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Behind the money

Sana Khater, CFO, Waha Capital, is one of the most influential women in business – and she has the awards to prove it. With over 20 years of experience in the finance and banking sectors, Khater discusses how collaboration between departments is key for the modern CFO.CXO

Khater was recently named on of Forbes most powerful Arab women, as well as ICAEW’s CFO of the year – recognition that she says is a privilege and honour to receive. “For me, it is the culmination of a rich and very rewarding career in finance in general and particularly at Waha Capital,” she says of the awards. “I think the existence of these awards reflects the changing role of the CFO into a strategic partner – a key player in the success of a business.” It is also, she says, a testament to the leading role that professional women are playing in the UAE and the Arab business world.

Certainly, Khater has seen the role of the CFO evolve in the course of her career. With IT as the backbone of many companies, she sees collaboration between finance and IT as a necessity. “Given ever changing and volatile market conditions, developing regulatory conditions, more complex and diverse businesses, the role of the CFO has evolved from stewardship of the business to partnership,” she explains. In her view, the modern CFO is entrusted with formulating business strategy, working closely with business leaders to execute that strategy, communicating financial performance and strategy clearly and effectively to stakeholders. C- Suite collaboration is key now, according to Khater, and the finance team is an integral part of this mindset.

In practice, says Khater, the finance team at Waha collaborates closely with the business divisions to ensure alignment of objectives and efficiency of execution. The finance team is embedded in the business areas to drive initiatives, provide support and financial advice to the business leaders, thereby increasing understanding of the underlying businesses and streamlining processes.   This included a comprehensive upgrade to the company’s IT infrastructure. “Additionally,” she says, “we have enhanced our investor relations activities over the last few years to provide more disclosures and transparency of our strategic goals, business model and activities to investors; we introduced an investor relations section on our website and have participated in several investor conferences that present this transparency.”

The role of CFO remains key. “As a member of the senior management team, I participate in setting the strategic direction of Waha Capital. Furthermore, my role is key to providing financial oversight in terms of capital structure, governance, and financial planning,” explains Khater.

Over the past few years, the firm’s strategy has encompassed an increased focus on asset allocation, risk management and funding. “This entailed identifying the sector and geography of our investment universe,” says Khater, “balancing and diversifying our portfolio, and obtaining the appropriate funding for new investments and acquisitions while maintaining appropriate leverage throughout.”

Prior to joining Waha Capital, Khater worked extensively in the banking sector – a history upon which she still draws. “My experience in the banking industry has been quite valuable, as building and nurturing banking relationships is key to my role as CFOw.”

Though it has been a notably successful year for Khater as a professional, it is the accomplishments of the company on which she focuses. “It has been an exceptional year for Waha Capital. Our record performance reflects a steadfast commitment by our board and senior management to provide shareholder value,” says Khater. “Our share price has appreciated significantly over the last 24 months, reflecting investors’ confidence in our execution capability.” Khater firmly believes that’s Waha Captial’s success remains the company’s human capital and its ability to convert this capital to wealth creation for its shareholders.

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