A look back at 2020 CFO community events

Highlights from a year that changed life as we know, including the events landscape.

This year, the Covid-19 pandemic changed the events landscape across the world in all industries. Despite the challenges, the CFO community was able to still engage and have valuable exchanges throughout the year. Here are some of our 2020 highlights.

Finance Meets HR Summit
On 18 February, CFO South Africa hosted the Finance Meets HR Summit, with over 120 high-calibre CFOs and CHROs filling the inspirational spaces of the Equinox Leadership and Innovation Centre in Sandton.

It’s rare for CFOs and CHROs get together outside the office to make small talk and get to know each other. But that’s exactly what happened at the Finance Meets HR Summit, with the theme of #StrongerTogether.

Accenture Strategy managing directors Luis Rodriguez and Markus Gschwari started off the intense debates of the evening by explaining “The Multiplier Effect”, which essentially came down to People x Future = Value.

“What we are seeing with all the C-suite people is that the boxes are becoming more blurred and collaboration is becoming more important,” Markus said.

Talking to the Multiplier Effect, Luis said, “If you only have one part of the equation, you get pretty close to nothing.” He explained that the people component in the equation is not only applicable to HR but extremely important for finance as well. Similarly, you also need a CHRO who is constantly thinking about finance.

Workday country managing director Zuko Mdwaba echoed these thoughts saying that, “We see more and more of this alignment between people and finance.”

Summarising the evening, Business Results Group CEO Nichola Tyler said that, “Even if you think there are adversarial relationships between finance and HR, if you’re not already bedfellows, I suggest you start sleeping together.”

However, she added that the best relationship to achieve a meaningful business strategy alliance “isn’t a couple’s date, it’s a threesome between the CEO, CFO and CHRO”.

Read more: Finance Meets HR Summit reveals: Finance and HR need to get into bed together

CFO South Africa’s first online summit revealed finance executives were learning rapidly
CFO South Africa hosted its first ever online summit on 2 April with 24 finance executives in attendance. The summit was originally scheduled to be held in Cape Town, but due to the Covid-19 lockdown, CFO South Africa had to explore new ways of bringing the CFO community together.

CFO South Africa MD Joël Roerig welcomed the finance executives in attendance, noting that the occasion was historic. “Never before have we come together in an online setting like this.”

Deloitte chief digital and innovation officer Valter Adão kicked off conversations around how Covid-19 had accelerated global business into what has become the new normal.

Valter discussed three steps leaders would have to go through in this time of drastic change: respond, recover and thrive. “The response speaks to what we had to do in the days leading up to lockdown, as well as when we come out of lockdown. Then we have to move rapidly into a recover and a thrive mode in order sustain ourselves into the future.

“The other side of the digital economy and technology is that we’re getting a rapid learning in this regard,” Valter said.

“Digital is more than just technology, it’s changing our physical, biological and chemical world. It’s changed how we live, work and communicate with each other and is having a tremendous impact on our businesses, industries and economies. It’s also created awareness around the social change that we have to drive in our environment, and it’s empowered us as individuals in organisations to participate in that social change.”

He unpacked some of the principles and philosophies leaderships needed to tap into in this time of change:

  • Unprecedented metabolic rate of change: This is the challenge that, as a CFO, you need to lead your business into the unknown. It also describes the adoption of these new solutions by customers. “That’s when disruption starts happening,” he said.
  • Lawson effect: This is when companies are innovating vigorously in the wrong direction or becoming so comfortable with something that they break it. “You have to identify these Lawson moments in your organisation and stop them. Make sure your efforts around innovation are focused on something that will make your business stronger and is relevant to the market.”
  • Resource allocation: You have to distinguish what the right things are to invest into and what the wrong things are. You have to look for evidence of where the capex of a new digital solution is lower than the opex of how things were done before. You also have to ensure that you can unlock exponential growth, improved productivity and improved experience from these solutions.
  • New age of the ecosystem: “We’ve now been thrust into that. In the last seven days, all our companies that are working remotely are all becoming platforms,” he said. In order to adjust to this new workforce ecosystem, leaders have to bring experts and expertise into their businesses. “If we create the right ecosystems of expertise, we can progress,” Valter said at the event. Overnight, everyone had moved into a symbiotic relationship: competitors, different industries and companies were all working together to move into a new ecosystem.

Attendees revealed that the situation was pushing them to start thinking about the future of work – and whether they really needed all that floorspace, while others said they were trying to identify new, pandemic-proof income streams.

Read more: CFO South Africa's first online summit reveals finance executives are learning rapidly

Finance Indaba Network
Thousands of finance professionals streamed into the gamified conference and expo for the first-ever virtual Finance Indaba Network on 15 October. Attendees took in discussions on how leaders are spearheading the new world of work after Covid-19 disrupted business, possibly forever. These executives revealed how they weathered the Covid-19 storm and how their businesses will never be the same.

Attendees were enthusiastic with their praise, expressing how much of a success they felt that event was. “I could attend while working in the comfort of my home. The speakers were knowledgeable and shared some insightful information,” one of the attendees wrote.

Attendees were impressed by the quality of the speakers and the engaging and thought-provoking content they shared during the Impact Sessions. Attendees were also able to interact with the speakers through a chat function, which made it possible to ask questions that were then answered live by the panellists.

South Africa’s leading CFOs honoured at 2020 CFO Awards
Five remarkable CFOs scooped top honours at a glittering gala dinner held at the Inanda Club on 25 November. The night was a much-needed celebration of “world-class finance in action” as the CFO South Africa community gathered for the first and last time this year, more than a half a year after the CFO Awards event was initially scheduled.

Winners
The big winner of the night was Jason Quinn, the group finance director of Absa, who walked away with the prestigious CFO of the Year Award. He scooped up three of the 10 prizes, also winning the Strategy Executive Award and Moving into Africa Award.

“I am truly humbled to receive this award. Thank you to Joël and the team at CFO South Africa. I’d also like to thank my team at Absa, as well as my wife and kids,” said Jason.

Jason has been the group finance director of Absa for the past four years, having been the head of finance for two years before that. He played an instrumental role in the separation of Absa from Barclays, a $1 billion multi-year programme.

Shabeer Khan, the CFO at the Department of Trade and Industry, was also a big winner. He received the Young CFO of the Year Award, the Public Sector CFO Award and Compliance & Governance Award. He acknowledged his finance team and the minster for the support that enables him to succeed.

“It is such an honour to be recognised by the finance community. It’s especially amazing to win the Public Sector CFO Award, especially in such a difficult year. Thank you to CFO South Africa for recognising public sector CFOs and public servants in general.”

Telkom CFO Tsholofelo Molefe was awarded the High-Performance Team Award presented by Discovery Health CFO Brett Tromp. She also won the Finance Transformation Award. In her acceptance speech she acknowledged the CFO South Africa team for keeping finance professionals up to date each week, saying: “Thank you to CFO South Africa for keeping us interested through our community conversations. Thank you to my team, I certainly wouldn’t have done it without them. When I recruit, I always look for people who are better for me.”

Adcock Ingram CFO Dorette Neethling, who was not able to attend, won the Transformation & Empowerment Award. King Price Insurance former CFO and now deputy CEO Rhett Finch received the Finance Transformation Award.

The CFOs in attendance were delighted to have spent an evening in the company of their community, celebrating the achievements of their peers.

Read more: South Africa’s leading CFOs honoured at sparkling 2020 CFO Awards