Paul Prinsloo - CFO PwC South Africa: `Keeping financial operations at the highest standard is vital`


The role of the CFO has changed from scorekeeper, care talker and treasurer to strategic business partner, communicator, financier, finance operator, compliance steward, run rate monitor, talent manager, financial envoy. These are the words of wisdome spoken by Paul Prinsloo, CFO of PwC South Africa, South Africa’s office of the world's largest professional services firm. PwC South Africa staffs over 4,200 people nationwide, of which 100 employees in the financial department. The firm locally has a turnover of more than R3 billion per annum.

In 1986 Paul completed his B Com Accounting degree, a BCompt Honours (Tax) in 1989 and his articles in the same year. Eight years later, in 1994, he obtained an M Com in Business Management, after which he lectured Financial Management on a part-time basis at Damelin for two years.

During the period of my learnership, he was fortunate to have had significant exposure to the IT environment and accounting platforms. As a result, the firm that he was employed at offered me a Financial Manager position in the Gauteng region, and subsequently after a merger, at the Price Waterhouse National Office from 1992. Paul was admitted as a director at PwC South Africa in 2003 and became appointed CFO of the national firm in 2004.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the challenge of keeping the Finance function in our organisation relevant and aligned to the business model as it provides variety in my day to day operations and considerations. In our organisation change is a constant and business continuously aligns itself to the needs and demands of clients, changes in statutory, tax and legal requirements.

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

It has changed from scorekeeper, care talker and treasurer to strategic business partner, communicator, financier, finance operator, compliance steward, run rate monitor, talent manager, financial envoy.

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

Smart technology devices are changing the way that business units interact with Finance. Users expect faster, relevant, real time management information as an enabler for global cross border activities in a context of global compliance and spiraling cost thereof. This expectation brings multiple challenges that CFO's will have to manage.

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

  • A finance professional should be able to visualise the direction of the business and its future, and be able to analyse how changes in the environment will impact it.
  • Good relationships and networks, internally and externally, are essential in attaining insight on relevant issues and the finance function. This will prevent the risk of becoming outdated.
  • Positioning oneself within the role of a strategic partner to effectively execute business requirements.
  • Keeping financial operations at the highest standard of efficiency and relevance in line with best practice is vital.

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

One of the biggest and most significant achievements was the implementation of our organisation's financial system in 2004. It was done at highest standards and handled by an exceptional core team. It really was at best practice standards and could serve as a case study for any organisation going through a similar process.

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

An advanced accounting qualification up to honours or masters level, followed by a masters in Business Administration. This will equip the individual with an all-round ability to meet challenges presented by business and own ambition. .

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

That would be Seven Habits of Most Efficient People by Dr Stephen R Covey.

Who is your role model in life and why?

Mr. Nelson Mandela. I have great admiration for him for how he has risen above his hardships to be the man he is today. He is an amazing leader who has the genuine love and respect from people.

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

  • Maintain a good attitude and willingness to expose yourself to all the building blocks to the top. Don't jump to fast.
  • What will reap the rewards is being patience and willing to go through all the steps that will provide you with the most profound experience. No one can ever take that away from you.
  • Think outside the box and take a view at the bigger picture, get a cut of the detail and constantly challenge yourself on whether your direction is still relevant.
  • Make full use of all tools and technology at your disposal and engage with experienced people in your direct or immediate environment. Never be afraid to ask questions.

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

Give proper attention to detail, but don't get stuck in it. I also apply this principle in my daily life, not just in business.

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category: Interviewing the CFO

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