Get to know the 2018 CFO Awards nominees

The winners of this year's CFO Awards will be announced tomorrow - know who's who.

The annual CFO Awards, widely regarded as the Oscars for finance professionals in South Africa, are almost upon us, and will take place tomorrow evening at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. The nominees are an impressive bunch, and we thought you might like to learn a little more about each of them.

From controlling to empowering: that summarises the change in leadership style of Ajith Haripaul; it also summarises the way his finance team has developed into a valuable supporter of EY’s Client Services, removing red tape and presenting facts to solve debates among partners and managers. Globally, the Southern African EY team has impressed with its SAP implementation. Ajith says that brand reputation and working capital are among the biggest factors he needs to carefully manage and says that opportunistic hiring is one of the ways he boosts the team.

Alvin Liew has transformed the finance team of Laureate South Africa from a small-firm accounting setup to one that reports to US SCC, delivers US GAAP, SA IFRS and Australian IFRS financials. He describes himself as an outcomes-driven leader who is focused on getting things done and prides himself in the turnaround of the organisation as the result of an analytically driven decision making culture inculcated. Alvin’s team has built a strong analytics database to compile key business parameters into one reporting platform for the leadership to monitor on a real-time basis.

Finance is helping the company to move down the cost curve by being a true business partner, whilst progressing value adding  opportunities, says Christine Ramon. She believes role modelling, being open and transparent, and communicating with people are among her best leadership traits, adding that she likes to give people accountability and empower them, but likewise expects them to keep her informed. Some of the greatest achievements of AngloGold Ashanti of late come from African countries like Ghana, DRC, Tanzania and Guinea, with finance playing an integral role in this success.

Soon after joining ArcelorMittal as CFO in 2015, Dean Subramanian was asked to step in as acting CEO. He managed to further mend the relationship with government, start resolving the company’s cash flow problem in moving debt from short to long term, which also helped ensuring financial sustainability. Dean mentioned plant closure as his toughest decision and is taking an active role as “opinion leader” to ensure current Eskom and Transnet costs don’t make South Africa uncompetitive. He sees himself as an inspirational leader who manages outputs. One of his important interventions has been moving IT into the cloud.

Glenn Fullerton creates an open and transparent working environment that is centered around teamwork. Among his toughest challenges have been the cessation of Nampak’s dividend, making him the first CFO in 33 years to so, as part of the strategy to recapitalise the balance sheet. Glenn mentions a recent sale and leaseback property transaction to the value of R1,7 billion as one of his proudest achievements, as it allowed the company to continue operating in African markets without needing additional capital. Around 30 percent of revenue and 68 percent of Nampak’s profit comes from the rest of Africa.

Jan Hofmeyr oversees the finance and balance sheet management activities and plays a leading role in OUTsurance’s acquisition and Fintech development strategies, which has seen the group buy stakes in exciting businesses in the UK and Australia. Jan has overseen the development of OUTvest, a new Fintech initiative launched by the OUTsurance Group. He considers his most important job as a leader empowering his team and giving them the broader decision-making context. Jan spends time ensuring that the risk environment is appropriately managed, plays a key role in speeding up transformation, and contributes to various R&D initiatives.

Joe Ndala has played a crucial role in establishing AECOM in South Africa and in developing a growth strategy for the rest of Africa. Joe produced the first IFRS-compliant and consolidated set of AECOM Africa annual financials, contributed towards the company’s Level-1 BBBEE accreditation and continues to push forward the frontiers of in his capacity to restructure the business, by eliminating  duplications and reducing efficiencies. He enables his team to be innovative, always motivating them to push beyond mediocre performance. He leads by example and calls himself a man of integrity and is not prepared to act hastily.

