CFO Case Study Competition changing the future of finance professional training - CharterQuest CEO Valentine Nti

Global entries for the 2017 and second edition of The CFO Case Study Competition closed on 31 March, with over 1,500 entries received – surpassing the 2016 edition by some 20 percent.

Team Athena from the Copperbelt University in Zambia were crowned the winners of the first edition of the CharterQuest CFO Case Study Competition at the rock-star conclusion of the Finance Indaba Africa at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg in October last year, and this year's final is set to be even more spectacular.

  • Finance professionals and accountants register for the Finance Indaba for free with code FB2017!

The Finance Indaba is the biggest annual event on the continent for financial managers and specialists who are seeking partnerships to drive progress. Thousands of delegates will gain valuable insights into realising financial performance and growth, becoming more efficient and accessing funding, among a host of other opportunities from leading players in financial services. The CharterQuest Institute is a gold partner of the event.

We spoke to CharterQuest founding CEO, Valentine Nti ,about the ongoing success and development of the CFO Case Study competition and his organisation's participation at the Finance Indaba 2017.

Tell us about your background and how you came up with The CFO Global Case Study Competition?
"I am Cameroonian by birth and also a South African at heart! Inspired by my late dad, I am first and foremost, a teacher (or coach) - by nature, upbringing and instinct. From my early school days back in Cameroon, right through my university years and formal training as a certified and chartered finance and project management professional, and an MBA-degree from De Montfort University UK, my mission and vision was set; and so a journey began. With over 20 years of industry experience (part of the building blocks of my journey) serving at a number of multinational companies and universities, both in the public and private sector, I can still confirm that education is my greatest passion! I am a pro-education entrepreneur - founding CEO of CharterQuest - with a mission to groom financially qualified business leaders of tomorrow. This is my calling.

"The CFO Case Study was conceived in 2014 through a collaborative effort with a team of students whom I inspired in 2015 to win the national Barclays-sponsored CIMA Global Business Challenge, and to successfully represent South Africa at the global finals in Poland. Upon our return, we received great support from CFO South Africa, the ACCA and WSP | Parsons Brinkerhoff; and with a team of my lecturers and youthful managers, in October 2016, we pulled off the finals of Africa's first annual global case study competition at the Finance Indaba Africa (FIA). We are returning this October 2017 with an even bigger spectacular."

What is the mission of The CFO Case Study Competition?
"It is derived from the mission of our corporate social investment foundation -the Case Study Centre, that is, to re-imagine, innovate and change education in a way that grooms our next generation of finance leaders, to excel not just at a local level but at a global level. The CFO Case Study Competition is one of the several strategic initiatives we are leading to effect innovative change in how the finance professional of the future is being trained today. Although a globalist, starting here in Africa, I am through this competition seeking to more decisively make that crucial connection between the theory students are learning at high schools and universities today, to the strategic leadership challenges businesses face, by preparing them to compete at world-class levels, in a bid to claim in the second half of this century, Africa's dominance in the global business arena."

What has been the success thus far?
"Tremendous indeed! Last year, over 1,000 aspirants entered from 35 universities and 25 countries and this year, over 1,500 from 60 universities and 35 countries in five continents. Success begets success, so this year, we launched a junior national version for high schools (The CFO Junior Case Study Competition) and received over 800 entries across all nine provinces in South Africa. Over 80 percent of last year's participants have either exploited it to graduate, get new jobs or are mentoring new teams entering this year's edition. A number of universities across the continent have adopted the model to develop better finance leaders, and more sponsors are joining. We now have TV broadcast rights as we look to build the next 'Idols' in the education space."

How did you decide on the final six teams that will be contesting this year's national and global finals?
"Both competitions are similar in structure, drawing from the same case study, set around Anglo America Plc and the global metals and mining industry, with obviously a marked difference in the level of intensity and complexity of the issues. In stage 1, the aspirants formed teams of three or four, and presented their solutions. This was evaluated by an internal examining board, who then selected the Top 20, and then the Top 6 teams, based on a set of criteria, mainly technical financial, business and leadership acumen as well as their stage presence and presentation skills as displayed on a video they all submitted."

What will the finals in October look like?
On 10 October 2017, 'All Roads Lead To Johannesburg, South Africa'. The top six teams from top universities in China, Germany, Indonesia, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa, and teams from top high schools in South Africa, will arrive at OR Tambo International Airport. On 12 October, the semi-finals of both competitions will run at the JSE, with these teams presenting their solutions to a packed audience, and take questions from an international panel of judges, comprising top CFOs and business leaders. The panel will decide the top three winners of each competition, who will be announced in the morning the very next day at the Finance Indaba Africa. The winners will then be given an extended version of the case study to resolve and return to an audience-packed hall with the international panel of judges, waiting to probe them with questions before deciding winners, who will be announced at the gala dinner later that evening at the five-star Michelangelo Hotel. Entry to the JSE and FIA is open and free, obviously subject to booking, but the award gala dinner is by special invitation only.

What criteria do you follow to form the international panel of judges?
"Our policy is to follow a staggered rotation of judges every two to three years, so we will soon be looking for new judges to replace others who have served their tenure. We have ten judges for both competitions, including Deon Fredericks, Group CFO of Telkom, Charl Keyter, Group CFO of Sibanye Gold, and Brett Trump, CFO of Discovery Health. We are looking for exemplary finance and business leaders who are professionally qualified (CA (SA), ACCA or CIMA) and/or ideally, hold advanced academic degrees (Masters and PHDs), to serve on the judging panel. They must currently be operating at board/director level for a JSE or other listed multinational, ideally, or other major corporates. Being a global competition, we specifically take a keen interest to attract judges from North America, Europe and Asia, from where we receive a large number of entries."

Is the competition structured to benefit sponsors who may wish to become corporate partners?
"Oh yes! Firstly, CharterQuest is a level 2 B-BBEE supplier, so corporate partners can sponsor as part of their broader corporate social investment (CSI), and secondly, it is operated as a registered Not For Profit Company (NPC) initiative and hence structured to meet s18A of the Income Tax Act, to ensure any donations are tax deductible. Furthermore, commercial benefits such as sales pipeline and brand exposure through our TV broadcast rights, social media, and other interaction with our growing number of aspirants, followers, and subscribers to our magazine will assist corporate partners to properly reach the 18-35 target market."

You are a gold sponsor of Finance Indaba Africa. What else are you show-casing on your stand?
"On the formal education and tuition support side, our new CTA programme for aspiring CAs (SA), our course structure to support current CAs (SAs) seeking to become CIMA-qualified members and CIMA members seeking to become CAs (SA) under the newly announced SAICA-CIMA Membership Pathway Agreement (MPA). We will also showcase our tuition course structure for various B.Com/B.Compt degrees, as well as our ground breaking Future CFO -Fulltime Youth Leadership (FYLA) Graduate Programme we are launching from 2018 and 2019 respectively. We will also display our overall ACCA, CFA and other course offerings."

"On the corporate training and advisory side, we will be showcasing Charter Advisory, to introduce finance leaders and professionals to our range of in-house corporate training, CPD and soft skills courses, plus our strategic planning facilitation services. On the talent search side, we will be showcasing our online job portal, Charter Connect, designed to assist finance leaders to search for talent. On the career guidance side, it is the first anniversary of our career magazine, so we will be incentivising all who visit our stand with free copies!"