CFO Jubilant Speckman is charting a course for a sustainable future


Foskor’s CFO, Jubilant Speckman, maps out the technology and ESG blueprints that lead to success.

Jubilant Speckman, Foskor’s CFO, says her love for numbers started early. “I have always had a deep affection for numbers, and in Grade 8, I formed a friendship with a classmate who shared the same love for mathematics,” she says. “Our shared enthusiasm led us to engage in a friendly rivalry, initially within the confines of our maths class, which soon extended to the realms of accounting and science. Although we also competed in various other subjects, it was in these classes that our rivalry reached its peak.”

This healthy competition served as a driving force for her, pushing her to work even harder, and she was a CFO at the age of 35. This achievement was not only significant for her personally, but it also served as an inspiration for others who share her background.

“Recently, I had the opportunity to meet a young law professional who shared how my progression resonated with him, because we both hail from the same small town in Mpumalanga,” she recalls. “Witnessing my achievements has instilled in him the belief that he too can accomplish anything he sets his mind to. It’s truly awe-inspiring. I was completely unaware that I held such influence over someone until that moment, and it brought me immense joy.”

Finding opportunity in challenges

In November 2022, Jubilant joined Foskor, a leading vertically integrated phosphate company with a primary focus on producing high-quality granular fertilisers. Foskor’s commitment to producing top-notch fertilisers not only supports local farmers but also contributes to the overall food security of South Africa.

“However, the distance between the mine and the plant [about 800km] poses a significant hurdle. To overcome this obstacle, the company relies on rail transportation as the most efficient and cost-effective solution. Unfortunately, capacity issues with Transnet, the rail service provider, often disrupt our operations and can lead to suboptimal performance of our value chain,” she says.

Nevertheless, Jubilant sees this challenge as an opportunity to find sustainable and affordable solutions and they are currently working with Transnet to consider viable solutions for a more sustainable solution. “Another challenge we face relates to unreliable power supply,” she says, “by working with the local municipality, Eskom and helping with key components and services like rebuilding of a substation. This is a prime example of the private and public sectors working together for the betterment of all.

“In the long run, the rebuilding of our turbo generator and, most importantly, alternative greener energy initiatives will definitely improve the situation. By striking the right balance, we can solve our logistics and power challenges and continue our mission of ensuring food security while also addressing the potential financial implications."

Going on a transformation journey

When she joined the company, her portfolio consisted mainly of finance and ICT. “However, recently I have been given the opportunity to work in strategy and new business. I am excited to be part of a team that is working towards diversifying our sources of revenue, especially considering that our company has been primarily involved in mining phosphate rock since its establishment in 1951.”

One particular challenge that she is eager to address is the transition of her finance team towards embracing technology and automation. She says, “This shift will not only enhance our efficiency but also improve our internal financial controls. Moreover, it will enable us to cultivate future-fit skills within the team.”

She notes that two of her team members have been with the company for an extensive period. “It is crucial to ensure their comfort with utilising technology and alleviate any concerns they may have about feeling left behind.”

She adds, “I am working on finding smart ways to utilise technology more, such as digitising our balance sheet reconciliation process, to streamline processes. This is particularly beneficial as our teams are located in different places, often requiring extensive travel. By digitising this process, we can eliminate the need for frequent face-to-face meetings and instead use technology to facilitate review and collaboration. This not only makes the process more efficient, but also simplifies my own involvement.”

ESG approach

Foskor is keeping ESG at the forefront of their strategy for future diversification and long-term sustainability, and by adopting a proactive approach towards ESG considerations, they are not only safeguarding their operations but also focusing on reducing their environmental impact, ensuring community well-being, and maintaining good governance.

Jubilant says ESG is housed in a separate portfolio, but it permeates every aspect of their operations. “From an environmental standpoint, Foskor is committed to achieving sustainable environmental standards. We are excited to embark on compliance projects over the next two years to ensure we remain in line with regulations. This is a priority for our executive team and our project team is actively working on it.”

She says another aspect of ESG that ties into governance is finance. “It is crucial for our finance and ICT functions to comply with all necessary regulations. To achieve this, I am enhancing an internal controls framework for finance. While some of these controls may already exist, they need to be documented. This journey will involve working closely with the finance team to enhance this framework, which will enhance governance from a finance perspective.”

She says this will provide clarity to everyone involved in the finance function, allowing internal auditors to test their controls and external auditors to have better reliance in their internal control environment. Another aspect would be obtaining green funding for the compliance projects that they will be embarking on.

“In addition to environmental and governance initiatives, our company is also engaged in various social projects. While financial constraints have limited our ability to fully invest in these projects, we are committed to making progress in this area. As an executive team, we are actively focusing on social initiatives and seeking opportunities to contribute to our ESG environment.”

Leisure pursuits

Jubilant says she has a deep passion for running, although it has unfortunately taken a backseat in her life due to work and other commitments. “However, I am gradually reintegrating it into my routine, especially since we have an annual company race coming up next month. Running is undeniably something I thoroughly enjoy; it helps me unwind after a hectic day and energises me for the challenges that lie ahead each day.”

In addition to running, she also has a background in playing the piano and used to take it quite seriously and even obtained certifications from Unisa. “Recently, I have started practising again, as with any skill, consistent practice is essential for maintaining proficiency. Moreover, it has been beneficial for me to assist my daughter, who began learning the instrument about a year ago. By honing my own skills, I can better support her in her musical journey.”

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