CFOs discuss managing rapid growth, and how to pull back when it changes

Top finance professionals unpacked their priorities for the year in the latest CFO Community Conversation.

Over the last three years, some businesses have had to deal with exponential and rapid change as the world faced various disruptions, as well as catalysts for growth. As a result, business priorities have also had to change and adapt to volatile environments.

During the first CFO Community Conversation of the year, Hatch Africa CFO Craig Sumption pointed out that, as priorities shift, finance professionals not only have to figure out how to manage serious growth, but how to pull it back when things aren’t going the way they’re supposed to anymore.

He explained that Hatch hires people to cope with growth, “but we then have to make sure we keep enough work going for those people”.

Similarly, senior specialist: financial accountant Tshiamo Thebe said that with the rapid growth phase Liberty Africa Insurance is experiencing on an international scale, it’s important to look at how priorities are changing in all the different countries. “We need to be more cognisant and aware of how other countries are managing change.”

Supporting growth
One CFO explained that, while there’s increasing talk and growth around the manufacturing and rollout of electrical vehicles worldwide, South Africa is nowhere near ready for that change.

“The infrastructure to deal with the rapid technological growth, like with electrical vehicles, is still not in place in South Africa, or Africa,” added ROAM Africa CFO Herbert Pasipamire.

Amanda agreed, saying that there isn’t enough support from the government yet to subsidise the rollout of electrical vehicles, because it’s quite expensive, but that customers are expecting it to come in the near future.

Additionally, as supply chains around the world are struggling to keep up with the pace of change, Amanda and Herbert both emphasised the urgency for South Africa to look at localised production.

Local growth is lekker
At the same time, Herbert said that localisation could address the climbing unemployment rates in the country, which have also been a result of rapid automatisation and technological growth. “There are still a lot of items being imported into the country. How can we localise the manufacturing of some of these items so that we can create entrepreneurs and employ some of the youths we have in the country?”

Unilever Africa vice president of finance Mikateko Tshetshe agreed, saying that CFOs “need to think about their responsibilities and the role they can play in contributing towards the societal growth of our nation, South Africa Inc, by really prioritising the localisation agenda”.

And, she added that, in some cases, localisation isn’t something CFOs can resolve for their own organisations, but requires industry collaboration.

Concluding the conversation, Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa FD Walter Leonhardt said: “We are all working under incredible testing and uncertain circumstances. As CFOs, our top priorities for the new year should be to talk, behave and lead in such a way that we inspire our people to continue giving their best.”