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Having grown up understanding what motivates owner-managers, Ahnaf Al Hussain is putting that knowledge to good work in the corporate finance team at Azets.

Ahnaf Al Hussain, assistant manager, corporate finance team at Azets

How did your career in finance begin?

My father owns a restaurant and is a property developer, so I was always exposed to business and finance. I understand owner-managed businesses – I could see the immense pride he took in his work. That said, he advised me to enter into a ‘noble profession’. I did a maths and finance degree at Royal Holloway, University of London, and wanted to join a firm offering professional qualifications – in particular, the ACA would help me further understand how businesses function.

I joined Moore Kingston Smith in September 2016. As a reputable firm in the top 20 nationally, it has a lot of owner-managed SME clients. 

I stayed in audit for four years and qualified as an ACA. I found that being able to embed the learning from the ACA in my day-to-day role was really beneficial. But the detail of accounting changes constantly and the learning curve doesn’t stop at the qualification. Just as critical is learning to develop and prioritise the workload and to balance family life with work. 

How did your move to corporate finance happen?

When COVID-19 hit I wanted to move back home to be closer to my parents, so moved to BDO Gatwick, a local office five minutes from them. I developed my knowledge through exposure to a different portfolio and experience of different systems and processes. 

However, I was definitely leaning more towards corporate finance. My dad had demonstrated how much owners love their businesses and I wanted to help clients with life-changing events rather than rules and regulations. I also wanted to be known as a dealmaker. 

I was offered a corporate finance role at Azets and saw it as a better fit for me, even though I’d be based further away, near Guildford. I joined as corporate finance executive in November 2021. Azets is a growing firm that has just taken on a second private equity investor, PAI, alongside Hg. We continue to grow while still focusing on our SME client base. The firm’s bread-and-butter deals are valued at up to £50m. In Guildford, our sweet spot tends to be around £2m-£20m. 

What is your role now?

I was promoted to assistant manager in corporate finance in July 2023. My focus is on valuations for various purposes, including EMI options, growth shares and probate. I’m moving more towards deal advisory M&A as I enjoy paying attention to detail and finding points to help a client with key decision-making. But we are not encouraged to be one-trick ponies at Azets, so I have done a lot of due diligence work as well. 

The team is growing and I have responsibility for a new hire and a university placement student. I’m also developing my social network: I do a lot of networking for the firm, including hosting events with lawyers and banks. We want to develop our corporate finance offering, and Azets Guildford aims to be the M&A advisory powerhouse in the South. 

What recent deals stand out?

In July we acted for insurance broker Basil E Fry in its significant sale mandate to Jensten. I project-managed this deal with the partner – we provided tax advice and assisted and streamlined the due diligence compilation. Notably, we gave input into the SPA and negotiated a target for working capital that saved the client around £234,000. We also put forward adjustments to the completion accounts, which bolstered our client’s cash position considerably. It was my largest deal and provided great insight on how to negotiate, and how to back up negotiations with detailed workings.

Also this year, we carried out financial due diligence for a high net worth individual wanting to buy a fostering company. At £750,000 that was a small deal, but in a niche area, which definitely contributed to my learning curve. Being able to adapt and take on multiple projects in multiple sectors is key. 

What are your plans?

I really enjoy my role at Azets, where I am learning and developing; I was recently shortlisted for Emerging Dealmaker of the Year. Manager is the next reachable rung and this will be dictated by client wins, so I want to continue developing, gaining exposure to significant transactions. 

I really want to win a client from one of my networking events. And perhaps I can win that award.

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