Kobus Gertenbach shares his vision for Premier FMCG as its new CEO

Premier FMCG has appointed its group CFO Kobus Gertenbach as its new CEO.

Kobus Gertenbach has been promoted to the role of Premier FMCG’s CEO. He has served as the company’s group CFO since 2011.

“It is a big responsibility to steer the business for the next few years, and I’m quite excited to take on the challenge,” Kobus says. “Personally, one invests decades in building one’s skills, and it is a great opportunity to now put those skills to work and see if I can make a success of it.”

He adds that it’s not the appointment that is the goal, but to make a success of the opportunity. “I have a highly skilled and experienced executive and wider leadership team supporting me, and we all have an opportunity to see how successful we can make Premier.”

Kobus will be taking over from Tjaart Kruger, whom he has worked closely with as the group CFO for the last decade to map and execute Premier’s strategic direction. “Although the last decade already may seem like a very long time, there is a significant amount of unfinished business to reach the goals we set for the business,” Kobus says.

He explains that an internal CEO appointment is usually made in circumstances where the board and shareholders continue to believe in the course the business has set, and feel that refreshing the strategy and re-energising the business without dramatically changing course is in the best interest of the business. “I have a deep understanding of the business and the culture that drives Premier, and have strong relationships with and support from the leadership team to build on the foundation of the last 10 years.”

The vision
Kobus suggests that exciting times lie ahead for the company, and together with the exco and the wider leadership team, he plans to take Premier to new heights in the coming years. “We have a lot more room for growth in our dynamic marketplace.”

His primary vision for the company is to entrench and enforce clarity of purpose, align the whole organisation behind that purpose, supported by competent leadership across all levels of the organisation, with a fully engaged workforce. “Premier has to earn the right to operate in our communities, hence we will pursue our purpose by keeping our employees and consumers safe, supporting our communities, limiting our impact on the environment, doing what’s right at all times, and contributing to transformation,” Kobus says.

He adds that ESG and CSI are no longer peripheral activities, but form part of the company’s core day-to-day pursuit of its purpose. “Our commitment to making a difference to lives of our employees and consumers by ensuring food security and wellbeing, will lead to financial success and returns to shareholders.”

Being agile in the face of change
With 12,000 employees having to deliver to Premier’s customers 364 days a year, the business faces constant operational and strategic challenges. Kobus explains that regulatory, PR, labour, legal, environmental and other risks can threaten the company’s existence overnight, as Covid-19 has proven for many businesses. “Not to mention a highly competitive environment demanding constant innovation and efficiency improvement,” he says.

The FMCG industry is under significant pressure to reduce fossil fuel consumption, plastic and other environmentally harmful packaging and food waste. “These challenges can only be solved through technological advances, and Premier has to be agile enough to manage this ever increasing speed of change,” Kobus says. “We operate in a very fluid environment and Premier has become an agile and resilient business to not only cope, but thrive.”

In a 2019 interview with CFO South Africa, Kobus talked about achieving his lifelong dream of getting his pilot’s licence and owning a light aircraft. Asked if he is still flying, he says:

“I am still enjoying the challenge and freedom of flying, although mostly in my personal capacity. But when I need to be at a site, and time or other constraints are present, I will occasionally fly myself.”