Seymour Cohen is a man with, well, drive. As the CFO & COO of Drive.com.au, one of Australia’s most authoritative sources of information for consumers researching new cars, he has more than lived up to his name – having seen more of the world than most accounting professionals. He has lived and worked in London, Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and of course, Australia.
Seymour’s fascinating career started out ordinarily enough. After completing his accounting degree, he worked for HSBC in their prudential and tax departments. “After two and a half years, I decided banking wasn’t for me, so I decided to try my hand in the media sector,” says Seymour.
He joined ACP Magazines, a company for whom he would work for 14 years. “During my time with ACP, I worked in numerous management accounting roles, and also studied for my Master’s Degree.” Seymour says. “I had exposure to every one of the 62 titles owned by ACP at the time, as well as numerous contract publications and a large portfolio of cookbooks.”
This exposure gave Seymour an excellent understanding of other industries, and helped him develop a large network base.
After a number of years in the finance function, Seymour moved to the Book division, where he helped to grow the business as well as evaluate and implement new revenue streams, both domestically and internationally. It was at this point that he was offered a transfer to ACP Asia as the Commercial Director of the Singapore and Malaysian businesses.
Growing And Learning At An International Level
Not surprisingly, Seymour cites his extensive international experience as his biggest career achievement to date.
“It really helped me develop a degree of self-awareness, and an in-depth understanding of different cultures, as well as work-based practices,” he says. “Negotiation tactics in particular vary significantly across different markets.”
Naturally, working in so many diverse environments meant Seymour had to learn to get comfortable outside his comfort zone.
“The first time I really felt it was in Singapore,” he remembers. “My role was more commercial and operational rather than financial, meaning I not only had to adapt to the business and work place cultures in Asia, but also to areas of the business in which I was less confident. On top of that, I knew that the business was for sale, so there was the added pressure of knowing we could soon have a new owner who may no longer need my skills.”
Make An Impact Where You Are
Seymour is currently working at Drive.com.au, a start-up venture, half owned by three entrepreneurs and half by Fairfax Media.
“My challenge right now is to ensure all policies – such a public compliance, legal and accounting – are adhered to, while at the same time ensuring that the innovative spirit that characterises the business continues to grow,” he says.
Words of Wisdom
Seymour has gained invaluable insight from his local and international experiences, and his advice to up and coming financial and accounting talent is inspiring:
“Accounting and finance work can be very dry,” he admits, “so make sure you’re passionate about your job and the industry you’re in.”
He also advocates discretion when it comes to sharing information. “This is to protect your reputation,” he cautions. “Maintain your integrity at all times.”
His final piece of advice is to always grab the opportunities that come your way. “Make sure you learn something new every day,” he says. “Whether it’s personal, technical or professional, don’t be afraid of new challenges.”
Key Points To Remember
- International work opportunities develop and grow you as a person.
- Step out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid of new challenges, even outside of finance.
- Gain exposure and experience in as many different facets of your business as you can.