Editorial: CFOs should not hide behind the communications department


I always find it slightly disappointing when CFOs need to run an interview by their communications department. So it was really refreshing to do an interview yesterday that I managed to write up on the same day and that was approved within an hour. The interviewee? Sizwe Nxasana, CEO of FirstRand and responsible for a R295 billion market cap. Yet again, I must conclude: the more senior or influential a person is, the easier they are to talk to and the less bureaucratic they are about approving their interviews.

Other recent examples of easy interviewees are Mike Brown (CEO Nedbank), Brett Goschen (CFO MTN) and Moses Kgosana (CEO KPMG South Africa). All captains-of-industry in their own right!

Of course it might be a bit of a chicken-and-egg issue here. Do you become relaxed and self-assured about your corporate message because you are at the top of the food chain OR do you get to the top of the food chain because you are relaxed and self-assured about your corporate message?

Historically, it would maybe be more the CEO's job to be the custodian of corporate culture, with the communications department as watchdog for the rest of the organisation. I have a feeling this is changing. More than ever, businesses need CFOs who can think on their feet and are living and breathing the brand and the corporate message of their organisation. Great examples of such modern CFOs are Brett Tromp (Discovery Health) and Ronel van Dijk (Spur Group), but there are many more!

We often hear that companies need to empower their staff and CFOs need to empower their team to get better results out of their human capital. To me this means CFOs themselves need to be empowered first: to be a brand ambassador, to be able to speak confidently on behalf of the company and to be trusted to talk facts and vision. So the next time when you, CFO, have to send something past the communications people for approval, ask yourself what that says about your personal empowerment... stop hiding!

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