Getting a higher education wasn’t easy from a small village in Pakistan, says Taswer Khan FCCA. ‘It was three hours to university, three hours back, every day,’ he says. ‘But I was the lucky one from my village. I was the first one to graduate with a degree.’
While he was considered very highly educated within his small community, Khan would soon realise that his training journey had only begun. Now he holds an ACCA Qualification, an MSc and countless other certifications, and is currently an executive MBA candidate at Rotman School of Managmeent while his family lives in Toronto, Canada. All this while leading the financial management operations of cooling systems manufacturer Güntner Middle East.
Khan decided to pursue the ACCA Qualification after a conversation with a colleague while at his first accounting job. ‘One day, a co-worker asked me what my qualifications were, and I proudly said: “BComm [bachelor of commerce]”. He replied: “Only BComm?”
‘If you want to work globally, then you must go with a global qualification’
CFO, Günter Middle East, Dubai
Group financial controller, Aerovista, Dubai
Finance manager, Vallourec, Dubai
‘Prior to that, given I was the highest educated person in my village, I was under the impression that I was well-equipped to achieve my career aspirations. It was quite an eye- opener to realise I had only begun my accounting training, and I decided I must go for higher education.
‘I wanted to be a chartered accountant but I was discouraged that with a full time job, I wouldn’t be able to.’
Khan would first pursue a local qualification as a public finance accountant. ‘That did two things for me,’ he says. ‘First, it allowed me to test the waters in terms of the type of further education I would need and, second, it gave me confidence to continue.’
His next qualification would be ACCA’s, he explains, and came about as a result of a move to Dubai. ‘As soon as I came to Dubai, I realised that local qualifications weren’t going to help if you want to succeed internationally.
‘If you want to work globally, then you must go with a global qualification. With its focus on understanding financial management and strategy in addition to accounting principles, the ACCA was the obvious choice for me.’
Güntner is a privately owned company specialising in the manufacture of refrigeration heat exchanger products. With headquarters in Germany and Austria, it operates with 50 offices around the world and manufactures heat exchangers in six plants across Europe, Asia and the Americas.
As CFO of Güntner Middle East, Khan is responsible for all financial reporting, management and financial strategy for the regions and reports to the headquarters in Germany and Austria. He also covers the full spectrum of leadership for the team, business partnering and problem-solving, providing solutions to the business and playing a major role on the strategy side as well.
For Güntner, as for many companies, the past two years during the Covid-19 epidemic would change its financial management focus and strategy. ‘There was a lot of uncertainty and risk related to supply chain, higher shipping costs, sky-high metal prices and the non-availability of fans due to the shortage of chips for the fans,’ he explains.
‘This made our products expensive to produce, depleted our margins and increased lead times.’ When it came to managing risk, Khan focused on customer relationships, taking care of performance and working with strategic partners.
‘With a weaker euro, our fixed costs are increasing, along with increasing exchange loss’
‘ACCA members come with a strong background in accounting and finance, but in a global company they’ll also need to focus on regulatory complexity, legal taxation and compliance.’
‘We are living in a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, which makes it imperative to apply technological advances in financial management, such as Big Data analytics.’
‘To be a finance leader in any company you need to work on developing soft skills. Your communication, your relationship-building, your attitude and your behaviour are so important to succeed as an executive and as a person. These skills are transferable anywhere.’
‘You have to develop strategic thinking and keep abreast of technological advances.’
Today, he sees two positive trends that will help alleviate some of that risk. ‘One is that metal prices have started to improve, which will certainly reduce our costs and the end users will benefit from that,’ he notes. ‘The second is in regard to global logistics, which we expect to come back to more normal pre-Covid levels over the next year.’
Next year, however, his focus will shift again. ‘With our current focus on a potential global recession, we’re shifting more attention to budgeting, planning and investments,‘ he says, adding that, to achieve this, foreign exchange management and hedging will be key. ‘With a weaker euro, our fixed costs are increasing, along with increasing exchange loss.’
One of the challenges constantly facing the refrigeration sector, Khan explains, is the need for efficient, clean technology. Increasing regulatory requirements demand constant innovation and sustainability in refrigeration. ‘These are the long-term challenges the whole sector is facing, and I expect regulatory and sustainability reporting will be even more critical going forward,’ he says.
As to how Khan can exercise his responsibilities for the Middle East, he explains that he was a pioneer when it comes to working remotely. ‘I moved to work from home much earlier than the rest of the world,’ he recalls. ‘I rather believe that working from home has proved more productive and efficient.’
The most important thing during his journey to CFO, and journey to Canada, Khan says, has been the ability to be adapt, to learn and develop professionally. ‘I believe continuous learning and development, and being able to adapt to new environments, is the key to success anywhere,’ he says.
‘I went from a small village to a bigger city, and definitely had to learn many new things, including many soft skills. When I moved from Pakistan to the Middle East, I got the opportunity to meet different cultures and different nationalities. When I moved from Dubai to Canada, that again was another transition – but I felt that Canada was home.‘
As to what keeps Khan busy in Canada, aside from his day job? With four young children now growing up in southern Ontario, he says: ‘You know, hockey – the usual kid stuff.’
Founded in Munich, Germany as a refrigeration manufacturer
Number of manufacturing plants based in Europe, Asia and the Americas
Number of offices worldwide
Number of employees