus in 1977 and joining Metaxas Loizides Syrimis, the firm that would later become KPMG on the island. Four years later Klerides made partner.
Minister of finance
Public office then beckoned. In 1999 the president of Cyprus offered him the post of finance minister (cabinet ministers in Cyprus are unelected presidential appointments). Given just an hour to think it over, he took the job.
A turbulent time followed in which Klerides managed the government’s response to a stock market bubble and participated in negotiations for accession to the European Union (granted in 2004).
After his work in government, Klerides set up his own consultancy, CMK Eurofinance Consultants, and has since held a number of non-executive directorships as well as not-for-profit positions in the island. These included NEDs in the global construction company Laing O’Rourke Corporation, the metal trader group Metdist and the shipping-related companies Tufton Investment and Steamship P&I Insurance. He currently chairs the Logicom group of tech companies as well as being an independent director of the international Advent private equity fund in Cyprus.
He has also served as the chair of the Cyprus Basketball Federation and as an executive council member of the Cyprus Olympic Committee. He is currently vice chair of the Karaiskakion leukaemia research facility and treasurer for the Cyprus Cancer Research Institute.
The CV speaks of a finance expert ever willing to take on new challenges and apply his skills across multiple sectors.
‘Even at my age, when most people have retired, I’m open to challenges’
Chair, Logicom Group
Chair, Cyprus Economy and Competitiveness Council
Independent director, Advent private equity fund, Cyprus
Founder, CMK Eurofinance Consultants
Finance minister, Cyprus
Chair, Cyprus Basketball Federation
Partner, KPMG Metaxas Loizides Syrimis
But it all started when Klerides, one of six children, was working in his father’s supermarket in his early teens. The early contact with business convinced him the way forward lay with accountancy, a decision supported by his older brothers, Panikos, then studying law, and Harry, who would become an accountant with CIMA. Klerides’ only sister, Spyroula, is also an ACCA.
However, Klerides credits his father too. In conservative Cyprus it was unusual for a parent to fully back the decisions of such a young child. ‘God bless him,’ says Klerides. ‘I think he was a very democratic person and trusted me.’
Klerides has resisted settling into the role of life-long accountant, though. In a recent speech he warned new ACCA graduates: ‘Don’t be afraid to move to new pastures.’
It’s advice from the heart. ‘Even at my age,’ he says, ‘when most people have retired, I’m open to challenges.’ Not-for-profits are part of that ever-growing list of new pastures. ‘I want to give something back to my country, to humanity, after they have given me the opportunities in my career.’ His roles bring enormous job satisfaction. ‘It’s immeasurable.’
But it is his time as finance minister that stands out. While the stock market bubble of 1999 was the cause of sleepless nights, it was a short-lived crisis, and the bigger challenge was EU accession.
‘If you were to ask me, “What was your major achievement during your four years at the ministry?”, I would say it was my work towards harmonisation of Cyprus tax and competition law so that we could be accepted in the European community. That was a very difficult task.’
But even here Klerides is quick to offload credit. He gathered a team of local and international experts around him to get the work done, including an Austrian professor of tax law, Wolfgang Gassner (now passed away). ‘He was a fantastic person,’ says Klerides.
Negotiations had to be undertaken in the face of doubters, especially as it required lowering tax rates while reducing Cyprus’s fiscal deficit. Some finance ministers, Klerides says, quipped he would ‘bankrupt’ the country. ‘They were joking about the measures we were taking. But obviously, two, three years later, what everybody could see was that it was a big success.’
Klerides still retains a role in public life chairing the Cyprus Council of Economy and Competitiveness, an independent body set up on EU advice to offer guidance on a strategic future for the country. A recent report on Cyprus’s Vision 2035 strategy offered the government 242 recommendations on key areas of the economy to be supported including digitalisation, education, healthcare and agritech.
Klerides considers the report a major achievement, with some of its advice already included in the government’s programme. ‘Our recommendations are there to be followed and we are very hopeful they will be followed.’ He says the guidance may need some ‘fine tuning’, after the invasion of Ukraine.
Undoubtedly, the Russia-Ukraine war has cast a shadow over economic prospects. As a former statesman, Klerides is an optimist. Solutions will be found, he believes, although he has concerns. ‘I am worried that big countries, the rich countries, look after themselves and they tend to ignore the poorer countries… I’m talking about African and Asian countries – they need the support of the big guys.
‘Let’s not forget these countries have a lot to offer and we have to look after them because, at some stage, these countries, not perhaps during our lifetimes, will be looking after other countries. So it’s essential that we are more humane to our fellow citizens.’
In the meantime, Klerides is looking forward to Cyprus hosting group matches in the 2025 EuroBasket Championship. ‘We want to prove that a small country can do this,’ he says, thinking, as ever, of the team.
‘Plan ahead and set your targets,’ Takis Klerides recently told ACCA students in Cyprus. ‘Passing your exams is just one mountain in a series that makes up a career. Start preparing yourself to climb the next mountain and the next one: there is no limit.’
Klerides places much value on continuing professional development: ‘Without that, you will be nothing. If you forget this, the profession will desert you.’
He also sets great store in mentors. ‘Select a person who suits you. Talk to them, follow them, see what they have been doing and try to improve if you can.’