Cutting his teeth with an American banking giant in the heady days of the 1980s put Ramy Aziz in good stead to hold the financial reins at the Australian Securities Exchange.
Why the ASX?
I sort of inherited the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) when the Sydney Futures Exchange (SFE) merged with it in 2006. I came across with SFE and went on to become CFO. We brought in new leadership and a different structure and focus. It became a lot more business-focused – a support to the business as opposed to just having a reporting function.
I’ve been CFO since 2010, overseeing finance, corporate strategy, investor relations and facilities functions – the physical facilities, the premises and admin, the related functions that make the place tick. There are about 35 people in these areas. Our revenue is about A$700 million, our profit after tax is about A$400 million and we spend about A$50 million a year on capital expenditure.
Life before the ASX
I was previously with Chase Manhattan in the 1980s – before it became JPMorgan Chase – in various roles, banking and financial services. It was a high-performance environment and I learned a lot. After Chase, I had a stint in a financial services provider company [Austrapay Ltd]. Chase sold 50 per cent of one of its divisions and I went across and ran it as their CFO for a number of years before joining SFE.
Thinking like a CFO: Mind-set and financial priorities – learn basic tips to get you thinking like a CFO and importance of having this perspective.
Beyond the numbers
I’m fine with numbers, but more and more I find that the CFO role is about communicating and dealing with complex issues – and numbers are a much smaller part of the role now. It’s about getting your point across, negotiating, knowing what’s important – all those commercial decisions.
Being a listed company requires a lot more transparency. Particularly with the ASX, everything we do has to stack up – best practice and best governance. There is an extra focus because of who we are. It’s important to remember in this role that you’re never really out of the spotlight and you don’t want to be there for the wrong reasons. There is no room for error.
I learned fairly early in my career that whether you’re leading or managing a team, you’ve got to surround yourself with good people. You can’t know everything or do everything, so the more good people you have, the easier your job is going to be. You also have to make use of external resources and specialists, and build relationships you can call on if you need to.
Advice for others
Work hard, believe in yourself and take risks sometimes with your career. If you see something you really want, go for it. So persevere, back yourself and if you work hard, you’ll probably find you can do it well.