Always wanted to work in finance? 5 CFOs spill the beans


We scoured our archives to find out how leading CFOs got into finance

Deloitte Africa’s new CFO, Jen McDonald (pictured), did not study accounting at school. Her first love required more dexterity than is needed to balance the books.


“I was very passionate about ballet dancing as a young girl, which I pursued very seriously for 18 years. However, I was also strong academically, especially in science and maths. Career councillors advised me to pursue actuarial science or chemical engineering. I remember at one point telling my father that all I knew was that I did not want to be an accountant. Funny how things pan out, as that changed in my matric year when I made some friends pursuing careers as chartered accountants, which completely changed my perception and influenced me to follow that path for myself. I’ve never looked back and love what I do.”


Motus Corporation CFO Ockert Janse van Rensburg says that although he’s always had a passion for numbers, there was a brief moment when he thought he might be better suited to the legal profession.


“After becoming a CA, I did an H.Dip in corporate law. Maybe that got it out of my system! But in truth, it put me in good stead, as a lot of what passes across your desk as a CFO is rooted in legal matters. So, it’s been hugely beneficial. I now have a better feel for some of the legal aspects and it gives me a different perspective on certain situations.”


For Nyasha Dzumbunu, CFO of SBU, finance is a family affair.


“I was raised by two finance professionals – my father is a CA and my mother a CIMA – so, when I was a child I always heard conversations that were founded in finance. From an early age, I was inspired by this and drawn to it. It just so happened that I was quite strong in accounting too, and that I enjoyed it. My younger brother and sister, both of whom are in Sydney, are CAs, too. Finance is a family affair for us.

Entrepreneurial PRP Solutions CFO Hiten Keshave is building his knowledge base and experience towards one day assuming the role of CEO.

“By nature, I’m an entrepreneur, which I think is a family trait as a lot of my family members own their own businesses. I’ve been in Johannesburg for 18 months. When I moved here I realised that to experience being a CFO would be an advantage for a CEO role. The difference between a CFO and CEO is that the CFO doesn’t only understand finance, he understands the entire business, because finance impacts the entire business.


“Becoming a CEO one day depends on where I end up in the future. It would be in my target achievements to one day be a CEO, either of my own business or another organisation, depending on the value-added business opportunities and prospects I can provide to the latter.”

Ryan McDougall, Group FD Trustco Group Holdings, initially wanted to try his hand at unearthing fossils, rather than financial discrepancies.

"I actually wanted to be a paleontologist. History and mysteries have always fascinated me, but I think my family talked me out of those careers towards the end of school. At some stage I decided I wanted to get into the business world and studied business science at UCT. Commerce is still quite detail-oriented, which I liked. Much to my wife’s disappointment, I still love to have a head full of arbitrary scientific and historic facts.”


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