Calls for ethical leadership at breathtaking 2018 CFO Awards


Calls for ethical leadership as the first woman CFO takes home the tile of CFO of the Year during the spectacular fifth annual CFO Awards at Johannesburg's Constitution Hill. 

It was a sweep for Christine Ramon, AngloGold Ashanti’s CFO, at the fifth annual CFO Awards, held at Constitution Hill on Thursday 10 May, 24 years after Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the first democratic president of the Republic of South Africa. The theme for the evening was “Do the right thing”, particularly fitting on the doorstep of South Africa’s Constitutional Court, where the highest laws of the land are upheld. 

The glittering ceremony, known as the Oscars for finance executives, was supported by principal sponsor Deloitte and a host of other corporate backers. It is the pre-eminent professional recognition event for the South African CFO community, and Christine walked away with the four out of the ten awards, including the CFO of the Year Award – the first woman to have taken the top accolade since the inception of the awards four years ago. 

She took to the podium to say:

“This is the time for ethical leadership, it’s the time for CFOs and the profession to stand tall.” 

Rui Morais, CFO of Dis-Chem Pharmacies, was the awards ceremony’s other big winner, taking home three awards, including the Young CFO of the Year Award. He added his voice to Christine’s call for acting with integrity.

“It’s our responsibility as leadership to make sure we’re acting ethically and that we understand the consequences of the decisions we make.”

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After a gripping master class in the former men’s prison at Constitutional Hill, CFO South Africa MD Graham Fehrsen opened the ceremony by welcoming the guests, partners, judges and nominees. “To those who have opened themselves up to scrutiny, we know it’s not an easy task to go before a judging panel and put forward your story. We want to acknowledge your courage in being judged, and putting your personal and professional credentials in the spotlight.” 

Amid splendid décor, gathered CFOs and other business leaders were treated to a five-course meal of exceptional quality, while networking with each other. Laughter was regular, as comedian Nik Rabinowitz entertained and poked, moving the evening along in an impeccable manner. During a short speech, Deloitte Africa chairman Trevor Brown noted that the “who is who” of CFOs was gathered. He then kicked off the awards extravaganza in earnest.

The winner of the first award of the evening, the Compliance and Governance Award, was Christine Ramon, who went on to dominate the evening. She received her award from Dion Shango, the CEO of PwC Africa. “It’s tough times but also time for us to be calm and collected – and that’s the job of CFOs,” Christine said. 

Rui Morais took away the Strategy Execution Award, handed over by John van Tubbergh, head of client coverage at RMB. He thanked CFO SA and its partners, and added his voice to Christine’s call for ethical leadership. 

Next up was the High-Performance Team Award, handed out by Lars Fischer, operating director at 
Michael Page, and awarded again to Christine Ramon. She said:

“I’d just like to say that I would be nowhere without my team. I dedicate this award to my team. Thank you very much." 

The Transformation and Empowerment Award went to Peter Walsh, who at the time of nomination and judging was the CFO of Servest. He has since moved on to pursue an opportunity in the UK. He received his award from Rachel Nkgodi from Deloitte. Peter said:

“To receive this particular award in this particular venue with the topic being what it is tonight is very humbling to say the least. I think that what we as white male South Africans have to do in this country to bridge the gap is a very big task. We have a lot of responsibility to take … embracing transformation with everything that we have. It’s no longer acceptable to tick BEE scorecards, but we have to embrace it with every fibre of our body. It’s a great country that we live in, and it’s a great honour to receive this award for the small part I’ve managed to play in its transformation at Servest.” 

The Finance Transformation Award was delivered by Sheha Shah, the MD for Africa at Thompson Reuters, to Sean Capazorio, the group finance officer at Aspen Pharmacare. Sean was unable to attend, and so his award was collected by Stavros Nicolau, fellow Aspen executive. He said:

“Sean wanted me to convey to you that it’s been an absolutely humbling experience being at Aspen and even more humbling winning this award. He’d like to dedicate it to his team and management, and is particularly pleased that he’s making some small contribution to South Africa’s most globalised company." 

Next in the awards lineup was the Finance and Technology Award, handed out by the MD of Oracle SA Niral Patel, again to Rui Morais, who once again thanked the sponsors and CFO South Africa. 

The Moving into Africa Award was delivered by Isaac Malevu, Standard Bank CFO for CIB client coverage, to Christine Ramon

“Thank you very much to the judges for the vote of confidence. This award really goes to AngloGold Ashanti, a proudly South African company,” she said. She also said:

“Growing in Africa requires courage in seeing through the cycles and the volatility, and doing business in a sustainable manner. My finance team has been instrumental in helping to negotiate stability agreements in government and working on investing in a sustainable manner.” 

The Young CFO of the Year Award was given to Rui Morais, who thanked the judges for their recognition and his wife for her support. The award was handed to him by Zuko Mdwaba, the country leader at Workday. 

Krish Kumar, the CFO of the eThekwini Municipality, took home the Public Sector CFO of the Year Award, handed to him by Nazeer Essop, Deloitte Southern Africa public sector industry leader. He said:

“I really appreciate the award, handed to me in my twilight years, with only two years left. Thank you very much. It comes at a very timely time in my life."

And finally, Trevor Brown, the chairman of Deloitte Africa, took to the stage to announce the winner of the CFO of the Year Award. Christine Ramon joined him to receive her fourth and final award. “To the various companies that I’ve worked for, I am really grateful for the experience and for the ability to evolve the finance function into being a strategic partner for the business,” Christine said. 

She concluded with a call to leaders to hold the torch for others:

 “Certainly as a woman leader, I would like to encourage other women leaders to empower and develop other women, stand proud and stand tall in their support.”

Graham concluded with a short extract from Nelson Mandela’s inauguration speech of 24 years ago: “Our daily deeds as ordinary South Africans must produce an actual South African reality that will reinforce humanity's belief in justice, strengthen its confidence in the nobility of the human soul, and sustain all our hopes for a glorious life for all.”

Services firm Deloitte was the principal sponsor of the 2018 CFO Awards, while other awards sponsors included Standard Bank, Oracle, Thomson Reuters, PwC, Workday, RMB, and Michael Page. Additional tables were sponsored by A2X, CHRO South Africa, Drayton Glendower, KPMG, Omnia, OUTsurance, Nike, PPC, Transparent and TransUnion. 

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