Finance Indaba diary: Day one challenged us to rethink, re-evaluate and challenge norms

Finance executive Mohamed Kajee attended SA's biggest finance expo and conference. These were his takeaways.

I always look forward to attending conferences – they are the perfect opportunity to remove yourself from your day to day and be open to new people, ideas and opportunities. With this in mind, I proceeded to the Finance Indaba.

Marnus Broodryk kicked off the day’s proceedings with “Rule Breaking 101” – taking a sledgehammer to traditional thinking around what it takes for businesses to succeed today.

It was the perfect way to set the stage, as he implored and challenged us to rethink, re-evaluate and challenge norms. This is more evident within the Finance function than any other today – where in some organisations the function still bears the stigma of sitting in a corner with an abacus and a long list of debits and credits.

The Ballroom was left visibly energised and inspired as attendees then headed off to the breakaway rooms for their chosen sessions. There was a smorgasbord of quality content on offer and my colleagues and I had cherrypicked the ones that we wanted to attend. Each venue hosted topics for the day under various themes, such as “Learning from the C Suite”, “Discover the winning tech of 2020” and a pertinent challenge for us all, “Learn beyond the numbers”.  

There are few professional opportunities where you’re able to be a part of an audience to some of the most accomplished CFOs in South Africa. Hearing them discuss the challenges that face their respective industries was invaluable and entertaining too, such as when Discovery CFO Brett Tromp and Coca Cola FD Walter Leonhardt engaged briefly around sugar content in soft drinks!

Another highlight that stood out was Netflorist MD Ryan Bacher’s recounting of the early days at the company and how they pivoted from being an internet service provider at the start of the Dotcom Boom to becoming the largest gifting platform on the continent! His message tied back nicely to Marnus’s first rule in the keynote address where instead of, “Playing the hand that you’re dealt”, Netforist “tore the cards up” and created their own future.

The day’s sessions were interspaced with breaks that provided many opportunities for engagement. There was ample networking with old colleagues and potential new ones, as well as discussions with some of the top finance recruiting companies around current job market trends.

Many of the top finance software and ERP providers were also present, showcasing some of the cutting-edge technology and problem-solving solutions on offer currently. Speaking of which, it brought a moment of self-reflective humour to the crowd in one of the breakaway sessions when a live poll conducted via mobile phones showed that 60 percent of organisations still use a (much beloved) piece of software that was created more than 30 years ago – Excel!

By the end of the day there were many weary but inspired brains walking around. A cold beverage was just what was needed to fuel discussions and reflections on the day’s key takeaways. It wasn’t long before day two’s programme had been pulled up on the intuitive Finance Indaba app and discussions were already underway on which sessions to attend.