Chris Beukman - CFO Deloitte: `Good people skills are a necessary requirement to be successful`

CFO South Africa interviewed a large number of CFOs and CEOs of leading South African companies. Meet Mr. Chris Beukman, CFO of Deloitte, one of South Africa’s leading professional services firms staffing over 3700 employees. Chris matriculated in 1968 in Pretoria and completed BCom (Acc) (Hons) at University of Pretoria in 1973. He joined Pretoria based accounting practise Van Geusau, Coetzee & De Wit as a trainee accountant in 1973 and was qualified as Chartered Accountant (CA(SA)) in 1975. In 1978 he was appointed as a partner in the above practise, which was eventually incorporated into Deloitte & Touche through a series of mergers.

Chris worked as an audit partner in Deloitte & Touche until 2005 when he was appointed in his present position as Chief Financial Officer. Deloitte's financial department currently consist of 75 employees and has a yearly turnover of R2,9bn.

1) What do you enjoy most about your job?

Most of all I love the variety. I am not only involved in financial matters but also have oversight responsibility of our Information Technology Department as well as the properties occupied by Deloitte & Touche. On a daily basis I have to be involved and take decisions on matters ranging from taking forward cover to giving consideration to what the IT strategy of Deloitte should be.


2) How has the role of the CFO changed in the last ten years?

The role of the CFO has changed from someone that is very involved in the financial aspects of running an organization, to an individual that has to participate in the strategic planning aspects of leading the organization. The CFO needs to be closely involved with the overall management and directing of the organization.


3) How do you see the role of the CFO evolving in the next say five to ten years?

The CFO will be more involved in assisting the CEO and his executive team in managing and directing the organization. He will also have to keep track with and respond to the rapid developments in his environment, particularly the impact of digital marketing and the evolvement of the social media.


4) Which skill do you think a finance professional should master to be most successful in his work?

It is a given that a finance professional should have a thorough knowledge of technical financial matters. He should also be able to give attention to detail. However, it is very necessary for a finance professional to be able to communicate to and to influence people. We often forget that good people skills are a necessary requirement to be successful in most roles in the business world.


5) Which achievement or project in your business career are you most proud of?

Deloitte converted its accounting and reporting systems to SAP in September 2009. This was a major conversion from the legacy Peoplesoft and CABS systems and touched all employees of Deloitte. The project required participation from all levels of staff and management. Change management was key to the process. This SAP conversion project was rolled out and implemented successfully within budget and the planned timetable over a period of eight months.


6) Which education would you recommend for a successful career in business, and why?

I believe an education with a financial background is important to be successful. A very large proportion of all information is provided in a numeric/ digital format and it is important for people to be able to understand and interpret the information in order to be successful. Having said that, one should not underestimate the need to have good people skills. A successful leader needs to be able to interact with and relate to the people around him.


7) Did you ever encounter a book - business book or guide - that inspired you greatly in your everyday life?

I find that most of the lessons contained in the Bible are still applicable in modern society.


8) Who is your role model in life and why?

The way Nelson Mandela managed his life is really impressive. Although he had been subjected to a abuse and persecution for his beliefs, the fact that he was able to be a catalyst in the reconciliation process that was required in this country in the period after 1990 is amazing. He was able to rise above his personal circumstances to provide South Africa, and the world, with guidance and leadership to take a country full of diversity and bitterness forward in a process of reconciliation and national unity is incredible.


9) What vital piece of advice would you give young finance professionals?

They must make use of the opportunities coming their way. There are a number of opportunities in the current global environment and young finance professionals are well placed to exploit these opportunities.


10) What was the best piece of advice - business-related - that was ever given to you personally?

You need to listen and understand the underlying message in each conversation. Obtain all the facts and information before you conclude on a matter.


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category: Interviewing the CFO