#Wegiveascot about learning from the Australian industry leaders challenging the status quo in their fields. For the fourth rendition in our “TwoScots Takes Two” blog series, we’re taking two minutes with the exceedingly intelligent and innovative Ajith Abeynaike, Chief Financial Officer of Hallmark Cards. Employing over 400 employees between Australia and New Zealand, Hallmark prints approximately one billion cards each year and flaunts the largest product range in the Australasian market, with almost 10,000 designs crafted annually!
Four months into his role, Ajith puts his success down to increasing the commercial understanding of every team member in the business, and educating them on the fact that every action taken impacts the financials of the business. With extensive experience and knowledge in retail and FMCG brands, he’s no stranger to the impact that transient trends, socioeconomic changes and wavering consumer attitudes have on his industry sector.
Admitting that greeting cards are not growing, but are rather “stagnant at best,” Ajith applies realism and rationale to his role. “All different modes of communication, such as electronics, are impacting the industry. People are emotionally connected – so how do we use this connection through greeting cards? If you look at such companies like Afterpay, they captured the target market of millennials and made it easy for this age group to buy things. There’s a huge similarity when tapping into the younger age group for cards as long as it’s kept easy and convenient,” he says.
When it comes to honing in on his skill-set, Ajith is an avid consumer of media and literature; he’s always burying his head in a new book or listening to the latest podcasts on the notion of leadership. He firmly believes that he has the propensity to add more value to the team in being an inspirational leader, rather than a technical expert, paying homage to the shift in workplace culture that focuses on individual personality types and how they interact in a work place setting and using initiatives like the Enneagram model.
Astutely forecasting trends, technological advancements and competitors, Ajith implores fellow leaders to always be on the look out for what’s around the corner, with the CFO and MD constantly planning for the future. With a thriving, multi-disciplined team at his fingertips, Ajith is able to use these insights to drive big change. Even in his previous roles at Bunnings for example, he led a coherent team to implement a major Enterprise Resource Planning implementation, which took 3 years at a cost of $150m investment.
With such immense success and accolades under his belt, we were keen to detangle exactly where, or rather who, Ajith’s inspiration comes from. He immediately names Nelson Mandela, earnestly admiring his vision and the unrelenting, enduring pursuit taken to bring that to fruition. “This can be said of successful organisations who have a clear vision and overcome many obstacles along the way, but ultimately never give up,” notes Ajith.
On the hotly-debated concept of ‘work-life balance’, Ajith aligns himself with other CFO’s we’ve had the pleasure to chat with recently. “It’s a misnomer,” he says, “as work is part of your life and it’s up to you how you incorporate it.” With many organisations operating 24/7, Ajith recalls many Christmas Days and Boxing Days spent working when he was in a leadership roles in the Petroleum and Retail industry, explaining that this is simply what is required of his role. In saying that, Ajith is simultaneously an innately family-oriented person, giving his loved ones undivided attention when they are together, with all electronics out of reach. “Recently, I’ve travelled a lot with work, limiting my time with my son. Thus, it’s always quality time,” he says. Something that is extremely important to him.
Ajith’s parting piece of advice for any newly qualified Accountant striving to pursue their career ambitions is to first understand the business that you work in. He predicts that the Accountant of the future is “a business partner, not a technical accountant.”
That concludes another TwoScots Takes Two instalment with the extraordinarily insightful Ajith Abeynaike. If you’re holding out for more inspiration from Australia’s industry Greats, watch this space!