Judging the CFO Awards is a great learning experience, says Victor Sekese

Victor Sekese, CEO of SizweNtsalubaGobodo, shares his thoughts on five years of judging the CFO Awards.

Widely regarded as the prestigious ‘Oscars’ for South African CFOs, the CFO Awards started in 2014 and their credibility and eminence leans heavily on the stature of the panel of judges. Victor Sekese, CEO of SizweNtsalubaGobodo, has been part of the panel since the very first Awards. He shares some of his thoughts on what the past five years have been like.

How do you look back at five years of CFO Awards?
“It’s been an enjoyable experience and I have seen it improve every year. In the first year, there was a little bit of experimentation to establish the process, but as we progressed the quality of enquiry by the judging panel has grown and matured.”

Why do you like to be involved?
“You would think you get tired of it, as it is a lot of work, but I have been excited about it each year and always look forward to it. The stories of the nominees are often unique and interesting. For me personally, it is a learning experience and I have professionally grown through my involvement with the CFO Awards.”

“I am not a CFO, so it gives me a perspective on their daily challenges. For the broader finance community, it serves as a benchmark and informs people about how we define success. Personally, I am able to make much better suggestions to my own CFO in terms of certain improvements, informed by the profiles of people who succeed. If someone has won an award, it a very helpful to look at their profile – how did they win that award – and learn about best practices.”

What do you look for when judging nominees?
“I look at passion and enthusiasm. Because of the nature of the CFO portfolio, it is difficult to look at it as just another job. Without passion there isn’t much excellence you can achieve. Yes, you can reach the minimum requirements of your job, but in the end, it has to come from within. We have been fortunate that quite a number of nominees are bringing that to the table. It allows us to look at other points or outliers that decide the winners.”

What have you learnt about CFOs?
“Being a CFO has become much bigger than reporting on numbers. Those numbers are still a critical part, but the role has evolved to being a business partner to the executives and being proactive. Gone are the days when CFOs only reported what happened. The focus needs to be on what is likely to happen and what should happen. I do believe there is still scope for many CFOs to be more future-facing.”

How do you see the future of the finance profession?
“CFOs tend to be custodians of quite a lot of data and information. It is a question of understanding what this data means from a business point of view and on a strategic level. My own personal prediction is that more and more will be required and demanded from CFOs with regards to leveraging data to turn it into a strategic advantage. AI and analytics are playing a critical role. Yes, you do have data scientists who are involved in this, but as a CFO, you have to work in tandem with them to make sure the data is of value to the strategy.”