Finance Indaba: competition is grooming future CFOs and business leaders

"We depend on Finance Indaba Africa as a good platform to connect these ambitious young lads to Africa's world of finance."

The CFO Case Study Competition has been one of the mainstays since the inaugural Finance Indaba Africa in 2016. This year, the finals of both the regular and junior competition take place on 3 October in the Committee Room 2 on the 4th floor of the Sandton Convention Centre. We caught up with Valentine Nti, the dynamic leader behind the success of the competition, and chatted about the future of finance, leaders and education.
 

Why are you so proud of The CFO Case Study Competition?
“Since its inception in 2016, we have been demonstrating in practical terms, not just talk as many do, what our schools and universities need to change in order to better equip students and finance professionals for future leadership. We need to say a big thank you to ACCA for their sponsorship over the years and their commitment to grooming future finance leaders through this initiative.”
 
What has been the highlight of the competition's first two years for you?
“That we have seen over 200 percent growth. So many schools are participating, which is testament to its transformative impact. It began as a single business case study competition for universities around the world, with 1,200 aspirants producing six teams from five countries and two continents, contesting the global finals in South Africa. Now it has grown into two separate competitions, which has allowed us to include some of the best high schools on the continent. We now have two competitions fielding 12 teams from four continents and seven countries!”
 
Do you have any cool stories about previous winners and what happened to them since?
“The 2016 winners went straight on to graduate from university and took up roles at leading Big 4 accounting firms (KPMG, PwC) in their country Zambia. They are now completing their ACCA qualification.”

“The 2017 winners also went on to graduate from university and are currently serving various roles in corporate Germany, while the 2017 Junior winners are now doing their final year (matric) at Westville Boy’s High School in Kwa-Zulu Natal.”

Who are the semi-finalists this year and what is so great about them?
“For the senior competition, from the 450 teams (comprising 1,800 aspirants from 75 universities in 42 countries and 6 continents), we are left with the Top-6 teams; they are amongst the best in the world, and certainly the very finest from Canada, China, Germany Nigeria and South Africa.”
 
“For the Junior competition, from the 400 teams (comprising 1,200 aspirants from 120 public and private high schools across Africa), we are left with Top-6 teams; they are also amongst the best in Africa and certainly also, the finest from Ghana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.”
 
How does the procedure work this year?
“University students and high schools across Africa can enter each year until February. In March, we publish the business case study (this year the case is on Ab InBev’s acquisition of SAB Miller). The competition then goes through four stages:

Stage 1: The teams solve the case and present their solutions. We select the best 20 teams.
Stage 2:  The best 20 teams submit a power point presentation and video, demonstrating their solutions. We then select the best six teams.
Stage 3:  The best six teams are invited to an all-expenses paid trip to contest the semi-finals at the JSE in South Africa on 2 October 2018."

“Just like in ‘Idols’  (in the search for music talents), the teams deliver a live presentation in front of an audience, addressing themselves to an international panel of judges, made up of accomplished CFOs, business leaders and academics who will adjudicate, and then select the top three winners whom we  announce the next morning when the Finance Indaba Africa opens on 3 October 3.”

"Stage 4:  The Top-3 teams are locked-up and bombarded for over 3 hours, with an extended version of the business case study, which they must solve. At 12:30 as part of this great Finance Indaba Africa (4th Floor, Committee Room 2), we invite your audience to witness the best three teams battle it out for the final award. We announce the winners the next morning when Finance Indaba opens, on 4 October 2018."

What have you personally learned from The CFO Case Study Competition?
“I have learned that the vast majority of students who achieve career success, do so in spite of the education system and, regrettably, not because of it. And to change this, we have to be who we have been waiting for!”

Why is the last round of the competition at the Finance Indaba?
“We depend on Finance Indaba Africa as a good platform to connect these ambitious young lads to Africa’s world of finance. Whilst showcasing, we use it to reach out to CFOs and the larger finance community, to provide them with a platform they might need to impact the education system. Some are already doing so by serving on the international panel of judges, helping with designing the business case studies we use, joining to witness the competition as audience and securing sponsorships.  We need more to get involved.”
 
Why should finance professionals not miss the Finance Indaba?
“In one place, over two days, you will catch your breath at how rapidly the world of finance and business is changing around you! At the Finance Indaba, you will discover that for every problem you have as a finance professional or organisation, an innovative idea or solution already exists, so you do not need to re-invent the wheel.”