CFOs need to learn, teach and collaborate in 2023


Leading CFOs gather around a dinner table to discuss what their CEOs want from them in the new year.

On 7 December, CFO South Africa hosted its last CFO Dinner for the year, in partnership with Workday. The delectable three-course meal, which took place at Tryn restaurant in Cape Town, was accompanied by Abba songs and roaring laughter as some of the country’s leading CFOs shared their predictions of what CEOs will want from finance leaders in 2023.

Everyone agreed that the most important qualities CFOs need to display in the new year will be their ability to learn, teach and collaborate. “You need to have a level of maturity to share and collaborate, not just with new partners, but with competitors too, in order to help the economy grow.”

One attendee said that it’s important for CFOs to come together at events like the CFO South Africa dinners so they can learn from each other.

They also explained how important it was for finance leaders to be authentic and caring. “You need to treat everyone the same, whether they’re a factory worker or in the C-suite. You need to be able to extract performance from teams through culture instead of fear.”

The CFOs further explained that being able to engage with people and inspire them is one of the rarest skills to possess, but also the most valuable. “You have to get down and dirty with the customers and your teams in order to get the best out of them.”

The attendees all acknowledged that there will be new challenges in 2023, but that these would not define the CFO role. “It’s how you navigate the challenges, and how you support your team during the hard times that will define you as a leader.”

They also agreed that the time for balancing books and being a strategy leader was over, and that it was time for finance leaders to start making a difference. “As a CFO, the impact you can have on someone is unmeasurable, and that impact needs to be good.”

An enabler
Guests shared their thoughts around Elon Musk, and agreed that despite the complexities around his Twitter takeover, it's important to be inspired by the "mad scientists” who have big ambitions for the future. “The roles and responsibilities we have now won’t exist in the future. You need to be forward-thinking and invest in the talent that will take you there.”

They all said that CFOs need to embrace the youth that are moving into the workforce. “They will be the ones that are open to technological changes and developments, because they will be the ones creating and driving those technologies.”

One guest suggested that CFOs need to start looking at gamers, who are able to see patterns and apply their thinking to a bigger picture.

“We also need to start looking into blockchain and the metaverse, as there are already workers who are looking to be paid in crypto currencies and want to work in the metaverse,” another said.

“You have to allocate capital to new innovations and opportunities, even if they seem impossible. Ten years ago, we wouldn’t have believed that we could create a civilisation on Mars. But with the technological advancements happening today, combined with forward-thinking skills, it seems possible.”

However, they agreed the CFO still has a role to play in coaching the youth through these changes by leveraging the experience and wisdom they’ve gathered over the years.

The conversation carried on late into the night, with a full moon casting its light down into the ruby-coloured room. When it was time to leave, everyone agreed to work together in the new year to make a difference in the lives of the people around them.

Those in attendance were:

  • Burtie September, new CFO at Curro Holdings
  • Caylynne Fourie, managing editor at CFO South Africa
  • Cobus Loubser, new CEO at Curro Holdings
  • Graham Fehrsen, founder of NOVO (former CFO South Africa MD)
  • Jurgens Myburgh, CFO at Mediclinic
  • Laila Razack, CFO at Equites Property Fund
  • Leslie Marie, regional financial lead at Workday
  • Michael Fleming, CFO at Clicks Group
  • Rob Williamson, business development leader at Workday

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