Compensation, recruitment and tech take centre stage at CFO South Africa’s Cape Town Summit

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CFOs revealed that agility, ethics and adaptability are the key qualities that will enable finance teams to remain relevant in the future during CFO South Africa’s The People Power Reimagined Summit.

During CFO South Africa’s annual Cape Town Summit, some of the country’s foremost finance executives came together to assess the power that people hold in a new digital world. The summit revealed how CFOs are not just assembling teams to survive the present, but teams who will thrive in the future and bring success to their organisations.

The evening started with drinks and canapes at 180 Lounger, overlooking the heart of the Mother City. After a warm welcome from executive community director Georgina Guedes, CFOs broke into three groups to discuss some of the biggest challenges facing the recruitment and development of their finance teams, and what they are doing to address them.

Addressing the biggest elephant in the room, one of the attendees acknowledged that, while money and incentives are not the only things keeping people in organisations, when push comes to shove (especially in South Africa at the moment), employees will leave an environment they like just to ensure they can take care of the many people who depend on them.

Another attendee said recruiters’ knowledge of the roles that are being advertised is too limited.

“We need to bring in finance specialists when recruiting for finance teams, so they can ask the more technical questions related to the role. That way, we won’t end up with a bunch of qualified candidates without any practical knowledge.”

One of the groups noted that organisations need to do more practical tests before the actual interview process starts, so leaders can get an idea of candidates’ capabilities before it’s too late.

However, they agreed that, if candidates like this do make it onto their teams, there should be various development programmes, training initiatives and inductions to help improve skills.

Adapting to new realities

All eyes then turned to future of work guru Ray de Villiers, who explained in his keynote that “during the 21st century, organisations hired people based on their competency”.

“However, today, technology knows more than we do and it is increasingly able to do what we can do better,” he explained.

Ray de Villiers keynote at CFO Summit

He added that more and more data is being generated in the new world. “Data makes our digitally connected world possible. There are 18 billion connected devices around the world today, with a prediction this will increase to 27 billion by the end of 2025.”

This means that, while machines will be generating the data, finance teams need to make sense of all the information and understand the human implications of using this information. “We’re moving away from the fourth industrial revolution and the focus on technology towards generating more inclusiveness and purpose. Finance teams have to reintegrate the heart and humanity into their organisations,” Ray said.

This will set the tone for the fifth industrial revolution, which is just around the corner.

He added that the technology businesses use will no longer be their competitive advantage. Instead, it will be how they engage with people and data.

Ray explained that, because of this, CFOs have to hire people for who they are. The ideal candidates? Someone who is:

  • Adaptable: Because no matter how the world changes, they will be able to continue doing what they need to.
  • Ethical: They shouldn’t ask “can” we do it, but “should” we do it, and “if” we do it; what are the ethical ramifications?

Read more: CFOs should be Road Runners, not a Wile E. Coyote, says Ray de Villiers

Staying agile in a changing world

As the twilight descended, attendees took to the balcony once more for sundowners, a symphony of conviviality against the backdrop of the city's skyline. Once the sun had disappeared beyond the horizon, attendees returned to the plenary to wrap up the evening with a panel discussion. Webber Wentzel CFO and 2023 Young CFO of the Year Aneshree Naidoo, Satrix CFO Rick Martin, South African Reserve Bank CFO Shoki Ralebepa, and Jobjack CFO Danya von Scheliha shared examples of how they are building finance teams of the future.

Aneshree revealed how they have already been using one of the techniques that came up during the interactive discussions. “We have been accessing skills we’ve worked with before that can contribute to our organisation. For example, we poached our external auditor as our own audit manager.”

She explained that, as Webber Wentzel was implementing a new ERP system last year, they realised governance was a big risk for the organisation. “And who else do you get than an auditor who already knows your environment.”

Danya, who joined the startup from the auditing environment, shared that adaptability has been key. She’s even started using an IT technique called “agile methodology” in finance, which prioritises cross-functional collaboration and continuous improvement. “When a task comes our way, we break it into smaller parts and each team member gets a two-week sprint to research, innovate and implement what they need to.”

Shoki uses a similar approach, focusing on agility. “When hiring, we don’t look at the position in isolation. We look at the person and see where their skills can be transferred in their division, or the broader organisation.”

Because of this, she is hiring fewer people from outside the company as they are building the skills they need internally. “If the CEO calls me today and says our reporting person is leaving, I should be able to look within the department and find someone who can step in and take over,” she explained.

Rick emphasised that leaders can’t just go for conventional finance hires, they also need enablers in their teams.

“Today, finance teams have to work with a whole host of systems and technologies and need someone who can pull it all together to enable the skilled people to do their jobs the best they can,” he concluded.

As the evening drew to a close, attendees stepped out under the celestial Cape canopy one final time to unpack what they had learned during the summit, their laughter intermingling with the nocturnal hum of the metropolis.

The evening was made possible by principal partner MakwaIT, executive partner Workday, and associate partners Circit and Coupa Software.

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