Dashni Sinivasan talks about Exxaro’s outlook, tech automation and her love for sport

Dashni unpacks how Exxaro used the global economy to transition from recession in 2020, to growing in 2022.

There is never a dull moment at JSE-listed diversified resources group Exxaro Resources, and the group is often in the news, for its steps towards a cleaner greener future, and most recently for receiving requests from European countries wanting to sign supply contracts after the European Union proposed sanctions on Russian coal.

The group’s latest results showed a total ordinary dividend for the 2021 financial year of R32.52 apiece, up 72 percent compared with the prior year.

Net operating profit totalled R9.7 billion for the year, compared with net profit of R4.8 billion for 2020.

Dashni Sinivasan is Exxaro’s group financial manager and says the global economy made the transition from recession in 2020 to recovery and expansion in 2021 amid ongoing turbulence from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As a result, global energy demand increased significantly and contributed to the global energy crunch. Exxaro’s specific commodity markets recorded strong performances in 2021 as market fundamentals remained tight before softening towards the end of the year. The strong commodity price performance of both coal and iron ore contributed handsomely to our financial performance, together with our operational efforts in terms of cost containment.”

Dashni expects that the domestic market will continue experiencing pressure in the first half of 2022 due to the increased volumes in the domestic market on the back of lower rail performance as production at mining operations are curtailed mainly due to the impact of the lower rail performance.

“On the international front, we expect the demand for coal to remain strong as supply is constrained. The poor logistical performance is impacting our production and export coal at desired levels, however through our integrated operations centres (IOC’s) and Market to Resource (M2R) optimisation strategy, we have the visibility required to respond effectively.”

Dashni says that Exxaro offers a stimulating work environment. “I enjoy being able to see the big picture and how the sum of the parts fit together from a financial perspective and to add value by providing key financial information timeously for decision-making. Being the custodian of financial reporting compliance means keeping up with the latest international financial reporting standards, coupled with the JSE Limited Listing and the Companies Act requirements. With the constant change in standards and regulations, there is always something new to learn and adopt,” she says.

“With the speed of automation happening all around us, it is also exciting to transform the traditional accounting role and focus more on data analysis to enhance decision-making.”

They introduced robotics into some of their financial processes and they are always looking for more opportunities to lessen the manual workload, she adds.

“Automated processes include intercompany invoicing, journal processing and some month-end activities enabling us to close the books earlier and also report our results earlier. We are also in the process of implementing a reporting tool for financial statements to enhance speed and quality with suitable audit trails and controls.”

They introduced the principle of value-based budgeting for their corporate support functions last year to align costs with their revised group strategy and aim to complete this implementation in the upcoming budget cycle.

Dashni says they are also in the process of implementing a group-wide planning tool to enable monthly rolling forecasts to react quicker to changing market conditions, commodity prices and macro-economic assumptions, allowing for quicker reaction and decision-making.

Working in finance
Dashni has over 25 years’ experience working within the financial services, motor, ICT, and energy and chemical industries where she gained sound leadership skills as well as financial management
and reporting skills.

Accounting was one of her favourite subjects at school and she remembers a very passionate teacher who made it “fun and logical”.

“Having grown up with a family of teachers, a big part of me also wanted to do something different, so I am extremely grateful to have had the support of my parents to pursue an education and career in finance,” she says.

Dashni works with Riaan Koppeschaar, the finance director at Exxaro, and according to her he is someone that stays calm, empowers people, is transparent and approachable and someone who can provide a different perspective on matters.

She enjoys her current role and her career decisions are driven by the opportunity to learn, grow and add value.

“There is always something new that comes across my desk, be it a disposal or an acquisition of a business, implementation and interpretation of new accounting standards, as well as the opportunity to engage with many stakeholders internally across the group as well as externally with auditors, sponsors and other service providers.”

She is motivated by the company values of empowerment, teamwork, commitment to excellence and honest responsibility. “There is a lot of responsibility that goes with these values so I am always striving to have a good balance,” she says.

Who is Dashni?
Dashni lives by the following mottos:

“Knowledge is power, so always look to learn and seek to understand. Knowledge cannot be taken away from you. Secondly, live life to the fullest. The pandemic is a reminder that life is short and can change without any warning, do the things that you want to do sooner rather than later. And lastly, treat people the way you would like to be treated. Be professional at all times under all circumstances.”

Dashni is a huge sports fan. “I am a passionate English premier league supporter, supporting Liverpool. Weekends and some weekday evenings are spent watching premier league and European champions league soccer games. When there is no soccer, I hope to catch international cricket games, ATP and WTA tennis tournaments and PGA golf tournaments.”