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Robert Scott - Career Review:
My career has moved beyond traditional CFO responsibilities to include operational roles in a range of industries across many international locations. In every company there was a business to be learned; challenges to be met and objectives to be set and achieved.
The three main themes that come through in my career are flexibility, problem resolution and initiative.
I have worked in Europe, North America, the Far East and the Middle East. The last twenty years have been spent working outside the UK and I now have dual Canadian and British nationality as well as permanent residence in Hong Kong.
My career moves have been the result of senior managers or investors identifying me as someone who can identify what needs to be done; who can take action and who can lead change.
As early as 1984 as a newly qualified chartered accountant I was sent to the firm’s Sydney office to assist with the year end audit of News Corporation. I was one of the two first ever secondees from London to one of the Australian offices.
In Reuters after a short period in operational internal audit I moved to a small group responsible for identifying, evaluating and negotiating potential acquisitions.
In 1988 I moved to the newly acquired IP Sharp Associates as the first Reuters employee moved into the new 800 person subsidiary to manage its integration into Reuters.
In 1991 I moved to Reuters Canada in Toronto – after the previous Managing Director and CFO of Reuters Canada had left the company following a fraud investigation.
In 1994 I was asked to be in Hong Kong in a week as Acting Finance Director of Reuters in Asia. A position that I permanently occupied from early 1995. The previous finance director had left without notice; there was no handover and no planned succession. But the year end budget and plan and audit (2,400 people; US$800 million in revenues and operations in 21 countries) needed to be managed immediately.
By November 1999 I was head of Reuterspace in Asia – a new business and internet division of the company. I left Reuters on the appointment of a new Chief Executive and the closure of Reuterspace. I was fortunate to have been able to work in that organisation through over fifteen years of exhilarating growth.
In 2002 I joined Asia Pacific Resources Ltd. after Hong Kong based private equity investor, Olympus Capital, had taken a controlling interest in the publicly listed (Toronto Stock Exchange) company.
The short term responsibility was to close down their Vancouver office; complete the year end audit and public filings and recruit a new finance team in Bangkok.
What was a six month project became three years of employment as we raised new money in May 2004, pursued a Thai mining license and eventually negotiated an offer to the shareholders from Thai developer, Italian-Thai development.
In 2007 Abraaj Capital introduced me to GEMS Education where they were completing a minority investment in the Dubai based K-12 education business. A new CFO was required. It then took three months after joining GEMS to renegotiate terms of the Abraaj minority investment in order to ensure an agreement that was satisfactory to both shareholders. The Abraaj investment was followed by raising a syndicated loan of US$100 million.
In every position I have held I have aimed from the first day to understand the business that I am responsible for. To meet customers; to work as closely as possible with front line management; to close gaps that might exist between corporate and front line functions.
After I left GEMS I received a card from the Principal of The Wellington School who wrote “I have found the change in approach you brought to finance, refreshing, forward thinking and human – everything the organisation needed….you are a truly human executive with great qualities that human organizations will value.”
That note summed up all that I want to achieve wherever I work; the respect of colleagues for making change happen; even if that change is difficult.
Reuters placed the strongest emphasis on the values of independence; integrity and freedom from bias. Those values underpinned not just the editorial operations but were encouraged across the company.
Integrity, decency and fairness are values that drive me each and every day.