CFO Daniel Botha is investing in his people


When it comes to being CFO of BDO South Africa, Daniel Botha not only tries to build a finance team fit for the future of the business, but for the future of the country as well.

The traditional image of a CFO might involve closed doors, number-crunching and a reluctance to embrace change. Daniel Botha, CFO of BDO South Africa, is actively dismantling those stereotypes. His refreshing focus on open communication, collaborative problem-solving, a ‘you see what you get’ philosophy and a growth mindset make him an effective leader and a model for the modern CFO.

Daniel didn’t begin his career surrounded by spreadsheets. It began, perhaps surprisingly, with a passion for marine biology. It was his analytical mindset and his love of problem-solving that eventually drew him to numbers. Today, that same mindset continues to shape his leadership. “I always look for better ways to do things,” he says.

“Having a growth mindset means being open to change. If something doesn’t work, we find a better way, because action is always better than stagnation.”

“Remain humble – it’s one of the most important lessons I ever learned,” says Daniel. Humility isn’t about meekness; for Daniel, it’s about approachability. “My team will tell you that I oversimplify things,” he admits with a smile, “but that’s just how I think. If you have a problem, let’s figure it out, but come with a solution in mind, not just complaints.” This problem-solving focus, paired with accessibility, fosters the kind of environment where talent thrives.

Transparency is another cornerstone of his approach. “I’m going to tell you whether you’ve done something right or wrong,” Daniel says candidly. This might seem disarmingly blunt, but it’s a core element of his leadership philosophy. His team knows exactly where they stand, good or bad. “Initially, it might put people off, but those close to me appreciate it because they know there’s no hidden agenda.” This transparency builds trust and fosters honesty, creating an environment where problems are identified collaboratively and solutions emerge organically.

Daniel’s collaborative approach and growth mindset have been invaluable during turbulent times. Steering the organisation through complex mergers and the chaos of Covid-19 lockdowns required an all-hands-on-deck mentality. “We couldn’t have succeeded without input from the whole team: it had to be a collective effort,” he explains. “This isn’t just about delegating, but about actively fostering a culture where everyone feels ownership over problems and the power to be part of the solution.”

Finance teams for the future

To build powerful finance teams, Daniel doesn’t confine himself to traditional accounting backgrounds. His team is multi-faceted – it includes marketers, app developers, specialists of various stripes. “We find the skills we need, not just the qualifications we expect,” he explains. This open-mindedness unlocks talent that might be overlooked elsewhere.

That talent doesn’t just arrive fully formed. Daniel’s deep commitment to internal development has transformed his team, moving them from mere ’bookkeepers’ to strategic partners. When he took over the position of CFO, his focus was on his core team, ensuring their mindset and skill set aligned with the growing scale of the business – a hurdle he overcame by investing heavily in upskilling programmes, mentorship, and clear paths for accountants to advance within the organisation. The results speak for themselves.

Daniel’s focus on people goes beyond his team. BDO’s youth employment initiatives are a testament to his belief in investing in South Africa’s future. These programmes go beyond lip-service CSI, taking struggling interns and equipping them with the experience they lack to enter a tough job market.

“Too many young people aren’t incapable, they just lack opportunity,” he says, and his programme aims to bridge that gap.

“By providing opportunities to develop local talent, initiatives like these can help curb the brain drain and retain skilled youth within South Africa.”

Daniel believes the nation often underestimates its own innovation, and this belief fuels his determination to build a future-proof finance team, investing in skills at every level, and fostering those who might be overlooked. “By building a future-proof finance team, I’m not just adapting, I’m actively contributing to the long-term health of the nation’s business landscape.”

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