Navigate tomorrow's unknown: CFOs dine with a futurist

There was an electric discussion even before guests had sat down at last night’s CFO South Africa dinner. That’s to be expected when you bring exceptional finance leaders together from across multiple industries. When you add a futurist and fantastic know-how of executives from partner Old Mutual Corporate, the learning is palpable.

Futurist Craig Wing opened the programme with a riveting talk, arguing that organisations that move forward successfully will continue to focus on the problem the customer faces rather than the product or service they offer.

"Fall in love with the problem you're solving for your customer, not the solution. In an age of not easily knowing what is next, sound business principles can remain true. None more so than the fact that the customer is king".


Mark Kathan, CFO AECI and double nominee for the CFO Awards, was the CFO guest and in sharing his own journey with the organisation over the last eight years affirmed that sound values and sensible business principles are helpful when navigating uncertain times. Mark attributed some of the success of the balance sheet restructuring, a process that involved large pension funds, medical aid liability and thousands of people's lives and futures, to the DNA of AECI. Caring for their people, integrity and transparency - people learnt to trust the organisation for these (and other) traits and so when it came to change people were more ready to move with the organisation.

What of external change and remaining competitive? Craig Wing suggested organisations consider their toxic assumptions - those assumptions that cause their business to be static or unable to change.

  • Sandile Ntsele, CFO MTN South Africa, made the point that until recently neither they nor their traditional competitors would have considered a bank as a competitor. FNB changed that.
  • Wayne Koonin, CFO Omnia, made the point that the future competitive advantage of fertiliser would lie in data gathered from the field to deliver in time and appropriate fertilisers.
  • And it was SAPPI CFO Glen Pearce who made the point that SAPPI has had to quickly adapt its know how of cellulose fibre to other products in order to respond to marked global decrease in demand for paper.


Although Mark Kathan was referring to his own journey the three lessons he highlighted at the end of his talk seem fitting lessons for anyone looking for a way to navigate tomorrow:

  1. Don't assume you know what people want and need
  2. You need good partners to be successful
  3. Take advice from your peers (one person Mark did turn to was Simon Ridley, ex Group FD Standard Bank, who was elected CFO of the Year in 2014)

Attendees:

  • Craig Wing, Futurist
  • Dineo Molefe, T-Systems
  • Ditabe Chocho, Fraser Alexander
  • Dumo Mbethe, Old Mutual Corporate
  • Elna Erwee, Old Mutual Corporate
  • Glen Pearce, Sappi
  • Mark Kathan, AECI
  • Maureen Manyama, Airports Company (SA)
  • Megan Pydigadu, MiX Telematics
  • Monet Villet, Old Mutual Corporate
  • Peter Walsh, Servest
  • Sandile Ntsele, MTN South Africa
  • Wayne Koonin, Omnia Holdings