Finance leaders gathered at the Polo Room at Inanda Club to receive top honours.
The evening of 16 November will go down as one of the most memorable in South Africa’s finance industry. The country’s top finance professionals made their way to the Polo Room at the Inanda Club in Sandton to be honoured at the ninth annual CFO Awards, aptly nicknamed the “Oscars of the finance profession”, for their exceptional work in finance. Many dubbed the last two years the toughest in the country, let alone in finance, making the top honours and recognition even more prestigious.
The venue was decorated in black, white, and gold; the patio, which housed the open bar overlooking the polo fields, had a black stretch tent adorned with beautiful lighting, and as guests entered the ceremony hall, they were greeted by cascading chandelier lights and the most exquisite table settings.
Guests were greeted by the sounds of an exceptional saxophonist, who created an elegant atmosphere. Her renditions of greatest hits were so accurate, you’d be forgiven for thinking the original song was playing in the background.
Drinks in hand, guests were ushered into the ceremony hall, where funnyman Loyiso Madinga kicked off proceedings with his unique brand of comedy. “The only difference between the CFO Awards and the Oscars is that you won’t get to receive an award after slapping the host on the stage,” he joked.
Georgina Guedes, executive community director at CFO South Africa, then provided a look back at previous awards and some of the memorable moments. She thanked the CFO Awards sponsors, which included Deloitte, Workday, TreasuryONE and Coupa, for their support of the CFO community and the awards. “I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of the nominees and previous award-winners, some of whom are now serving as judges for this year’s awards,” she said.
Other Awards sponsors included Thungela, ACCA, Cushman and Wakefield | Broll, Kyriba, SoluGrowth and Transparent.
In an opening keynote address by principal partner Deloitte Africa’s CEO, Ruwayda Redfearn expressed her delight at being in the same room filled with familiar faces, peers, and like-minded individuals after such a difficult two years. “This is a time where our people need us the most,” she said. “And it’s a responsibility that weighs heavily on the shoulders of CFOs.”
Next, the Johannesburg Queer Choir took the stage, a group that speaks – or rather sings – about diversity, and their colourful outfits reflected that. They sang Gloria Gaynor’s “I Am What I Am”, which speaks of living one’s most authentic life unapologetically, and it struck a chord with the audience.
The awards ceremony, the night’s most anticipated event, followed. Deepa Sita, CFO of Tiger Brands, accepted the Compliance & Governance Award and said that the CFOs in attendance owed it to themselves to keep their heads up in the face of adversity, a type of leadership that encourages their team members to do the same. She also received the Finance & Technology Award.
Deon Smith, FD at Thungela, received the High-Performance Team Award. His team, who were sponsoring one of the tables on the evening, cheered from excitement, knowing that the Award was just as much theirs as their leaders’.
Dirk Viljoen, CFO at Hollard Group, was the winner of the Transformation & Empowerment Award, it was both an honour and privilege to work for an organisation that is purpose driven, he said in his acceptance speech.
Risto Ketola, group finance director at Momentum Metropolitan Holdings, walked away with the Finance Transformation Award.
The night’s other big winner was Mpolaheng Mohlopi, CFO at Lanseria International Airport, who was named The Young CFO of the Year.
Mpolaheng’s evening was filled with both excitement and anxiety; she was overjoyed to have won the awards, but she also mentioned in her acceptance speech that she was feeling anxious about leaving her three-month-old baby at home to attend – making the win even more worth it.
The big winner of the evening, however, walking away with the prestigious honour of CFO of the Year, was Standard Bank chief finance and value management officer Arno Daehnke. He said the award would not have been possible without the support of his team. “My team and I have focused heavily on strategy at Standard Bank this year, so seeing their hard work recognised means a lot to me,” he said. “This recognition is a result of the hard work my team and I have put in, and it is what motivates me to come to work every day.”
Arno also walked away with the Strategy & Execution Award, and the Moving into Africa Award.
Tendayi Viki, an award-winning author and corporate innovation expert, concluded the evening with a keynote address titled “The entrepreneurial CFO”, in which he discussed the sometimes contentious relationship between CFOs and innovation teams. “CFOs sometimes get upset with innovators because when they ask for money, innovators assume, according to some CFOs, that there is a bottomless pit of money available for what is often a big bet or gamble, because to a certain extent, you have to invest in the unknown,” he explained.
With that in mind, Tendayi left the guests with something to ponder for the coming year: “How much are you willing to invest in ideas that have no business case in 2023?” he asked.