CFOs engaged on important matters affecting the country

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We take a look back at the important topics that arose during our CFO Day in May.

During one of this year’s Community Conversations on change, ESG, and digital innovation, all of the attendees agreed that one of the challenges CFOs face is hiring the right people for the organisation and embracing change

These topics set the tone for the entire day, as CFOs, CEOs and other industry leaders shared how they unleashed their superpowers by setting aside their stress and worries and being the best versions of themselves.

CFOs Mike Davis, Masibulele Dem and Clarissa Appana agreed that hiring the right people was vital to be able to embrace change. They added that the people they hired in the organisation should be able to fit into the culture of the company, add value and embrace change.

Embracing change
Emphasising change, global speaker Stephen McGown explained that change often brings fear, but that it also brings opportunity. “I realised that I needed to embrace the change and stop giving into my worries. So I picked myself up and decided to be the best version of myself.”

Stephen added that one thing he learned was, “when everything in your life is out of control, the only thing you can control is your behaviour, mindset, and energy. Only when we can control ourselves, can we truly unlock our superpowers,” he explained.

Read more: CFO Day panel urges CFOs to use their superpowers to ’do good’

Eskom CFO Calib Cassim shared how he has had to create change at the utility at a time when it faced financial challenges. He explained that when Eskom was on the brink of collapse, no one was lending the power utility money because it had fallen into disrepute.

Calib added that from August 2017 to January 2018 Eskom didn’t raise a single cent of finance in either the domestic or international markets.

He added that “the message from the municipalities was that we had to change the board, get rid of the executive, and appoint people with real credibility,” Calib explained. “Only then would they give us money again.”

He said that his approach to solving the problem was to develop a new way to create credibility with their lenders, “but to gain trust isn’t easy. You can’t buy it, you have to earn it,” he said.

Read more: CFOs Calib Cassim and Adrian Maizey unpack how they saved two sinking ships

Embrace ESG
Echoing this, Nedbank CFO Mike Davis said he had the challenge of getting Nedbank to embrace ESG initiatives to help the country decrease its carbon footprint.

He mentioned that building a sustainable environment proved to be difficult. “ESG is not a ‘nice to have’, but needs to be a long-term sustainable goal,” he said. “In order to build a sustainable business, you need to build a sustainable environment, which we found to be challenging.”

Mike emphasised the importance of having a sustainable environment in organisations. He mentioned that there was a worrisome trend where executives aren’t spending enough time talking about how to build sustainable organisations. “As senior leadership we make decisions that have far-reaching consequences,” he noted.

Hulisani CEO Masibulele Dem agreed that while everyone talks about ESG being imperative to businesses, they need to look at it from an even higher level. “We have to think of it as imperative to life on this earth.”

Although change was important, CFOs agreed that it needed time and patience.

Digital innovation
Lafarge’s former CFO Clarissa Appana revealed to attendees at CFO Day that although the company was embracing change in digital innovation and making great strides, they were not moving fast enough

“The pace of digital innovation and the speed of execution are some of the key challenges we are facing. One of the solutions we are trying to implement at Lafarge is to break down these bigger projects to get them within a shorter turnaround time.”

Read more: Clarissa Appana unpacks Lafarge’s digital innovation journey

What CEOs look for in a CFO
CFOs all agreed that when CEOs search for new CFOs to join their organisations they must look for leaders with the following:

  • A partner to help them drive the strategic direction of the business.
  • The CFO should be the conscience of the business.
  • Women leaders needed to ensure they didn’t neglect their feminine touch.
  • They must also be inclusive.

Read more: The top four things CEOs look for in a CFO

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