CFOs talk rugby and risk, and how to prepare for the unknown


During a CFO Dinner, some of South Africa’s top CFOs shared how they navigate economic and political uncertainty – focusing on South Africa’s resilience and positivity in addressing challenges.

In recent years, the world has undergone profound transformation, introducing a level of uncertainty that demands new ways of approaching and planning for risks. During a CFO Dinner on 19 October, hosted in partnership with OneStream, CFOs discussed how they plan for the unknown.

The first unknown on the agenda? The upcoming World Cup rugby semifinal between South Africa and England.

As guests walked through the library doors at the Saxon Hotel in Sandton, each asked the burning question sweeping the nation that week: “Did you see last weekend’s rugby game?” Everyone shared their anxiety about South Africa’s upcoming semifinal against England.

When reflecting on the exchange later in the evening, everyone agreed that the country’s support for the Springboks is a testament to the positivity and resilience of South Africans, and that these traits can be seen in the way we do business.

“You can’t really have your processes designed around unknown risks – they are unpredictable and unexpected. Take the Covid-19 pandemic for example, no one predicted it. In order to deal with these unknown risks, you have to have a culture of flexibility, adaptability and continuous learning,” a guest said.

The CFO added that their peers have to be able to break away from the three-month or quarterly risk assessment processes and be more adaptive to more regular monitoring.

“We’re in a fast-paced world and we have to move fast.”

On top of traditional risk assessment models, CFOs need to bring in the tools that the modern world offers, like real time monitoring and predictive modeling, and find a way to marry the two together.

“Two years ago we were totally obsessed with Covid-19, but the world is already facing new challenges, including the wars taking place in the Ukraine and Middle-East. So you need an approach that’s able to change at a moment's notice,” a CFO said.

One guest explained how CFOs can waste a lot of time focusing on the externalities of their business. “Instead, you have to think about how you can compound what you’re good at and try to extract gains over time. In that, you build a certain relative resilience between you and the externalities you face, which gives you flexibility over time.”

Another guest added that leaders also need to stay on top of macro trends, like AI. “If you haven’t consistently adapted your business and strategy according to these trends, you will become irrelevant quickly.”

“It’s not about the things we can’t control, because they’re going to happen anyway, it’s how you respond to it."

Everyone echoed their belief in South African optimism. “You have to be optimistic as leaders, because the biggest issue when there are times of relative disruption is that you miss the opportunities. You need to seek the opportunities and find ways to compound faster during times of uncertainty.”

True to their nature, the CFOs brought the conversation back to finance, concluding that: “The more diversified and dynamic you are, the more resilient you are, and the more financial capacity you have to be optimistic.”

Those in attendance were:
  • Caylynne Fourie, managing editor at CFO South Africa
  • Daniel McWilliam, enterprise account executive at OneStream Software
  • Georgina Guedes, executive community director at CFO South Africa
  • Gideon Joubert, CFO at FirstRand Africa
  • Jan Hofmeyr, CFO at OUTsurance
  • Lorraine Venter, sales director MEA at OneStream Software
  • Rupesh Govan, FD at Investec Bank
  • Ted Willcox, FD at National Brands (AVI)
  • Trevor Wentworth, group financial manager at Adcock Ingram
  • Tendani Sikhwivhilu, CFO at Bidvest Bank


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