Exceptional opportunities are emerging in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, say CFOs

At a CFO Dinner in Stellenbosch, execs shared learnings and discussed how they are moving forward.

Opportunity was the name of the game at a CFO Dinner hosted at the breathtaking Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch on 11 November. It was estimated that among the CFOs in the room, a number of deals totalling well into billions of rands were being negotiated.

The dinner, hosted by CFO South Africa and made possible with the generous support of Standard Bank, brought top finance executives together for one of very few in-person events of the last two years.

In the luxurious surroundings of the Vinoteque Cellar’s private dining experience, CFOs reflected on the disruption and challenges that emerged as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold on the world.

Those in attendance included:

  • Anton de Bruyn, CFO, Shoprite
  • Bongiwe Ntuli, CFO, TFG
  • Brian Chivere, community manager, CFO South Africa
  • Casper Troskie, CFO, Old Mutual
  • Clive Potter, head: client coverage SA, CIB, Standard Bank
  • Georgina Guedes, editor in chief, CFO South Africa
  • Lucas Verwey, group FD, Distell
  • Neville Williams, CFO, Remgro
  • Mark Daly, CFO, Cipla
  • Maryke van Zyl, executive client coverage manager, CIB, Standard Bank
  • Mthokozisi Dlamini, head: client coverage Cape Town, CIB, Standard Bank
  • Pieter de Wit, CFO, Afrimat

The CFOs present had steered their businesses through the storm and shown that strong finance captains will ensure that the course remains true. After 20 months, many of the CFOs are now ready to embrace opportunities that have emerged.

But the pandemic also has the CFOs on a steep learning curve. One commented that every board meeting during the crisis was like a mini-MBA, with international experts weighing in on business impact, and another saying that the crisis team met daily to deal with matters that arose, and to make decisions.

Among the CFOs whose businesses have emerged in good shape after the Covid-19 crisis, it was significant that many of them had made pro-people decisions – ranging from paying staff even though the business was effectively shut, to arranging private transport for essential teams to get to the office, to cutting salaries in favour of retrenchment and then paying back the cuts when the business returned to profit.

Of course, Covid-19 is not the only challenge South Africa has faced in the last 20 months, and the CFOs also touched on their responses to the recent riots that shook the business world – and the South African public at large. They discussed the importance of protecting their people and their sites, and delved into how they achieved this.

After a night of sharing stories and comparing notes, the CFOs all agreed on two things – that South Africans are extraordinarily resilient, and that there are incredible opportunities for growth for those businesses ready to seize them. They expressed their gratitude for an exceptional evening of interaction and knowledge sharing, in an unparalleled setting.