Nicholas has played a key role in developing the new Altron 2.0 business strategy and is ready to take it even further.
Throughout his career, Nicholas Bofilatos has looked for the roles where he could add value to the organisations he worked for. So after working in the audit space for almost nine years, he decided to enter the private sector, joining Ctrack as its finance director in July 2014 and working his way up the group’s CFO until September 2019.
“Being an FD or CFO has been a lot more fulfilling personally than when I was in external audit,” Nicholas says. “With auditing, you work hard towards a signed audit opinion and move on to the next without seeing the value all your effort has brought to such an organisation. But as a CFO, there is a sense of personal fulfilment and achievement as you can measure and see the impact of key strategic decisions in moving an organisation forward.”
He explains that “seeing the impact you can make by driving the right culture, making the right decisions, and aiding operations is very rewarding”.
When Cedric Miller approached Nicholas to join Altron as a finance consultant in October 2019, this was exactly the goal they both had in mind for him as he was tasked with supporting and stabilising the finance function within one of Altron’s subsidiaries.
Having been a CFO before, Nicholas recognised the importance of understanding how a business operates and how this performance translates into the financial results. "Instilling strong leaders into the business, implementing mitigating controls, embedding firm governance principles and building a culture of openness, honesty and integrity were key to stabilise and return the business to profitability,” he says.
Within four months of being introduced to the Altron group and completing several initiatives in aiding the turnaround of the Altron subsidiary, Cedric offered Nicholas the role of executive of finance change management. The role aimed to help him transform the finance space into a digitised, automated structure that branched across the entire group’s finance as part of group chief executive Mteto Nyati's One Altron strategy. “The One Altron strategy was about enhancing collaboration across our various operations, and positioning the group as a united front to our customers. This has enabled us to offer end-to-end solutions and services as we bring together the full breadth of our technology and professional expertise across our group, to address a customer’s challenge,” Nicholas says.
Several projects were carried out to standardise processes, policies and systems to create uniform and consistent reporting tools which not only reported on the historical information required by “traditional accounting”, but also focused on forecasting and scenario planning to assist operations in understanding the financial impact of certain strategic decisions being investigated.
“At the same time, we were trying to unlock further value for our shareholders over and above the value return that the One Altron strategy has achieved since implementation,” he adds, explaining that he became entrenched in the demerger and separate listing on the London Stock Exchange of Altron’s Bytes UK group, which unlocked 152 percent in value for every one share held over the financial year. “This was unprecedented. You don’t see organisations that can drive returns of such a high magnitude in such a short space of time.”
Now, with the unbundling complete and Altron having reached its financial goal of doubling EBITDA in five years through the One Altron strategy, Nicholas has been appointed as the company’s group CFO to help it drive the next step in its growth phase: Altron 2.0.
“When I joined Altron in 2019, I noticed that if you go back to its inception in 1965, the organisation has constantly been evolving from being predominantly a manufacturing concern. It has continued to transform and adapt to remain relevant, with its core focus being a highly differentiated ICT leader,” Nicholas says.
Nicholas’s appointment as Altron’s new group CFO was announced in July 2021 after he served as the group’s acting CFO following the resignation of Cedric Miller.
“One of the personal goals that I had set for myself was to become a CFO of a listed company before the age of 40,” Nicholas explains. “Achieving that was very special to me. On the day of my appointment, I spent a significant amount of time reflecting on my journey – on the highs and lows, the support of my family that helped me remain focused and gave me the strength to push through challenging times, and the several mentors I have been fortunate to have during my career. These have all had a hand in moulding the professional I am today.”
He adds that he is excited for what lies ahead, as he thinks there is a lot of value that can still be unlocked in the business. “There’s always space for improvement in any organisation, however effective it is.”
Nicholas is, however, sad to be saying goodbye to Cedric, who he considers a mentor. “Cedric and I had a very good working relationship. He gave me great guidance and great opportunities,” Nicholas says. “I was fortunate to be involved in everything that was on his plate, which has made the transition and stepping into the CFO role a lot easier, as there was very little that I hadn't given input in or helped drive. He had a vision that I share, and it’s something that I hope to take forward and even improve on.”
Nicholas says that, in his new role, there are a few key metrics that he believes Altron needs to maintain and improve on, which are aligned to its new Altron 2.0 strategy. “As we progress to become a very specialised ICT player within the industry, we believe the organisation should be a capital light business.”
The unbundling of Bytes UK has been the first step towards this goal of creating shareholder value, and he says that Altron's leadership has already identified other businesses within the group which have been designated as held for sale. “Through these disposals, we will further unlock the associated working capital to move towards becoming the capital light business we envision.”
He adds that part of this strategy is to keep the right level of debt in the business. “We’ve identified a net debt to EBITDA ratio of less than one, and to maintain that is also one of our objectives going forward.”
The organisation has also set out a target of tripling its operating income by 2025. “So we’ve got very key targets to meet, and the exciting part is that there’s a lot that needs to happen in order to get there,” Nicholas says. “To be part of that story and achieve our objective of returning shareholder value will be fulfilling.”