6 Questions for 2023 CFO of the Year Raisibe Morathi

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Vodacom Group CFO Raisibe Morathi shares her award-winning recipe for being an exemplary CFO after winning the 2023 CFO of the Year Award, revealing the “data” behind a good strategy, a good team and a good leader.

1. What makes you a great CFO?

There’s an African proverb that goes: It takes a village to raise a child. I have benefitted from the wisdom of many people, either directly or by observation, and have copied them with pride. These include networking, reading, and coaching. I am always open to getting feedback, whether it’s good or harsh, because that’s how you learn and grow.

I’m committed to doing my 10,000 hours, which Malcolm Gladwell articulated well in the book Outlier. This means working hard and, sometimes, doing the same thing many times to master it.

As Gary Player would put it: The harder you work, the luckier you will be.

I must also pay homage to Vodacom, for giving me the opportunity to become its group CFO. The people I have in my team are very special, and have all the ingredients that make us successful and effective. We have a lot of hard-working moments (including solving complex problems and challenging the organisation for success), but we also have many moments of laughter and light-heartedness. I believe that working in such an environment can yield a winning formula for everyone in the organisation.

2. How do you get the best out of your team?

I am a leader of leaders and have to be very intentional about empowering everyone to make the necessary decisions, but also holding them accountable for their work.

It is critical for me to ensure that we are all aligned on the key objectives and the strategy of the business. If we don’t work together like pieces of a puzzle fitting together, we will be as strong as our weakest link. To do this, we learn each day and challenge ourselves, and each other, all the time.

Luckily, the members of my team have a growth mindset too.

3. How are you ensuring growth for Vodacom?

Vodacom South Africa is a 30-year-old business, but has achieved what many businesses couldn’t in 100 years, giving it a 10 times multiplier factor. That is fundamentally a result of a well-formulated and well-executed strategy.

A good strategy is a composition of several ideas incorporated with hindsight, insight and foresight. It is influenced by many elements internal and external to your company. Your strategy needs to be comprehensive enough to have chapters and subchapters, but still simple enough for you to summarise on one page. You need to be clear about when and how it is going to be executed, who is executing it, and how its success will be measured.

This is why you need to stress test your strategy bottom-up, as well as top-down, and have many layers of consultations long before you conclude it. You have to use all your five senses.

However, the real test is the outcome.

Working with the strategy is one of the elements I find most empowering about my job, and I am proud to be working on a strategy that has enabled a 30-year-young company to be a conglomerate that continues growing.

4. How are you balancing the demands of being an award-winning CFO with your personal life?

We are, first and foremost, human beings, with a specific need to ensure that physical, mental and spiritual fitness is part of our daily routines. If you can balance those three fundamental needs, you can balance a lot of other things in life better too.

Our personal lives and careers benefit from such balance. It is what allows me to be a friend, and a CFO who is friendly.

The hard work you do in your career needs to be equal to the hard work you do for your family and friends. I am doing both with a clear and conscious mind.

5. What comes next?

Corporate leadership is a constant journey of dealing with the new – to the extent that even the old can still be looked at through a new lens, and in a different context. I am a busy bee and continue to love what I do as a CFO.

For a CFO, there is always business planning and performance, stakeholder engagements, supporting business with commercial opportunities, and, consequently, spending many hours in meetings. There are always various projects within the realm of these day-to-day objectives too.

6. What advice do you have for other CFOs looking to follow in your footsteps?

Similar to many of today’s careers, make sure you adapt to the use of technology (especially AI), as it will make your job a lot more interesting and value-adding.

To enhance the decisions you make, be cognisant of AI, big data and analytics that “removes” the manual task of calculating and analysing insights. It assists you in getting more granular and accurately computed information, in a fraction of the time. The hard work then becomes making the decision.

In a nutshell, embrace technology and you’ll see your commercial decisions improve significantly.

Also, make sure you increase your networking in diverse careers and various groups of people to continue learning daily. This will improve your world views on various matters, and ultimately enhance your decision-making.

This article was originally published in Edition One of the 2024 CFO South Africa Magazine, which you can download and read here!

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