REAL TALK WITH KASH AHMAD
Kash Ahmad, Managing Director and President of BFS Canada. Kash Ahmad joined Bibby Financial Services (BFS) in December 2017 having spent more than 20 years at Barclays and a further three at Lloyds. In January 2019, Kash took on the role of Managing Director of BFS Canada. He has extensive experience in product-based finance and a proven track record of success, but his path to working as part of BFS was somewhat different from the usual story of progression.
You had initially done your studies in Engineering but made a switch to banking because you were opting for a more client relationship-based career. Would you say that having human contact is crucial when it comes to your career?
I realized that it is all about people for me. As a chemical engineer, I spent most of my time alone in plants working on improving plant efficiency. It was a job that I enjoyed but I quickly found that I was drawn to working with people, building relationships and cultivating those connections around a service that I’m passionate about. It was the perfect move as the thing that drives my passion for the job is largely the people I work with – it’s all about the people!
Because you’ve made it clear that having a strong relationship with people is important to you, what do you believe are the benefits of a good relationship between a company and its clients?
Factoring with Bibby Financial Services (BFS) is not just a service, it’s a partnership. It goes without saying that if you invest time and effort to get to know your clients, listen to their needs and serve them to the best of your abilities, you are well on the way to building a strong relationship. Transparency, trust, and communication make this possible – it is genuinely a relationship. Offering exceptional service is part of our DNA – we talk about the BFS family and we take great pride in our customer-centric culture.
Throughout your career, you traveled a lot to places such as Dubai and Pakistan. What did you learn through this experience that has helped you in your professional life?
Traveling to new corners of the globe stretches your mind, exposes you to new life learnings and allows you to see things differently. You gain a new perspective from living and witnessing things outside of your day-to-day norm. This brings a renewed vision to the work you do.
Each country has a different commercial environment, a unique culture, and local traditions that affect how business is done. There are powerful advantages in taking the most successful aspects of these varied environments and combining what works best to deliver value to clients in other locations. For example, I’ve already identified aspects of the Canadian business model that can be applied to our UK business.
What sets BFS apart from other financial services companies?
Bibby Financial Services differentiates itself as a funding alternative that works closely with SMEs to tailor fast and flexible short-term financing to their unique working capital needs. We are recognized for our customer service and responsiveness and for our agility and exemplary corporate citizenship. We deliver a high level of service to a specific sector of business – SMEs – instead of trying to be everything to everyone where, ultimately, service suffers.
What are some of the practices you’re putting in place to help SME owners grow their business successfully?
Our services are always structured for a particular client’s business. SMEs need funding but also want a reliable partner to make sure their business runs efficiently. One with SME experience, a secure foundation, and fast, friendly customer service so they have security in knowing that they can receive funding quickly, on short notice, no matter what country they do business in.
Offering tailored services instead of a one-size-fits-all-approach to each customer’s funding requirements, we maximize the potential for businesses to grow and prosper. Every funding facility that BFS delivers is bespoke to that SME.
In your opinion, what are some of the best opportunities that SME owners should jump on to grow their business?
Recent national statistics show that Canadian SMEs make up 98% of businesses and 70% of employment but only 4% of these companies export. This is in contrast to the EU, which is at 25%. The same data showed that there are tens of thousands of Canadian companies that could be exporters but are not currently. For SMEs in North America – with the right access to knowledge and education – exporting may be a viable option.
What is the most common mistake that entrepreneurs make when it comes to their business and how can BFS help them avoid these mistakes?
Decision-makers at SMEs may not be aware of the alternative funding options available to them. The banks tend to dominate the market with an offering of products that are geared more toward large businesses. We encourage SMEs to look at funders and funding options that are tailored to their own unique needs.
You have a strong sense of personal commitment when it comes to recruiting the next generation of employees at BFS. What are some of the qualities you look for when it comes to your search for candidates?
Qualities that we look for in candidates include a positive mindset and emotional intelligence, a growth outlook, great interpersonal skills and the ability to add value across the 3 Cs – Colleagues, Clients, and Contribution. The ideal candidate for BFS gets real pleasure in helping SMEs grow and is looking for a long term career with our company. BFS is less corporate than similar companies; we take pride in a close relationship with clients and care about our internal culture.
What are some of the improvements that you’re hoping to put in place or have already put in place that can improve the client experience?
Automation. To be clear, this is not about reducing staff – it’s about employing better technology so colleagues can spend more time with their clients. Automation helps us achieve this by improving internal processes and workflows.
On a final note, you’ve mentioned that you have a passion for golf because it’s the only sport that allows you to switch off. What is it about the sport that makes you relax and unwind?
The social side of the game, walking a few miles and enjoying the company of a group of friends. That’s a big part of relaxation for me. When I’m focusing down on the ball it allows me to clear my mind for a few hours and switch off. I have reams of notes that I have jotted on the back of scorecards during my time on the course as things come to me!