From a financial perspective, Towhid Akbar, Finance Director of Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC), provides a detailed exploration of the financial strategies that underpin the company’s growth and stability, navigating an industry fraught with regulatory and market uncertainties.


1. Can you elaborate on the financial priorities you focus on to ensure the company’s growth and stability? Additionally, how do you approach risk management in an industry that often faces regulatory and market uncertainties?

In steering the financial landscape of CTC, our approach revolves around ensuring growth and stability through a dynamic and proactive strategy. Faced with challenges, the ability to adapt swiftly and decisively is crucial, with finance playing a pivotal role in effective financial planning, capital management, and risk mitigation in our ever-changing business environment. Setting clear financial priorities is key, directing investments strategically to not only foster growth but also ensure stability and sustainability of the operation to support all our stakeholders. Balancing topline growth with prudent cost management is integral to maintaining a resilient bottom line.

Given the inherent uncertainties in the commercial space, robust risk management is indispensable. The organization oversees a comprehensive risk management framework that embraces global best practices, with the Board of Directors at the apex. As a part of BAT Group, we leverage international harmonization to nurture a risk management culture that adeptly balances the challenges and opportunities inherent in our industry. Periodical risk assessments, drawing insights from employees through collaborative discussions, enable us to identify and mitigate uncertainties. Strategies are then formulated to address and curtail potential exposures based on the risk scores.

Businesses and operations are dynamic, the ever-evolving external environment poses new and unforeseen challenges and risks. While the road ahead may present various challenges, implementing well-rounded strategies positions us to navigate uncertainties and uphold sustainable growth. The amalgamation of effective financial planning, strategic investments, and meticulous risk management stands as the cornerstone of our financial priorities, contributing to the sustainable success of CTC.


2. What are some techniques that have proven particularly valuable in enhancing financial processes and responsible decision-making? And how do you leverage technological innovations in financial management within CTC?

I believe that fostering integrity and promoting a positive work environment is paramount for enhancing financial processes. It is based on upholding principles of integrity, trust, and transparency across the organization. To complement that, integrating proper policies into the system is also of utmost importance. At CTC, we’ve adapted global best practices and policies to cultivate a culture that prioritizes proper conduct, with a focus on the right decision-making. Communication is a linchpin; it encourages teams to act with integrity and accountability fostering trust. Leaders, I included, must be accountable for their actions, showcasing ownership and responsibility. Only then we can expect our teams to reflect similar actions and behaviour. A consistent embodiment of such principles, and reinforcement of them through policies, training, and transparent communication, helps leadership teams to facilitate a culture of integrity, that contributes to the organization’s financial processes and responsible decision-making.

Today’s dynamic world is heavily attributed to technology. Keeping pace with the ever-evolving environment, CTC as a dynamic organization also tries to remain ahead of the curve by adapting relevant innovations. Simplification and automation remain among the core priorities for the business. We have automated several repetitive tasks and have also introduced various automation tools that support generating real-time data and insights. Initiatives like generative AI and robotic process automation (RPA) are some initiatives that can immensely help the daily way of work and minimize risk and errors. Such projects have proved to be particularly valuable for the organization and have de-risked various elements.

However, it is crucial to remember that at the heart, people’s experiences and expertise in terms of decision-making cannot be fully replaced. These are key factors that are supported by all the innovations and technologies. Leadership, in particular, is and will remain to be quite important. Our objective should be to have visionary thinking and be adaptive to the ever-changing dynamics that help any organization stay ahead of the curve.

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