Five CFOs share what they believe makes a person great in the role


Is it their interpersonal skills, their leadership qualities or their values? We reveal leading CFO characteristics.

Self-reflection is an important activity for all workers, but especially for those in leadership positions. In various CFO South Africa interviews, CFOs were asked what they believe makes a great finance leader. This is what they had to say. 

“Competence is assumed, leadership is the differentiator” 
Deloitte Africa
CFO Jen McDonald (pictured) says that when you reach CFO level, the assumption is that all CFOs are technically competent. For her, the differentiator is leadership.

“Great CFOs are good leaders who are able to successfully lead the execution of a vision or strategy.”

Read the full interview: Meet Deloitte's new CFO Africa: Jen McDonald

“A business partner” 
To Big Concerts CFO Jonathan Murphy, a great CFO if someone who is more than only a finance person.  

“You can’t come into the business and just be an accountant if you want to be a CFO. The role requires that you’re in control of finance, but also that you’re a partner to the business and support the execs, as well as other people in the business. The CFO is in a unique position because they touch all other departments. So, they can have a dialogue with other departments and gain an understanding of the business in which they’re working. And you need to be aware of what’s going on outside the business too; so, be up to speed with current developments and how that may impact the industry you’re in.”

Read the full interview: Exchange rate volatility is our biggest risk, says Jonathan Murphy, CFO of Big Concerts

“Has great interpersonal skills” 
De Beers Consolidated Mines CFO Craig Coltman believes that, in a modern era, a CFO has got to have great interpersonal skills, because you spend more time with non-finance folk than with finance folk.

“While a focus on the traditional stuff will always be a critical part of the CFO’s makeup, it’s key to be able to understand the business and the key drivers, and to tell the story behind the numbers. Linking the story of the business and the numbers must be done in a very simplistic way to be successful because your audience is not all finance folk.

“What’s also important is that life is a project, so you must ensure you are properly equipped with project management skills. Whether you are refinancing the business or implementing a turnaround strategy, it’s still a project, so project management skills are critical for a great CFO.”

Read the full interview: A CFO must have great interpersonal skills, says Craig Coltman, CFO of De Beers Consolidated Mines

“Works collectively and individually with the rest of the C-suite” 
Progeny Resources Group
CFO Mali Mothiba believes the CFO is a kind of deputy CEO.

“He or she has to work collectively and individually with the rest of the C-suite and must work with each member to ensure those levels of responsibility and their needs are met, as well as deliverables. The CFO knows a lot on a granular level and has a thorough understanding of the entire business."

"I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the CFO is often the one who takes over from the CEO when he or she leaves. You have to be obsessive as a CFO and be willing to challenge yourself to learn and grow. It’s not a position for those who want to be stationary in life.”

Read the full interview: Being a dreamer is key to strategic thinking, says Mali Mothiba, CFO of Progeny Resources Group

“They have the right values” 
FD Matthias Vogt’s idea of a great CFO is their values and having the right value set. 

“Also, mindset, as this can influence the wider organisation – the people directly around you, the other executives and the board. And to strive for excellence in what you are doing.  I think this defines whether you’re a great CFO or not.”

Read the full interview: Matthias Vogt: The effort of my people makes me a successful leader

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