Frederick Kotzee - CFO Afrox: `I enjoy contributing to the strategic direction of the company`
Next in our interviews with CFOs of leading South African companies is Frederick Kotzee, CFO of Industrial gas and welding products group African Oxygen (Afrox). A company with a long history; it was founded as early as in 1927. In 1963, Afrox was listed on the JSE. The company has a yearly turnover of R5bn and staffs nearly 4000 employees.
Frederick joined Afrox as Financial Director in 2010. He is a charted accountant, and also has two legal degrees; BProc and LLB. Add some 15 years post Articles finance experience in mining and industry (general finance, corporate finance, joint ventures, investment banking, business development, project management as well as negotiating, implementing and managing large transactions) to his list of capabilities, and you have a good idea of Frederick's skills as a CFO. The following ten questions complete the picture.
Mostly I enjoy contributing to the strategic direction of the company, working with people across all disciplines in the business, dealing with a variety of unpredictable challenges and hopefully seeing the fruits as a result.
2) How has the role of the CFO changed in the last ten years?
The role of the CFO has become more strategic and more of a partner role to the business. The CFO is now expected to make significant contributions in three key areas:
Providing strategic business advice and guidance;
Improving the company's organizational controls to comply with new regulations;
Ensuring cost efficiency. As the economic slump took hold, Coos had to switch their focus to
efficiency and cost control.
3) How do you see the role of the CFO evolving in the next say five to ten years?
I foresee an even greater focus on the items listed above. In addition, an even greater focus on IT as it increasingly replaces human endeavor, and an increased leveraging thereof to drive efficiencies. External stakeholder demands are likely to increase and the pressure from new regulations will not ease up.
4) Would you say that accurate forecasting and budgeting is still feasible for a financial department in today's tumultuous financial markets? How do you deal with the volatility?
I agree that accurate forecasting is becoming a bigger challenge and there is a greater role for scenario planning. The finance department also needs to adapt by shortening the time it takes to respond to changes and by developing a rolling forecasting process.
5) What do you see as the greatest challenge for South African companies in the global economic situation and for your industry in particular?
South Africa will continue to face a skills shortage and retaining your high performers will have to be a focus. Companies will no longer be able to mask inefficiencies through volume growth and being responsive to the ever changing economic landscape imperative.
The increasing expansion in other African countries as the continent's growth accelerates will be a challenge for our industry. The replacement of aging plants and infrastructure will also be a challenge in the coming years.
6) Which skill do you think a finance professional should master to be most successful in his work?
People management. A finance professional must be able to balance a zero tolerance for corporate governance failures and control breeches, and at the same time add value by being business partner (providing solutions and not only problems).
7) Which achievement or project in your business career are you most proud of?
Being appointed the Financial Director of Afrox.
8) Which education would you recommend for a successful career in business, and why?
Becoming a Charted Accountant, as it covers a broad spectrum of what is required in business. I have also completed a BProc and LLB, and an additional qualification outside of finance serves to open up one's horizons.
9) Who is your role model in life and why?
My father, Theunis Kotzee. He has been a mentor for me in business and my personal life, having been successful professionally (ex CEO of Group Five) and also being the best father I could have asked for.
10) What vital piece of advice would you give today's young ambitious finance professionals?
To work hard and to never compromise your reputation and values. There are no shortcuts.
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category: Interviewing the CFO