Meet Shivan Mansingh, CFO of Torre Industries

Get the basics right to see continued success, says Torre Industries CFO Shivan Mansingh

How did you come to pursue a career in finance?
“It was always the plan. In high school I chose accounting as a subject – I had a flair for it and for mathematics. This developed into an interest in business and finance. It was a natural progression. I aligned my interests with what I was good at.”

Are you a naturally ambitious person? To what do you attribute your career success?
“Certainly. Being naturally ambitious is very important to me. Throughout my career I’ve progressed quite quickly. At the age of 30, I became the CFO of a JSE-listed entity. My personal motto is, ‘The road to success is always under construction’. I take a keen interest in my personal development and always try to improve myself. I am currently halfway through completing my MBA. It has its own challenges, but I find it very interesting and I am embracing the additional challenges.”

 

Tell us in brief about your role – is it focused more on finance or strategy?
“My role changes daily. Being the CFO, it is more finance-related on most days. In terms of focus, the finance part is the execution of the strategy aspect. The rest of the executive team and I engage on the strategy and are well aligned, so it works well. We have an open-plan office for the executive team, so we can quickly and easily touch base on ideas.”

You’ve been in this role since July 2016, having moved up from a Group FM role. Was this a natural progression?
“Being the group FM helped because I knew the CFO role well – I worked closely with the previous CFO. Also, being the Group FM for two years allowed me to understand the numbers and the strategy very well.”

What changes did you make to the CFO function, the team, the processes, when you took over as CFO?
“The first move I made was to better understand people’s expectations and to develop an integrated culture in the finance team. In doing so, I cut through the noise and streamlined and reduced some of the processes which we collectively felt didn’t add as much value as the work required. It was getting back to basics; a key feature. If you can get the basics right consistently, you’ll always have success at the end of it.”

What sort of leader are you? How do you get the best out of your people?
“I consider myself a situational leader. We have ten businesses within our group. Torre was formed off an acquisition back in 2012. So, each business comes from a different background. The group is new but some of our businesses go back 40 years. The different businesses range from highly entrepreneurial, where people make quick decisions, to businesses that were formally listed and where there is a lot of red tape and governance procedures. So, the people that manage those businesses certainly require a different approach.”

“Being a situational leader and having to adjust to those people and situations is one of the things I enjoy most about my job, because you are dealing with different people and diverse cultural backgrounds every day.”

“What we get most out of those people is understanding what makes them tick and drives them on so that they can achieve personal goals and that ultimately through which, the company can achieve its goals.”

During your time in the role, what have been some of the highlights for you?
“Being given the opportunity to be CFO at such a young age was certainly a great achievement and a highlight of my career. Becoming a CA was also a highlight. I moved to PwC and there’s a rating scale of one to four, where one is walking on water and four is not doing a good job. I was one of the highest-rated people at the firm during my time there. I achieved a one in my first year and maintained it. That was a significant stepping stone in my career.”
“At Torre, I would say that being actively involved in all the merger and acquisition activities, from entrepreneurial to group development, is a great achievement.”

 

Conversely, what have been some of the toughest challenges you’ve faced?
“When I took over as CFO, the CEO took over from the outgoing CEO, and we were left with a business that was on a downward trend. We had to turn the business around – and quickly. That was one of the most challenging things I’ve faced in my career. Specific to this was the restructuring required, which was also an immediate thing, and which went on for six months after I moved into the role. However, it saved jobs and ultimately got the business back to profitability.”

Have you achieved a work-life balance? How does this look for you? What are your interests outside of work?
“I think I have. A lot of people take a short-term view of a work-life balance. I try to balance it over a year because you have some periods that are very busy, and others which are less busy. Between that I try and take some rest where I can. In my personal life, I have a two-year and a baby on the way – due in April. My wife is a high flier, so life for me is very interesting. My greatest hobby is to travel; to simply get away from everything and unwind. We travel together as a family.”

Times are tough right now, in SA and further afield. How does this affect the company and how do you deal with it?
“It affects us greatly. We are a heavily South Africa-focused business. So, given the economy and everything that’s going on, it’s been tough. We deal with this by focusing on what is within our control and not dwelling on what which is not. Our objective now is setting the company up in the best way possible to take advantage of the economy when it turns.”

“We’ve got this company to be lean and mean and getting it to a stage where it can trade exceptionally well when the economy turns has been important.”

“We want to be able to take advantage of that when it happens as the ultimate goal will always be to create maximum stakeholder value.”

What do you think is the most interesting thing happening now in the world of finance?
“For me it’s the convergence of two diverse topics, the first of which is FinTech. That’s really a growth area within the finance fraternity. The second is the continuing increase in corporate governance. With South Africa being one of the leading countries in terms of governance from the CA side, what’s interesting for me is where governance and FinTech converge – so, increased automation and increased governance. Because increased governance usually leads to more administration. I think it’s going to be interesting to see it play out. The types of jobs and skillsets required after this convergence will be different to what we’ve seen over the past ten or 20 years.”