A focus on people and communication has been instrumental during the first 100 days as CFO of Nedbank Wealth, says Anbann Chetti, who last year was promoted from his previous role as Nedbank – Corporate Banking CFO. “The move has been phenomenal and the learning has been fantastic.”
Anbann regularly participates in CFO South Africa's events, so we were amongst the first to learn of his move to become the finance boss of a powerful cluster within the Nedbank family. About 100 days into his role we spoke about the promotion, his drive to create 'One Finance Family' under the Nedbank Wealth umbrella and the advice he has for aspirant-CFOs. "Stand out from the rest."
"When you move within an organisation it is always beneficial that you already understand the culture and the people," says Anbann, explaining that being a cluster CFO is a big step up from being a divisional CFO at Nedbank. Besides Wealth, the other Nedbank clusters are Africa, Retail & Business Banking and Corporate & Investment Banking (CIB). "The role I have now is very diverse. Banking, which is my background, is only a small part of the wealth offering. It consists of Asset Management; Insurance (including short term and life insurance), Wealth Management (including Private Wealth, Stockbroking, Trusts and Financial Planning), which entails banking for high-net-worth clients.
Armed with a '100 day plan', Anbann started his tenure in September 2015. "There were two things on my to-do-list," he explains. Both were 'soft' themes; "first of all People: although finance is a numbers game, meeting the stakeholders to understand their financial requirement is crucial. Just having coffee chat worked so well to start the conversations. The second thing, which is linked to that, is communication. As a leader you need to continuously communicate. It is a two-way stream, because it is also about learning. That way you can prioritise the needs of your stakeholders. You don't want to work on a problem, only to find out it is at the bottom of the list for your stakeholders. Look for low-hanging fruit and when you have success you build up a relationship with your stakeholders."
With Nedbank Private Wealth International having offices London, Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey and Dubai - and with Asset Management based in Cape Town and Internationally and Insurance operating from Durban and Johannesburg - the Nedbank Wealth cluster is quite 'geographically challenging', as Anbann puts it. Still, the CFO is aiming for more consistency.
"I want to streamline our finance operations more, but another thing I want to achieve is creating One Finance Family. At present, there are a lot of divisions, but I want one community and to drive consistency throughout Nedbank Wealth. I want to be able to accommodate people's career growth within the Nedbank Wealth cluster first. We want people to identify with Nedbank wealth."
The previous CFO, Walter Marte, is now working closely with Anbann as COO of Nedbank Wealth. "I don't need to make bold changes in terms of people, because he has done a fantastic job building a foundation since the cluster started," says Anbann. "My goals include working towards a more efficient month-end and making the reporting more consistent throughout the cluster. We are trying to ensure there is one type of recognisable report coming out of the Nedbank Wealth stable."
Anbann's experience of managing a divisional finance team has been a great asset and it was a good stepping stone to becoming cluster CFO, he says. Anbann now works with a small team at the Finance Cluster team and very closely with the 4 divisional CFOs. "Those teams are very strong and I am often tapping into them for their technical knowledge. One of the challenges as a cluster CFO is to deliver and manage the expectations from both the Divisions and Group Finance teams.
What makes a great CFO?
"You need a strong foundation and to understand numbers, so you can present one version of the truth. Only then can you add value and contribute to the strategy. Once you have credibility, stakeholders will trust you and you can start adding value. You also need to be strong at systems and leading teams. But I really think the most important idea is that you cannot be a good business partner until you have built up credibility with the numbers."
What advice do you have for aspirant-CFOs?
"Work to the best of your ability no matter on what part of the ladder you are. You cannot say 'I will work more hours and do better work once I am further along in my career'. Just being a CA and doing mediocre work is not enough. You have to do something that makes you stand out from the rest, because there is a massive talent pool. It is not just about academics, but also about being proactive. I admire individuals that do more than they should do. Those are the ones that will go a long way."
How do you ensure your own continuous improvement?
"I am trying to attend as many CFO South Africa events as possible. It is creating an environment where I can network. Most issues CFOs deal with are similar, so it is a great sounding board for different approaches to problems. I thank CFO South Africa for creating this. My experience in the last 15 years is at the big four banks while at CFO South Africa's events I get exposure to many different industries. Many of those industries are also our clients and their feedback is extremely useful."