4 top CFOs reveal their recipes for success


We scoured our archives to find handy tips for success from leading CFOs

Standard Bank FD Arno Daehnke stresses the importance of hard work and perseverance – a not-so-secret recipe for success – when it comes to delivering on the mandate and getting to grops with a move to the banking industry.


“Banking proved to be an incredibly complex business. Just the jargon takes a long time to get used to. I remember hearing Expected Default Frequency for the first time and many other terms, and I had no idea what they meant. As Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote, you have to spend 10,000 hours to achieve world-class expertise in any skill. For banking – for me – that was definitely true,” he says.


AFGRI’s Johan Geel is also an advocate of putting in the hours, as long as it is complemented by passion for the work and an overarching goal.


“One word: work. If you don’t do something with passion, you can never be successful. I give people around me breathing space. They tell me I am tough but fair. I involve my team in my decisions.


Johan’s “big dream” is to “ensure people have proper work in Africa and everybody has at least a plate of food daily”. 


IDC CFO Nonkululeko Dlamini has enjoyed the benefit of many influential mentors as she made her way through the corporate ranks and talks up guidance from good leaders as essential in dealing with challenges. She recounts an example of this:


“I had messed up a report. And I’ve always believed in reporting my mistakes. So, I went to the Eskom CFO, who was Bongani Nqwababa at the time, and confessed my mistake. He just laughed it off. He said, ‘these things happen’. Out of this conversation a mentorship-relationship also developed. As the relationship grew I was able to ask for his advice on many other challenges. It is through relationships and mistakes that I acquired my own personal board of support, executives who supported me during my career. I also consider my high school teacher, Nolufefe Pokiya as a mentor.”


Well-travelled Monash SA finance chief Alvin Liew (pictured) has always had a yearning to challenge himself in different environments. He has worked in a number of different countries, including India, Malaysia, Vietnam and South Africa, and attributes much of his confidence to adapting and facing up to various challenges in “alien” territory.

“Different countries pose different challenges, and there’s a stark contrast in terms of the cultural nuances of each country and how these translate into the working culture. It is challenging in each new environment. I received good advice after completing my articleship and officially my CA: that I should not be too comfortable in an environment that I know and that I should be constantly challenging myself in different environments. This is what made me decide that I wanted to pursue an international career; and not just an international career that took me to developed nations such as the UK or the US, I think the value of international experience is working in environments that are extremely alien to you; where you face huge cultural and language barriers. I imbibed this advice earlier in my career, which helped me tune into the different nuances of these environments – different cultures give you different working approaches and personalities in the workplace. The biggest thing I would say I’ve learnt is that I need to be more assertive and confident, and more natural in terms of public speaking.”



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