CFO Jan Hofmeyr shares his blueprint for technological transformation


Passionate about the opportunity technology can bring, 2023 Finance & Technology Award winner Jan Hofmeyr has been breaking the CFO mould at OUTsurance by driving the transformation of its finance department so it remains relevant in an increasingly digital future. He reveals how this change has affected the entire business.

“We can’t be afraid to break the mould. The way we’ve always done things won’t cut it in a world driven by technology. CFOs need to step up and be the changemakers.” These bold words from OUTsurance CFO Jan Hofmeyr exemplify his forward-thinking leadership.

The OUTsurance Group started 25 years ago, led by dynamic entrepreneurs which set the foundation of a strong technology backbone. Jan joined the business in 2007 after completing his articles at FirstRand Bank, and serving on the special projects team at FNB for a year. He started as the executive assistant to CEO Willem Roos, and was appointed group CFO in 2008. He has been an integral force in OUTsurance as it grew from an entrepreneurial startup to one of South Africa’s largest insurance businesses.

After being appointed CFO, Jan oversaw OUTsurance’s transition to a publicly listed company on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. This milestone represented a significant evolution for both the business and his role.

“I have seen the business grow from a very much entrepreneurial startup, to what is today one of South Africa’s 50 largest businesses and listed on the JSE,” he explains. “This leap required a focus on organic growth, strong operational execution and scaling services to support a high-performance culture, all while navigating the complexities of meeting listed company norms and maintaining strong relations with the investment community and regulatory authorities.”

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Opportunity to centralise

The OUTsurance Group is in the midst of a multi-year systems modernisation journey. Jan took ownership of Project Everest, an ambitious finance technology overhaul that complements the group’s systems modernisation ambitions, which contributed to him winning the Finance & Technology Award at the 2023 CFO Awards.

Project Everest’s timing was influenced by the IFRS 17 transition applicable to insurance businesses. “IFRS 17 represents a large change in the accounting standards governing insurance operations and is itself a major project. Project Everest allowed for a robust platform to deal with this increased complexity.”

The company’s listing also further increased demands on the finance teams. “Our financial reporting systems required modernisation to allow for the increasing demands and complexities of operating a geographically diverse and multi-product group with increasing regulatory and financial reporting demands.”

Jan explains that, by implementing a centralised finance system, the project enabled a common finance reporting infrastructure for OUTsurance’s global operations. “The system allowed OUTsurance to standardise reporting, improve data quality, and ensure consistency across its operations, providing a robust platform for scaling services in new markets like Ireland.”

Beyond the technical hurdles, he knew that winning over the hearts and minds of finance teams to share and own the vision would be crucial to the project’s success.

“Change on this scale is never easy,” Jan says. “There was initial resistance, concerns about disruption, and the sheer technical complexity was daunting.”

“From the outset, we prioritised communication and transparency,” he notes.

Jan and the rest of the executive leadership team worked tirelessly to convey the vision for Project Everest, emphasising the long-term benefits for the finance functions of the organisation.

Teams were engaged throughout the process, providing input and easing eventual adoption. “Collaboration was essential for the success of Project Everest, requiring alignment across finance teams in different geographies despite the challenges posed by an eight-hour time difference. This collaborative effort extended to financial reporting and involved resetting expectations and practices to align with the project’s goals.”

The teams also received role-specific training ensuring a smooth transition to new systems and processes.

A calculated risk appetite

“Project Everest, despite its advantages, was inherently risky,” Jan admits. “Implementing the new system during our listing transition was challenging, and the 18-month project coincided with the start of the financial year, which is typically a difficult time for any financial system to go live.”

However, he points out that OUTsurance’s risk appetite is integral to its strategic and operational framework, especially given the high-stakes nature of the financial services sector.

Jan underscores the importance of balancing practical and theoretical aspects of risk management.

“This balance is crucial in avoiding bureaucratic inertia that could hinder agility and slow down decision-making processes.”

He often encourages the senior management team to make quick, informed decisions, setting a tone that values responsiveness. This approach is particularly relevant in navigating the complexities of compliance and regulation, ensuring that OUTsurance remains agile and resilient in the face of ever-changing business environments while maintaining a strong customer-centric focus.​

Navigate complexities

In South Africa, OUTsurance is confronted by a mature market where macroeconomic challenges significantly influence business operations, especially within the personal lines of business, which encompasses personal, car and home insurance.

This sector, holding around a 20 percent market share, finds itself deeply intertwined with the macroeconomic environment. External factors such as the socio-economic climate, including the KZN riots of 2021, and the increasing frequency and severity of weather events due to climate change, pose substantial challenges.

“OUTsurance leverages its rich data resources and strong analytics capabilities to navigate these complexities,” Jan explains. “The use of data and analytics not only aids in responding to immediate challenges, but also in foreseeing potential future disruptions, allowing OUTsurance to strategise effectively against a backdrop of uncertainty​​.”

Digitalisation also brings a new approach to a complicated regulatory environment. "As regulations multiply, we aim to use digital tools pragmatically to implement new requirements in simple, efficient ways while maintaining a focus on customer experience and awesome service," he says.

"Our goal is getting people away from manual processes so they can focus on what really counts; actionable analysis to drive the business forward. Project Everest is an enabler for reduced manual processes and more time spent supporting decision-making in the business to drive growth and operational excellence,” he adds.

Evolve constantly

Jan’s journey at OUTsurance has shown that CFOs should embrace technology to better equip their finance functions for the future. His story offers a blueprint for leading with strategic vision and calculated risk-taking to thrive in the digital world.

He acknowledges that Project Everest was not an endpoint but a means to a new beginning.

"Technology is constantly evolving, and where the business case is supported, so must we," he says.

“Project Everest was a bold project that required a lot of vision. But, ultimately, it was a project that positions us for a more efficient future,” he concludes.

This Visionary CFO Series interview is sponsored by A2X. It was originally published in Edition One of the 2024 CFO South Africa Magazine, which you can download and read here!

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