An avid road runner, Grant uses his training techniques to be a strong leader at Capitec.
This Visionary CFO Series interview is proudly brought to you by A2X.
Don’t be surprised if you see Capitec’s new CFO, Grant Hardy, running through the streets of the Western Cape. In fact, you might even see the Capitec running club with him, taking on their annual three-marathons-in-three-days challenge.
Over the years, Grant has been taking on additional responsibilities that would ultimately see him succeed André du Plessis. Now in the CFO role, he explains that he is a firm believer in people being capable of far more than they think.
“Last year, I asked a friend of mine who had run seven marathons in seven consecutive days across seven countries, to come and talk to the finance team about setting big goals and daring to dream,” Grant explains. “We decided that we would set our own goal to run three marathons in three days.”
That year, the Capitec running club ran from their offices in Stellenbosch to Franschhoek, over Helshoogte, on the first day. The second day, they ran from Capitec’s branch in Caledon to their branch in Hermanus, through the Hemel-en-Aarde valley. And on the third day, they did the full Cape Town marathon.
This year, the team ran three marathons in three days again. Rather than running all three days, Grant ran part of the way and for the rest supported the team, with his family, alongside the road.
“It’s nice to be part of a team where people are doing things that push them out of their comfort zones, and you can see the sense of achievement they get from it,” Grant says, explaining that as a result, people have much more confidence in their ability to do things at work too.
He adds that, if you compare running to life, there are always going to be times where it’s tough and you think you can’t do it anymore, but as long as you are resilient and have the persistence to push through, you can always reach your goals. “You have to have that self-belief that no matter how big the challenge is, you and your team can get through it.”
Grant further explains that, similar to when the running club takes to the streets, his success is dependent on the support of the people around him. Because of this, it’s important for him to create an environment where everyone can unlock their full potential.
It’s exactly this support that has helped him navigate the challenges of taking on the new role over the last five months. “I’m enjoying the challenge and making a difference in the lives of our clients.”
Always be prepared
Grant completed his articles with Deloitte in Johannesburg and then spent eight years working in financial services in London. He returned to South Africa in 2015 and has been with Capitec since October 2015. In this time, he has worked across all the finance functions of the company and in 2018, he filled a development seat on the executive committee.
“I’m someone who loves to learn, and since joining Capitec I made it a priority to learn everything I could about our business and operating environment.”
He explains that people often don’t want to do tasks they are given because they think the tasks are menial, but if you see the value and opportunity in those tasks, it makes it worthwhile. “So in all the roles I’ve served in, I’ve focused on learning as much as I can.”
“André and I went on a long journey together where I was given more responsibilities incrementally,” he says, adding that because of this that he felt prepared enough to take on the challenge of being CFO.
It takes many small steps to run a marathon
Grant is passionate about the work Capitec is doing to make a difference in the lives of their client’s. He has a unique way of getting buy-in from the teams he works with when they are chasing big dreams and goals: by using real-life examples of people achieving and doing amazing things. “You do not need to be the most talented person,” he says. “In most cases hard work and perseverance outweigh talent.”
One of the things he’s trying to do as the bank’s new CFO, is to try and remind people how important the small things are. “A lot of people think in order to have big success you have to do big things, but it’s actually doing lots of small things right consistently over long periods that will give you the competitive advantage. If you add all the small things together, you start to see a material difference,” Grant explains.
“In life there are many examples where technology has improved performance. In 1936 Jesse Owens held the world record in the 100 metres with a time of 10.2 seconds. The record is currently held by Usain Bolt in a time of 9.58 seconds. The improvement in this time is not because humans are getting faster but rather because of technology. Usain Bolt started by propelling himself out of starting blocks down a running track specifically designed for speed. Whereas Jesse Owens ran on a track made from cinders, a more resistant surface, and rather than using starting blocks he had to dig holes in the cinders from which to start. If Jesse Owens had been running on the same track using starting blocks, he would have been within one stride of Bolt. The same is true for business. If you can fully understand the impact technologies can have on your business, it’ll help you unlock a lot of value.”
Grant is continuously looking at the systems Capitec uses to make sure the business understands the capabilities of these systems and can unlock the full value these technologies can provide. “It’s so easy to say that we’ve implemented a system and now our work is done, but implementation is only one part of reaching the goal. The rest of it is understanding the full value it can add and ensuring that you unlock this value.”
On the back of a successful Visionary CFO Series in 2021 and 2022, A2X has once again partnered with CFO South Africa to bring you a series of interviews highlighting South Africa’s best and brightest CFOs, their insights and challenges. Find out how they help lead some of South Africa’s most successful companies in this bi-weekly interview series.
The importance of family
Grant and his wife, Katherine, try to spend as much time as possible with their two daughters (aged four and six). “We really focus on trying to make sure we spend quality time outdoors with our girls. My wife is very active and participates in triathlons. She recently competed in the Ironman world championships and next year will be competing in the half Ironman world championships. As a family we are extremely proud of her and are often at races supporting her. It’s great for our daughters to be exposed to this, as it really shows them if you are willing to work hard for something you can achieve it.”
Keep moving towards true north
At Capitec, it is “client first”, Grant explains. “The organisation is built on four core fundamentals: simplicity, personal service, affordability, and accessibility. These are truisms. No matter how much the business changes, we come back to these fundamentals, and they act as the true north to guide our decisions.”
The bank recently launched Capitec Connect, its own mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). “When looking at pricing the new product, we ultimately brought the decision back to the bank’s fundamentals and put the clients first.” says Grant. “We decided to keep the pricing consistent: whether a client is buying a MB or a GB of data, they pay the same rate per MB. We’ve also decided not to let clients’ data expire. If a client buys data, why should it expire?”
Capitec is launching its business bank in 2023 after its acquisition of Mercantile in 2018. “We’re putting a lot of hard work into that, and it’s something we’re really excited about,” he says. “We want to empower small and medium business owners, which is the heart of growing the economy in South Africa, and again comes back to those fundamentals.”
“Going forward it is important that we continue to focus on challenging conventional business norms,” Grant explains. “We do this by removing all unnecessary complexity and making everything simple for our clients with products and services that are intuitive and can be used by anyone.”