HomeChoice CFO Jason Wright: Career advancement with a company on a growth trajectory
Jason will build on his past experience and contribute to the company's growth in retail and financial services.
Jason Wright joined retailer HomeChoice as CFO after spending four years as Group CFO at Cape Union Mart. In his prior role, he looked after IT and finance – which included ensuring the business had the best technology in place to support its omni-channel strategy.
He says that the relationship between finance and IT has been a “bit of a theme” in his career, as he spent the first ten years of his career in various IT roles before qualifying as a CA(SA).
Read more: CFO interview: Jason Wright, Cape Union Mart
Jason had received calls for the role at HomeChoice before but for various reasons, he didn’t explore the opportunity presented. However, in 2019 when the CFO job offer came through, the combination of retail and fintech appealed. He also liked that it was a listed company, but that it flew a little under the radar.
“I was always worried about what I was going to do next. It was nice that Cape Union Mart was private, and I got to make the right investment decisions without necessarily trying to ensure share price growth and having external shareholders dictating. The next step for me felt like it would be into a listed company. Maybe a Truworths or TFG or something like that, which would probably be difficult without listed company experience. I was 41 and had a long working life left, and was wondering how to make the transition. So when this came up – working for a listed company, building on my past experience – it just felt like the right thing.”
Retail and financial services
HomeChoice is poised for growth across its two separate areas of business – one being the online retail side, and the other being a financial services business. “FinChoice, the financial services business, is predominantly in the digital fintech space, and is developing its own set of products from personal loans to insurance,” Jason says.
HomeChoice, the retail business, he explains, also has its own credit book, so the businesses share some of the same customers. “There a number of retail credit customers who would eventually move across to the financial services business and maybe buy other products or take out loans, because they are already familiar with the brand.”
Leveraging past experience
It is because of this dual focus within the company that Jason’s past experience positions him ideally to help pilot HomeChoice on its growth trajectory. On the retail side, the company has evolved from being a mail order retailer with catalogues to becoming more of a digital store. The product offering is also now displayed in showrooms – there’s one at the company’s head office in Wynberg.
Another innovation is the company’s shipping containers, which enable a click and collect omni-channel strategy and are placed in townships around the country. The containers are too small to create display spaces but do include an online kiosk which customers can use to browse our catalogue and place orders. “These containers bring us closer to our customers’ homes, providing click and collect, ordering and support services right where she lives.”
While Jason’s new role at HomeChoice speaks to his retail experience and IT understanding and insight, his job is purely focused on the finance side. The IT environment here, he says, is way too complex to have only his partial attention.
“I’m grateful not to have to worry about the two aspects of the business,” he says. “There are lots of things that are new to me here, and I am getting on top of them over time. I think that the fact that this is very much a technology-enabled business, with a lot that’s familiar to me, is making it possible to quickly pick up and understand the business.”
Looking to the future
Jason also believes that there are enormous growth opportunities for HomeChoice. “We have a very strong customer database and customer list, and we communicate directly with our customers– it’s a one-to-one relationship. We currently have about 900,000 active customers on the list, and if you think of the size of the market – millions of people across South Africa – we’ve just scratched the surface.”
A particular area of interest for him in his new job is the innovative culture and the way in which the company helps meet customer needs. An example is how it serves customers who live in townships and informal areas.
“One of our strengths is that we deliver deep into townships. In addition to more traditional delivery options, we also have an owner-driver model with private owners of vehicles who do deliveries for us. They are known in the communities, and they know the areas. We pay them a fee to do the deliveries and that enables them to build their own business. It has created meaningful employment to 18 small business enterprises, which in turn employ approximately 130 drivers and support staff. One has gone from a single delivery vehicle to four, with more than R10 million in turnover a year.”
Jason’s new role is certainly going to keep him busy, but he makes the time for outdoors activities as well (even though he’s no longer with Cape Union Mart). He does a lot of cycling, and has climbed Kilimanjaro, and Mt Elbrus in Russia. Aconcagua in South America is the next mountain on the list, but right now, he’s spending a lot of time just enjoying his children – Ethan who is five and Hannah who is eight.