Interview with an FD: Adnan Zaheer

January 28th 2016 | Posted by phil scott

Adnan Zaheer FD, Arena Flowers and Smart PensionAdnan Zaheer
FD, Arena Flowers and Smart Pension


How did you get where you are today?

I’m fortunate to have acquired a diverse range of skills and experience, having worked in manufacturing, not-for-profit, retail, e-commerce and financial services.  I started my journey in commercial finance back in 2000 after completing my MBA and then joined Compass Group. I was quickly promoted to BBC Finance Manager as a result of stabilising the operational finance function and successfully achieving targets. I attained my ACCA qualification during that time.  I worked for FTSE100 and medium size companies with a proven success and delivery record. After spending a few years within the FTSE100, I decided to move to a medium sized company so that I could progress towards a financial leadership role. I joined Specialist Schools and Academies Trust at a time of exponential growth, from £25m turnover to £100m. I was dedicated towards assisting in implementing process and procedures and it was my sheer hard work and willingness to take challenges that earned me a promotion twice in this period.  Unfortunately, as a result of a change in government policies, the Government contracts dried out and I decided to move back to the commercial world and joined the Arena Group in 2011. I was appointed as a Finance Director and assisted the company back into profit, and helped grow it into one of the top three UK flowers companies by courier.  I am shortlisted as UK FD of the Year for Growing Businesses at the Business Finance Awards 2016.

What does your role entail?

I am currently heading the finance operation and strategy of two diverse but fast growing and challenging businesses. Arena Flowers is a leading online flowers business, offering the highest quality flowers from around the world whereas Smart Pension provides one of the best and free pension auto enrolment solutions to businesses.  I am also on the advisory board of a startup, Feast Express, which is on the journey to become a leading restaurant online table booking and takeaway ordering system and marketing service.

What makes a great FD?

A finance director should be able to change between strategic and operational finance hats when required.  It’s important to build a strong and motivated team and give a clear direction to colleagues, equipping them with the correct training and then supporting them.  Finance directors not only have to ensure compliance with financial regulations but also have to operate an efficient and effective finance organisation by providing a variety of services to the business such as financial planning, analysis, tax and many other financial operations.  The finance director also has to act as a catalyst by driving business improvement initiatives such as improved enterprise cost reduction, procurement, pricing execution, and other process improvements and innovations that add value to the company

What do you enjoy outside of work?

I unwind by trying to keep fit outside of work. I cycle to work very often, play golf and attend the gym three times a week. I attend professional events to broaden my networking horizon and keep me mentally stimulated.

Who or what inspires you?

Philanthropists who bring about a positive change in society inspire me.  My favourite quote is by Albert Pike: “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”