Temperament, tenacity and patience are among the most crucial traits for Dr Krish Kumar, who had to make tough calls around IT implementation and the Bus Rapid Transit system in eThekwini. Krish is adept at achieving success in a highly politicised environment and emphasises that a good man cannot be bought. He has 38 years of local government experience and is committed to the triple bottom line, financial sustainability and environmental sustainability. He embraces the 4th Industrial Revolution through smart city initiatives and digital technology, but most importantly addressing unemployment, poverty and inequality.

Although the AfriSam board had initially wanted to appoint a consultant, Leon Serfontein and the AfriSam Executive team successfully drove an austerity project, achieved the targets set and managed to keep the company profitable. Operating in a very competitive market, Leon believes in cost competitiveness, continuous improvement, leading by example and maintaining very high ethical standards. In the last three years, the finance department started a journey of transformation with a focus of becoming more of a business partner, adding more value to the business, moving away from number crunching to partnering with operations to analyse efficiencies and costs.

Liaan Kretzschmar played a pivotal role in supporting the downwards repricing of vehicles at Jaguar Land Rover in 2017, a bold move which paid dividends in delivering increased market share for the company. Through increased use of data and analytics Liaan and his team continue to highlight to the business which activities were most profitable and most worthwhile to pursue. Liaan believes in the power of his team, calls himself authentic and says he is a humble, teachable person. The finance team works more accurately than ever before and plays an increasing business partner role with Liaan at the helm.

Melt Hamman joined Attacq just prior to its JSE-listing as capital growth fund and is playing a key role in their conversion to a  REIT. He is currently also acting CEO, which is only possible with the support from a performing team, he says. Positive energy in a team is important to Melt as a leader and he likes to debate a principle rather than a specific matter. As part of finance’s transformation, Melt prides himself in the development of staff, spending a lot of time with new colleagues, transferring his skills and helping them to be successful.

Michelle Pienaar is proud of growing her finance team in such a way that it is able to make a noticeable contribution to growing the business at Marsh Africa. Michelle says she tries to lead by example and has an open-door policy. She also pushes her team members to be solutions-driven so that when they do come to her with problems, they demonstrate to her that they have already applied their minds.

Nonkululeko Dlamini introduced a long-term forecasting process at the IDC and impressed the board with a clear and simple presentation of the numbers. Hailing from a deeply rural area, Nonkululeko says it is a very personal matter for her to see people getting jobs and growing to be the best they can be. Coaching is a passion of hers, both within and outside of the organisation. Although there is sometimes friction with business colleagues, Nonkululeko has set up her team as enablers. She plays a big role in ensuring the IDC does not waste money or resources and is very proud of the fact that the organisation has not had a qualified report.

Osman Mia played a big role in reducing prices to improve access to medicines in Africa and combat parallel imports, as well as in the implementation of SAP across the continent. Although he was hired as CFO for South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, he currently works from the UK, where he also performs a head office role for Astrazeneca. Osman sees himself as a driver and fixer who combines strategic thinking with the ability to respond to immediate changes in the environment. He helped establishing a good working relationship with sales representatives, who are integral to the company’s success.

Peter Walsh places a strong emphasis on communication and mutual understanding, especially between what he calls the trinity of finance, operations and sales. Peter played a big role in pushing integration in Servest and led by example by integrating finance teams across the divisions. He is passionate about transformation and says the lack thereof is a bigger threat to South Africa than corruption. Peter says he leads in a way that is consistent, effective and empathetic. He spends an hour every day on IT and systems to make proper use of data and analytics.

Pushpender Singla has played a significant role to get Vedanta Zinc’s flagship Gamsberg project off the ground, something that had proved too daring for previous owners including Anglo American. Pushpender’s has also successfully upgraded the company’s internal governance. Restructuring and centralisation were among the toughest calls he has had to make during his tenure. He says that one of his best traits is that he is a very positive personality with strong integrity, adding that he is seldom very hard on his team, though he is always very strict about timelines.

