Finance in the family (Part 3): Love at first stock count for Anton and Zyla de Bruyn

Shoprite CFO Anton de Bruyn married Zyla four days after she wrote her final honours exam.

These CFOs have ignored the theory that "opposites attract" in choosing their life partners and have opted for like-minded individuals who have made their own way in the field of finance. Together, these couples have grown as leaders, at home and in business.

When Anton de Bruyn was doing his articles at Coopers & Lybrand in Bellville, Zyla de Bruyn was a third-year accounting student at Stellenbosch University. Zyla enrolled at Anton’s office to do holiday work to gain practical experience. 

“A week before university was supposed to start again in January, I got a call from Coopers & Lybrand saying that they were looking for students to assist with stock counts for the Pep store in Touwsrivier,” Zyla recalls. 

Anton was the article clerk responsible for the store’s stock take, so the two of them went to the store together. “On that first day, our differences were already very clear,” Zyla says. “Anton was already finished with the counting, but I kept on checking and counting to make sure that I was really happy with the outcome of the stocktake, even though he was my senior and I was only an assistant.”

Anton recalls falling for her enthusiasm and passion for life and they started dating later that week. Zyla ended up doing her articles at the same Coopers & Lybrand branch that Anton worked at. She wrote her final honours exam at the end of October the next year and four days later they got married. 

After Zyla completed her articles, they travelled together to London for two years and worked as vocational accountants. When they returned to South Africa, Zyla was appointed as Shoprite’s auditor through Coopers & Lybrand. But when Anton was appointed as a project accountant at Shoprite, Zyla decided to step down from the role as it became a conflict of interest for the audit firm. Anton was appointed as the CFO of Shoprite in 2018.

Zyla and Anton’s professional lives have once again converged, as Zyla now serves as an independent consultant on Shoprite’s Sixty60 project. 

Zyla says that it does help that she and Anton both talk the same language and understand the pressure the other person is going through. Even in their current roles, she explains that, because she’s been in a corporate role, if the pressure gets too much she can see the warning signs and they are able to have open conversations about it. 

“It’s good to have someone that, in a professional environment, you can do sanity checks with about things that are happening at work,” she adds. “And in that way, we indirectly coach and mentor each other.” 

At home, as in their careers, Zyla believes they make a great team. “I’ll come up with ideas and do the more creative things while Anton will sense check.”

Zyla pushes very hard for the family to spend a lot of time together. “We like going away on weekends and watching television together in the evenings,” Anton says. “The nice thing for us is that we can sit around the table as a family and play board games.” 

Zyla says that separating work from family life has been a challenge since they got married. “We were both in high-profile jobs and were very involved with what we did. This often meant that we would work morning, noon and night.” 

That was part of the reason she decided to become a consultant, which allowed her to be more flexible. “I made a call two and a half years ago to tone it down a bit for a few years until the kids are out of high school so I wouldn’t miss out on spending time with them.” 
Anton and Zyla believe that their youngest daughter, Laura, might follow in their footsteps, as she tends to view the world in black and white. “She has a natural flair for business and maths.” However, their eldest daughter, Zea, is more creative and has shown an interest in science. “We think she’s going to become a scientist.”

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