One of the great benefits of growing roots in Europe has been the excellent staff members we have been able to integrate into the Atterbury Europe team, people who share the same passion for our industry, and whose intimate knowledge of the landscape has been invaluable to the core South African team. One of these gems is Cyprus-born and -bred Antonia Constantinou, the financial manager for both the Mall of Cyprus and the Mall of Engomi. We got to know her better over a cup of virtual coffee.
Who is Antonia when she is at home? Can you share some background details?
I was born and raised in Cyprus; an only child. I live in a village called Klirou, in the province of Nicosia, with my two dogs. My dad passed away three and a half years ago, and I see my mother, who lives in Larnaca, every weekend. After I finished school, I studied accounting and finance in Leicester, England, and earned a bachelor’s degree in 2006 from De Montford University. I returned to Cyprus that year and started work immediately. I have since also completed the ACCA exams and am now fully qualified with work experience also completed.
What motivated your career decision – is accounting a field you were always interested in?
I started accounting in high school and it was one of my favourite subjects. At the time, being an accountant was a popular profession, with job security and plenty of opportunities, so that was one of the main reasons I followed this path. I hadn’t necessarily expected to love the profession as much as I do; but from the start I’ve not been able to imagine myself doing anything else! I know I’m very lucky to be doing something that I love.
How long have you worked for the Mall of Cyprus, and give us a brief outline of your career before you joined?
I started at the Mall of Cyprus in 2010, in July it will be 10 years! My first job, when I came back from the UK, was at a local audit firm, but after 16 months I realised that I’d be happier in a more people-orientated place. I found an accounting job with one of the biggest groups of companies in Cyprus, the Shacolas Group, in 2008, and worked on one of the small “malls” the company owned. My responsibilities grew to working for the Mall of Engomi and eventually the Mall of Cyprus, and I’ve been with Atterbury Europe since 2015 when they took over the ownership of both malls. It’s funny how things turned out, because when I originally applied to the Shacolas Group, it was for the position of the accountant at the Mall of Cyprus, but I was only 22 years old at the time and they chose someone else with more experience, giving me a job on a different project. So, I suppose, working for the Mall of Cyprus was kind of meant to be for me!
Has your role changed at all since Atterbury Europe became involved in 2015? What are your responsibilities as Financial Manager?
Yes, it definitely has and I am very grateful for it. Previously, I was just the accountant reporting to the Financial Controller and didn’t really have much autonomy. Being Financial Manager has allowed me to grow and for that I’m very grateful to Martin Olivier, CFO of Atterbury Europe and Heloise van Niekerk, Asset Manager from Atterbury South Africa. It’s been challenging, but their guidance has been great. My role involves preparing monthly management reports that are presented to the asset management team, and quarterly management reports that are presented to the Financial Manager and CFO of Atterbury Europe. I also coordinate the accounting department for timely and correct updates of the accounting records and make sure deadlines are met, such as payment and submission of VAT, tax and so on.
What has it been like to work in such a diverse, cross-cultural team of people from different parts of the world? Was there anything that surprised you about the South Africans?
It has been a very positive experience. I was pleasantly surprised to see how similar our cultures are; and that we could immediately connect. They’re very people orientated and treat each other more like family than colleagues which makes it extra motivating to reach out and learn and work hard. They’re very professional and know how to separate business and pleasure, which is ideal for having good relations in the business environment. Everyone knows what their job is and respects each other, but at the same time they can go out and have fun and get crazy without compromising their professional relationships.
What is your biggest daily challenge at work; and what do you enjoy most about your role? (We are talking about “normally”, of course, not at this strange time of Covid…)
My biggest challenge is keeping the work interesting and continually learning. After 10 years working at a company you basically know it inside out, but I try to find and learn something even from the smallest changes. What I enjoy most is preparing the quarterly income statements and balance sheets. This is basically the reason I became an accountant. I don’t only enjoy my role; I love my job in general. I have the best colleagues, we are like a family and it’s always good to be in the office with them.
And yes, Covid-19. How has this impacted on the way you do your work – what is the current situation in Cyprus in terms of lockdowns/work regulations?
Well, at first it didn’t affect me much because I still had pending deadlines with the financial statements being finalised on time and so on, but after that was done, the workload decreased significantly and coming to the office every day was not a must. I realised that working from home is not really my thing: I prefer being in the office, where I’m more productive and where I can at least see other people, which is important as someone who lives on my own. In Cyprus, because we mostly use our cars, not public transport, we could go to work provided we had the necessary paperwork from our employer. As of 21 May, the lockdown has been lifted and we can now move around and come to work normally. We’ve been back to normal since 1 June and are now fully operational and back to our routine; and the malls reopened on 9 June.
And in a personal capacity, what has this time of introspection enforced by the pandemic meant for you? What do you look forward to most when things ease up and life can carry on again?
It has given me time to slow down and have some rest. My social life had been really busy, and I would go out almost every night, so I actually needed something to force me to stay home and get some rest, catch up with series I’ve been wanting to watch for a while, and so on. So, it is only natural that what I missed most of all was going out with my friends. And of course, I miss being able to hug and kiss my loved ones; one of the hardest things about the pandemic. I am, however, hopeful that we’ll get back to normal soon.