CFO Nadia Schaerer: All roads lead to finance


Nedbank Wealth CFO Nadia Schaerer believes that finance is the glue that holds business together.

Nadia Schaerer is the CFO of Nedbank Wealth, with an almost 20-year career under her belt, but she’s never been one to shoehorn herself into one area. She has worked in various areas of finance, including audit and trading.

Passionate about the prospects that a career in finance offers, her view is that finance is the glue that holds the business together. “I suppose in the finance world, you’re always a little bit involved in everything, because all roads lead to finance, and actually for me, that’s the fun part.” She says she’s not a huge technical specialist, but loves the commercial involvement and understanding how to link the numbers to the business strategy of achieving growth and scale.

Where finance shines
Nadia points out that it is an incredibly challenging time for business, and leaders are grappling with questions around helping their businesses navigate through this new world of work and life. In addition, the difficult macro environment is placing huge pressure on the profitability of businesses.

She says:

“As a finance person, your role is to manage the most urgent challenges in the organisation. You need to know how much can be spent, where we need to spend it, and how we can allocate the expense budget. These are probably two issues we’re grappling with.”

She notes that finance has proven that it works well in the hybrid world and says, “Finance is a routine-driven field, so it’s easy to see if things aren’t working. Outputs are usually measurable and deadlines are usually clear. However, when everything is about delivery, what can go missing from this picture is team camaraderie, so as a leader you have to balance deadlines with ensuring that the team continues to feel valued and connected.

Walking the talk
For Nadia, impact and longevity are crucial and she says it is important to have succession plans in place as well as on-the-job training sessions with senior leaders who serve as mentors for junior staff members.

“Because we understand that people learn from one another, we have monthly coaching sessions where the more senior leaders share their journey and leadership qualities with their team members and discuss what is important to them.

“We seek out a variety of diverse individuals because we understand that talent comes in different packages. It is not just about finding someone with experience; it is also about looking for potential, then matching that potential to the role,” she explains.

Leading successfully
She describes herself as a very energetic and hard-working person who never says no to a challenge. One of her greatest strengths is her ability to visualise complex projects and convince team members to contribute their expertise and energy toward achieving the project’s goals.

In order to get others on board, she says a leader must demonstrate how you can help your team achieve their goals. If this is done successfully, they will go the extra mile in helping you achieve yours.

“This means setting team goals and making sure everybody is pulling in the same direction,” she notes. “In the finance world, there’s always a huge amount of knowledge sitting with people. You have to make sure that it gets distributed evenly among team members so that everybody is able to step in for each other when necessary and keep the machine working smoothly.”

Driving the DEI agenda
True to Nadia not wanting to limit herself to finance, she has recently been appointed as the Chairperson of the Nedbank Wealth Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. Nadia says, “It’s important to get DEI right by balancing targets in the business with hiring a diverse workforce and extending that inclusive spirit to all people in the organisation".

She explains that Nedbank has placed a massive focus on creating the right culture from the inside out. “The team has worked hard to create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas, no matter how different they are. And it’s not just about race, gender, and disability – it’s also about age, background demographics, how people think, and how they feel, based on their different experiences.

“This is something that I’m very passionate about and I’m committed to doing everything in my power to get right.”

Outside work
The mother of a six-year-old boy and two-year-old girl, Nadia finds that weekends are the best time to spend catching up with what’s going on in their lives. “My son has taken a huge interest in soccer this year – so I’ve become a real soccer mom!”

An adventurer at heart, Nadia loves challenging physical feats like endurance races and scuba diving, and is always open to new experiences and opportunities that come her way.

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