Implementing systems and automation, and changing the finance team’s mindset towards technology, has been a mainstay for Refiloe Nkadimeng during her tenure at Thebe. She had to work hard to win over board members and her colleagues and was eventually successful. Refiloe also proposed a cash flow performance measure that helped the organisation to create sustainability by preserving cash. She has a flexible leadership style, equally happy to give people space to perform or hold their hands when necessary. Refiloe is patient and is known as the teacher, as she always makes time to explain things to her colleagues.

Rian du Toit is an optimist who is adept at convincing people to believe in projects. He is closely involved in the global expansion strategy of Hans Merensky Holdings, aiming to become the leading avocado supplier in the world. The purchase of a majority stake in the third-largest agricultural export company in Chile required a lot of debate and a painstaking analysis of the risks and benefits, and was his toughest decision of late. Compliance and integration of the global finance team are always high on Rian’s agenda, and he loves coaching.

Rui Morais is proud that the administration infrastructure that he implemented on the back of SAP has improved returns and has started informing the strategic direction of Dis-Chem. He has been closely involved in tough decisions, such as leading the listing on the JSE and creating the reporting structures to understand the different operational returns between the dispensary and front shop. With the introduction of non-executives, Rui plays an important role as a go-between with the founding CEO. He describes himself as driven and proud. 

Finance has been instrumental in making Aspen Pharmacare a global player and integrating acquired enterprises, says Sean Capazorio, who mentions the recent implementation of a new global reporting structure as one of his toughest challenges. He calls himself an output-driven leader, but not a rigorous office manager. The biggest finance transformation has been in the implementation of collaborative management reporting between group head office and the regions, which also helped kick off a technology enhancement cycle. According to Sean, analytics are fully embedded at Aspen, not just in finance, but commercially as well.

Silindile Kubheka is heavily involved in reducing the number of paper documents, IT improvements and cost reduction through the implementation of cost cutting measures at the National Treasury. Silindile calls herself a firm person but a democratic leader who considers views of others. She doesn’t micromanage but understands the personalities within her team and how they are likely to react to various tasks. Although she is known as soft-spoken, Silindile is able to assertively state the facts to senior management and other stakeholders she interacts with, and says she will never put her signature on something she doesn’t agree with.

Tryphosa Ramano is playing a pivotal role in PPC’s expansion into the DRC, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Rwanda – all projects with their own unique challenges. She introduced a discipline around capital investments and transactions that had previously been lacking, which did not make her popular but did earn her the respect of the board. Tryphosa calls herself a collaborative leader, who focuses on the development of individuals with whom she works. Under her stewardship, finance has developed into a true business partner, presenting one version of the truth and making sure operational decisions align with finance and accounting frameworks.

One of Udayan Sen’s early interventions was to call out the underperforming Pick n Pay franchise relationship at BP Retail forecourts, and it opened the door for renegotiating a new multiyear contract that is more balanced in terms of risk-reward in favour of BP. He was confronted with a significant capability challenge that required a sustainable approach to talent management creating a self-induced churn to upskill the finance organisation with a bias towards business partnering. Udayan is also responsible for strategy and transformation, and his constant endeavour is to challenge the status quo to drive strategic differentiation.

Umar Banda is extremely proud of the CA training he started at the City of Tshwane. As his toughest decision he mentions prolonging his long tenure as acting CFO, while ensuring that the finances of the city are managed well, before eventually being appointed permanently. Umar manages 1,300 people, most of them older than himself, and has five direct reports. He says he is a believer in collaboration, as well as collective problem-solving and feels the City’s staff sees his people as the best – albeit strictest – finance team with which they’ve ever engaged.

More than a decade since the last major acquisition, Wayne Koonin has guided Omnia through two major acquisitions with a total value of R2 billion, representing about 20 percent of Omnia’s market cap. The transactions align with the strategy to deepen the existing businesses, grow the international footprint and be well positioned for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The acquisitions will benefit from the various initiatives that Wayne has driven over the past three years including a full overhaul of the group IT strategy and systems, restructured financing facilities, outsourcing internal audit and a greater focus on governance and controls.