Cape Town summit reveals importance of technology and relationships


A sneak peek at how CFOs are readying their finance teams for the future using technology.

In a summit held in Cape Town with CFOs, discussions about creating deep relationships with stakeholders and the business took precedence.

“If things change like they did when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, or during the multiple uncertain events we’ve faced since, the strength of our relationships are part of what’s going to get us through,” explained Coronation Fund Managers CFO Mary-Anne Musekiwa.

“When you are in a crisis, suppliers are able to give dispensations because of the strong relationships they have with you as a client, and if you have a strong relationship with your board, they will trust you to weather the storm.”

Invest in your teams
Mary-Anne said the benefits of fostering and investing in these relationships is what makes CFOs a good leader. She mentioned that when some of her team members expressed interest in learning how to code, she had to invest in their growth, even if it had nothing to do with finance.

“They then brought AI and bots into our finance division, and took away most of the mundane tasks we used to do.”

Supporting Mary-Anne’s view, FNB South Africa CFO Markos Davias said his relationship with his chief risk officer (CRO) is the most important one in his organisation.

“Finance and risk data are both assets to any organisation, but they don't always talk to each other and often go in opposite directions. We then have to do endless reconciliations to align the data with our strategy. However, when you are aligned with your CRO, you can converge these data sets.”

Webber Wentzel CFO Aneshree Naidoo added that growth was an essential part of moving into the future. “If we’re not creating the space for others to grow and move forward, we won’t either. You have to truly understand your team’s passions and how they can play into the group’s strategy.”

Importance of partnerships
Woolworths South Africa CFO Justin Crowhurst said finance professionals can’t know everything, so they have to rely on strategic partnerships to help move them to be more agile and innovative.

Justin added that finance teams need to have entrepreneurial mindsets. “As a finance team, we have to be more customer-focused – it’s what entrepreneurs do well.

They build long-term relationships and emotional connections with their customers, know what their needs are and how to fill them. If you don’t apply the same mindset, your organisation won’t remain relevant and it won’t succeed.”

Read: How finance leaders can function into the future

Tech-support for a better future
CFOs learned that they can use technology to reveal the blind spots they have within their businesses. Conversations about the future are futile if they don’t include technology, said Markos.

Markos shared that technology has allowed his finance team to do something different and bring new learnings to the team.

He said that finance leaders now need to bring together data that has to do with productivity, and marry sales data to marketing data to determine actual returns. “The finance function is being looked at to forecast and predict what the consequences of foolhardiness and wisdom might be to the organisation.”

SAP industry head of financial services Darrel Orsmond said, encouraging the attendees to find their blind spots and to use technology to make the unknown known.

These blind spots include:

  • True buying behaviour and motivation
  • The real costs of doing business
  • Lost opportunities
  • Segment migration drivers
  • Substitute and replacement drivers
  • Future earnings risks and potential
  • True segment behaviour drivers
  • Workforce motivation

“These things matter more than ever. Because the people who don’t have those blind spots are getting all the business,”

Read More: CFOs can use technology to build a future finance leader

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