CFO Moses Aman explains the pivotal distinction between CFO and manager

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Moses Aman, CFO at Lafarge Hima Cement, wanted to be a pilot while in high school, but instead found his career lift-off after enrolling for a major in Accounting at university.

Moses Aman, CFO at Lafarge Hima Cement, wanted to be a pilot while in high school, but instead found his career lift-off after enrolling for a major in Accounting at university.

"I have never met anyone who grew up wanting to be an accountant, it’s not something that usually captures a child’s interest early on in life. I have three children and when I try to explain to them what I do, they would prefer the more 'visible' jobs…like a policeman, doctor etc. At one point even a truck driver made it to my son's list!’ he said.

When Moses completed high school education in 2003, he was only aware of one flying school in Uganda. And from experiences of others, he was discouraged from joining it and the alternatives outside the country were far too expensive to be considered.

He settled for a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with an Accounting major at Makerere University as a second option and never looked back.

When he graduated in 2007, he was fortunate to land a job at PwC in Kampala as an audit associate.

"The whole professional atmosphere was a shock to the system," he recalled. "The work ethic and the professionalism were something I was not used to. In addition, I was fresh out of university, so it felt like I had been thrown into the proverbial lion’s den to engage with professionals who had been working for decades. Sometimes my analyses showed that their numbers didn’t add up and I had to learn to have the confidence to challenge them."

At PwC, Moses was exposed to all industries from FMCG to non-profit entities to financial services, both in Uganda and abroad in US and UK. This was essential experience for him when he joined Hima Cement, then a subsidiary of the Lafarge Group (now Holcim Group), in 2015.

He joined the internal controls department which gave him exposure to various processes including procurement. When the position of country head of Procurement fell vacant, he was a leading candidate for appointment because the CEO found him to be technically capable and ethically sound.

CFO in-tray
Moses was promoted to CFO in January 2020 bringing him to the forefront of leadership of the cement company. He is enjoying the position because of his love for manufacturing.

The company has three plants in Uganda which gives them a total annual cement production capacity of about 2 million tonnes i.e., Hima integrated plant in Kasese, Tororo Grinding Station in Tororo and Namanve Blending Station in Mukono.

Reflecting on the evolution of the industry, Moses stated, "When I joined the company in 2015, we were just two players in the industry. Now, we're amidst five cement manufacturers, reshaping the competitive landscape. Nonetheless, we've retained a significant market share and a strong position. With the government's expansive infrastructure plans and a burgeoning youthful population, we anticipate greater prospects ahead."

As CFO, compliance is one of the things that Moses takes very seriously. Generally, compliance is viewed as the company’s license to do business and no compromises are made in this area, as one of the key aspects is tax compliance. As a corporate entity, Hima has an obligation to account for and remit its taxes in full. There is, however, increasing pressure on the taxman to close budget funding gaps and, unfortunately, this may sometimes increase the administrative burden on those parties that exist within the relatively narrow tax base.

Sustainability and leadership
"As a leader, I also aspire to be more effective at driving positive change through championing sustainability in the organisation. Having a seat at the table puts me in a position to influence the progress we make on this topic. Being in the extractives industry with an elaborate manufacturing process, reducing our footprint on the environment is at the forefront of our strategy. From decarbonising our operations, and reducing water consumption, to enhancing the wellbeing of our host communities and the health and safety aspects of our operations," he said.

"To make progress in these areas, we have put in place some brilliant innovations that also consider the local factors prevailing in the country. We have set 2030 targets for our sustainability agenda and key among these is the reduction of carbon emissions, with a focus on replacing fossil fuels with alternative fuels such as biomass, and other industrial wastes. Today, we get 60 percent of our thermal energy from alternative fuels. And we continue to explore alternative ways to make a positive impact on our environment," he added.

Moses’ management style is centred around patience and empowerment. When a challenge is presented to him, he loves to pass it on to one of his team members to take a stab at it, which gives them an opportunity to discover something new about themselves and improve their skill set. It also adds that much needed "layer of review" when he eventually looks at it.

He attributes his quick rise to the C-suite to always showing up and being willing to learn.

“It would be unfair of me to ignore the element of the stars aligning. But even then, as the saying goes, ‘success is when opportunity meets preparation’. So, we all need to do our fair share of preparation,” he said.

Moses discerns a pivotal distinction between a CFO and a manager: the CFO's ability to convey a comprehensible narrative even to non-experts. "Frequently, my audience lacks technical proficiency — understandably so — but I require their alignment. The capacity to articulate intricate financial information and package it as a value proposition, facilitating decisions that bolster company strategy, is the hallmark of differentiation," he concluded.

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