How Linda Dodgen is “beavering away” behind the scenes at Standard Bank

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Business manager to the group CFO Linda Dodgen reveals how being a generalist will help her become an empowering CFO herself.

Linda Dodgen may have taken a traditional path to where she is now, but her role as business manager to group chief finance and value management officer (CFO) Arno Daehnke is anything but a traditional role for a chartered accountant (CA).

Having studied at the University of Witwatersrand, she did her articles with KPMG and has been at Standard Bank since June 2001, starting off as group financial accountant. Linda says that professionals join Standard Bank and, unlike in many other organisations, stay there or leave and come back. “It’s a very wonderful phenomenon to have so many colleagues with long tenure.”

Should she ever leave the bank, however, it would likely be in pursuit of a CFO role, as she would like to be one herself in the future.

She was honoured to join the group CFO’s team in a role that is akin to being chief of staff, as Arno is well-respected in the industry and has won several awards, including CFO of the Year at the 2022 CFO Awards. Arno is not a CA, however, but rather studied engineering. “When they asked him to take on the role of CFO, we decided to create this one, which we called business manager, or ’Minister without a Portfolio’ – the person in the background.”

Linda has been in her current role for almost eight years.

“I’ve always been in positions that have been challenging and interesting.”

Not a second-in-command (2IC) in the strict sense of the term, she helps Arno discharge his roles and responsibilities, and does a variety of tasks in that sense, including writing speeches for the results presentation as well as setting meeting agendas, and following up on action items. Another aspect is to determine finance strategies and goals and to ensure that these are effectively communicated to over 1,000 finance staff and they are all on board. “Beavering away behind the scenes,” is how she describes her job.

Linda’s relationship with Arno works very well as she feels valued and can see the bigger picture. “I think if it wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t have hung around. I feel valued. I feel like I’m contributing. I feel like I get to see the bigger picture.”


Office environment

By choice, Linda works a four-day week – which has nothing to do with the post-Covid-19 working environment. “When my second child was born, she was born with a lot of complications, and she was ill for a long time. And she had many surgeries, and she was in and out of hospital. So, I just felt like I needed that flexibility at the time. And just stayed with that. And it worked so well.

“I bought myself flexibility to kind of come and go and make up my hours, you know, as I see fit, which has been incredible for me as a mom of two teenagers now. It takes a lot of trust and the job needs to get done, but it’s been a win-win arrangement between the bank and me.”

Her daughter is, thankfully, now well.

In her spare time, she winds down with crime novels that she reads on a Kindle because of the backlighting it affords, allowing her to read at night without waking her husband up. Travel, too, is always on the agenda.

Linda also tries very hard to be the voice that encourages people to take mental health seriously. She insists that people don’t take leave to watch their kid’s ballet recital or soccer match, but rather block that time off in their diaries and attend without feeling guilty. “I can actually get cross when this doesn’t happen, because I know our colleagues will work that time back.”

The finance team, she adds, is motivated, very smart, very dedicated and made up of hardworking individuals. She describes herself as a collegial leader who is people-oriented. “It is very much listening to colleagues and looking for ideas. You’re asking people for feedback.”

What sets Linda apart is that she is a generalist in the finance world: knowing a little about a lot instead of just the typical CA(SA) career. For example, during results, she writes the script for the investor presentation, which requires knowledge of the workings of almost all aspects of the group. “I need to know about the whole bank.”

At the same time, if she doesn’t know the answer, she has an entire finance team that she can ask to assist and get a quick response. Linda finds she has a lot of privilege in the team, with which comes a lot of responsibility. People answer her calls when she phones, for example.

Perhaps the most important thing to Linda, though, is what she calls psychological safety: allowing people to feel they matter and can raise their hands in a meeting. This also means being able to stretch themselves and learn new things.

“You must want to know more, learn new things, and you must be curious, you must try new things. And what that leads to is a little bit of a philosophy around it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to make mistakes.”

This, says Linda, ensures that people feel like they belong – that they can make a difference.

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