Finance Meets HR Summit reveals: Finance and HR need to get into bed together

When you put people and finance together, you can create beautiful value for business.

On 18 February, CFO South Africa hosted the Finance Meets HR Summit, with over 120 high-calibre CFOs and CHROs filling the inspirational spaces of the Equinox Leadership and Innovation Centre in Sandton.

It’s rare for CFOs and CHROs get together outside the office to make small talk and get to know each other. But that’s exactly what happened at the Finance Meets HR Summit, with the theme of #StrongerTogether. 

In his welcome speech, CFO South Africa MD Joël Roerig thanked the event partners and joked that “We are bringing finance and HR together once a year because they love each other so much.” 

Accenture Strategy managing directors Luis Rodriguez and Markus Gschwari started off the intense debates of the evening by explaining “The Multiplier Effect”, which essentially comes down to People x Future = Value.

“What we are seeing with all the C-suite people is that the boxes are becoming more blurred and collaboration is becoming more important,” Markus said.

He explained that there are three parts to being a CHRO:
1)      HR operations
2)      Business partner
3)      Strategic enabler

“As these boundaries between functional areas inside organisations and operations blur, people move into a liquid way of working,” Markus said. “To orchestrate this liquidity, you get the chief people officer.”

Luis believes that CFOs should start doing things differently by changing the name and mindset behind a CFO.

“You should be chief future officer, because your main objective should be to think about the future.”

Luis named five other things he believes CFOs need to do differently:
1)      Evolve the role, capabilities and talent
2)      Digitise finance and harness the power of data
3)      Drive enterprise and digital transformation
4)      Embrace financial agility
5)      Guard the enterprise

Talking to the Multiplier Effect, Luis said “if you only have one part of the equation, you get pretty close to nothing”. He explained that the People component in the equation is not only applicable to HR but extremely important for finance as well. Similarly, you also need a CHRO that is constantly thinking about finance.

Workday country managing director Zuko Mdwaba echoed these thoughts saying that “we see more and more of this alignment between people and finance”. 

The group then split into two panel discussions, led by Investec CFO Nishlan Samujh and Howden CFO Marinella Vigouroux on the finance side, and Microsoft SA HR director Jasmin Pillay and Swissport SA VP of HR Nonhlanhla Mhlungu for HR.

In the finance panel, Nishlan and Marinella discussed some CHRO responses to the questions “What do I like most about the CFO?” and “What do I like least about the CFO?” to a great deal of laughter and some uncomfortable cringing from the audience. They concluded that the collision between CFOs and CHROs came down to the different levels of emotional intelligence of the people in any boardroom. 

Summarising the evening, Business Results Group CFO Nichola Tyler said that:

“Even if you think there are adversarial relationships between finance and HR, if you’re not already bedfellows, I suggest you start sleeping together.”

However, she added that the best relationship to achieve a meaningful business strategy alliance “isn’t a couple’s date, it’s a threesome between the CEO, CFO and CHRO”.

With much to think about, the CFOs and CHROs proceeded to network and mingle well into the evening – putting into motion the evening’s theme: that the two areas of work are #StongerTogether. 

 CFO South Africa extends its thanks to all the partners that made the evening possible. This includes principal partner Workday, executive partner SAP Concur, associate partners Jaguar Land Rover, Transparent, Coupa, ClarkHouse Human Capital, Compliance Online, Momentum Consultants and Actuaries, Sanlam and Skillogical, and venue partner Absa.