Being the CFO of Hyundai is a car fanatic’s dream come true, believes Thinus Venter
As the CFO of Hyundai South Africa, Thinus gets to enjoy many perks along with the challenges in his industry.
Thinus Venter believes that becoming the CFO of an automotive manufacturer was a blessing, both for his love of cars and his wallet. “I would have bought a car and a year later gotten tired of it and bought a new one.”
One of the perks of being the CFO at Hyundai South Africa is that he gets to drive around a new car every month or two, which is any car fanatic’s dream.
Entering the automotive industry
After completing his articles at a small firm in Pretoria, Thinus served as an internal auditor at Omnia Group for a year and a half. And although he didn’t enjoy the audit profession very much, he describes it as a stepping stone into the corporate world. “At the time, you had to have some corporate experience if you wanted to get into the world of finance, which is what the internal audit position allowed me to do.”
When he felt he was ready for the next step in his career, Thinus sent out his CV and got an opportunity to join Motus Corporation as a group accountant. At the time, it was known as Associated Motor Holdings and was a holding company for brands like Hyundai, Kia, Renault, Tata, Mitsubishi, Bentley and more. Thinus was responsible for consolidating all of these brands together.
After three years, he joined Kia as a financial manager. “When I started at Kia, I was around 27 years old,” Thinus says. “I didn’t know much about the industry or accounting in real life. So I had to put in a lot of hours and effort.”
He adds that he learned then that success doesn’t come overnight, but with hard work, and that it is something he still believes in today.
The hours of hard work paid off when he was promoted to financial director after almost six years as a financial manager.
Feeling it was time for change, Thinus spent some time in the operations side of the business as a parts and after sales director. “I really enjoyed getting into the operations,” he says. “It gave me a different perspective of the business. I wasn’t just sitting around waiting for the numbers to come to me and then balancing the books. Instead I was getting into the grit of it and seeing what we do to actually generate the cash.”
Again, his hard work paid off, and in 2019 Thinus was appointed as the CFO of Hyundai South Africa.
Finding opportunities in the tough spaces
Thinus explains that one of the biggest challenges he has had to face during his time as CFO was the Covid-19 lockdown in April 2020. “During the lockdown we still paid our people and suppliers, but there was no cash coming in for about five or six weeks,” he says.
However, Hyundai was able to find spaces where they could bounce back and ended up thriving. “When we came out of lockdown in May, we actually managed to outsell some of our competitors in that following month.”
Thinus accredits this success to the agility of the brand to navigate tough spaces and situations.
Since then, Hyundai has increased its market share consistently year-on-year by almost two percent.
Finding new spaces
Thinus’s biggest project now is automating Hyundai’s transactions. “What makes Hyundai different from many other automotive importers is that we also own a big amount of our own dealers,” he explains, adding that there are a lot of transactions between the importer and the dealer. “Automation has been done to a big extent at the importer already to improve these transactions, and the next step is to automate our dealer network as well.”
He explains that one of the highlights of his career in the automotive industry has been to see how the brands have grown. “In the early days we were more focused on how cheap we could make our cars and didn’t have a big market share. I don’t think that people were dreaming about owning a Kia back then.”
However that has changed since, and Hyundai has risen to one of the top three automotive companies in South Africa. “I’ve been part of that growth and seen how the models and aspirations of the group have changed.”
Perks of the job
Along with being able to drive a new car every two months, Thinus was fortunate to be part of the company in 2010, when Hyundai and Kia sponsored the Soccer World Cup in South Africa. Because of this sponsorship, Thinus and his wife received tickets to watch the matches right up until the semi finals.
Thinus explains that he was also given the opportunity to travel to countries like Egypt, USA and South Korea because of his job. “The biggest highlight of these types of trips is that the host nation takes you on a culture tour for a few hours and you get to know the country – something you will probably not do if you just go there for vacation.”
When he’s not enjoying the perks of his job, Thinus enjoys hunting and tries to go once a twice a year. He even managed to squeeze in one trip just after the lockdown restrictions were eased last year.
He also has two boys, aged five and seven, who keep him busy at home.