Cullen Penny - CFO of STBB: `Cash flow will remain critical`

CFO South Africa is interviewing a large number of CFOs and CEOs of leading South African companies. From now on, we will publish them on our site regularly. The second in our series is Cullen Penny, CFO of STBB (Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes). Cullen Penny is the financial director of the law firm STBB, a company he joined in 2007.

Prior to this position, Cullen acted as Financial Manager for law firm Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs from 1993 until 2007. As CFO, Cullen oversees nearly 40 people working on his financial department, as part of the 300 employees STBB staffs in total. We asked Cullen ten different questions about him, his life, his work and what it's like to be the CFO of a company like STBB, during interesting yet challenging times like these.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
What I enjoy most about this position is that is a people orientated business. STBB has a total staff complement of 300 people. Also, I enjoy that there are many challenges to do with profits and cash flow, all providing a chance to use personal experience gained over many years

How has the role of the CFO changed in the last ten years - and during the crisis in particular?
The business required the CFO to look critically at profitability (by divisions) and the sustainability of the business during the economic meltdown in 2008.

How do you see the role of the CFO evolving in the next say five to ten years?
Cash flow will remain critical and keeping up with technological advancements will be essential to maintaining a competitive edge over the opposition in the market and maintaining and increasing market share.

Which achievement or project in your business career are you most proud of?
Keeping the business at break-even during the 2008 - 2009 economic meltdown at the same time maintaining a positive cash flow.

Which skill do you think a finance professional should master to be most successful in his work?
He or she should have the ability to identify key financial indicators and results and present them in a simple and understandable manner for managers who are not necessarily financially literate.

What strengths have other people commented on about you and your accomplishments, and what strengths do you see in yourself?
- Highly organised and keeping up to date with current tasks
- Ability to identify critical financial factors and take the necessary steps timeously

Which education would you recommend for a successful career in business?
I would recommend CA(SA) with computers.

Who is your role model in life and why?
That would be President Mandela - because of his moral and ethical code, vision, leadership and ability to forgive his enemies.

What vital piece of advice would you give young finance professionals?
Never compromise your integrity, stand firm when making difficult decisions and be organised.

What is your life philosophy?
Be positive in yourself, your outlook and your interaction with fellow human beings. Be compassionate and understanding. Always be honest and true to yourself.

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