Kym Joubert’s empathy underpins her leadership style

BDO SA’s head of finance explains how focusing on people and not just numbers can get you better results.

Kym Joubert is not your ordinary accountant. While most accountants are solely focused on the numbers and not so much on the people, Kym tends to lead with empathy, making her staff’s well-being a major priority. She believes that genuinely caring about your staff and knowing exactly what is happening in their lives gives you an idea of where they are mentally and how you can help them to approach the work better.

“Don't get me wrong, I’m still focused on the numbers, but the people also matter to me. Overall I would say that it’s my leadership style, which is a people-focused approach, that sets me apart from other CAs or accountants,” she says.

Kym Joubert is currently the head of finance at BDO South Africa and has held that role since 2016. Kym has worked herself up the corporate ladder, having started out as a trainee accountant at BDO and ultimately managing to secure a position as head of finance.

“In the past three years BDO has had three mergers, and this was both the most challenging and interesting time of my life,” she says. “Bringing three teams together and working through those dynamics, and watching the business grow as much as it has, relooking processes and procedures, and ensuring that the finance department is fit for this new bigger and better firm – this continues to be a highlight for me.”

Apart from being a successful team leader, Kym is also a mother to two boys and says that having to split her time between work and raising children can be quite challenging at times, but she is trying to find the balance between the two.

Although Kym already occupies a senior role, her ambitions do not stop there. She would like to become a CFO of a small firm one day. “That will allow me the balance of still being a mom, but at the same time being responsible for the finance department,” she says.

Having initially studied accounting, Kym later decided to go the CA route. “Internal auditing was my first choice in terms of accounting, but when I finally got my degree, I quickly realised that the scope and opportunities with this qualification were limited and chose to go the CA route to afford myself even more opportunities.”

Kym says Covid-19 has given both her and her team greater flexibility and highlighted the necessity of good communication that is more structured and intentional.

During the hard lockdowns, Kym managed to pick up some life-changing hobbies. To destress, she does a combination of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Low-Intensity Training (LIT) through an online fitness platform called JEFF. She is also an animal lover and proud owner of a dog she takes on walks as much as possible.

“I cannot tell you how much of a difference JEFF has made in my life,” she says. “In terms of stress management and being mentally focused, I strongly recommend it. This is my one non-negotiable: I have to do my five days of exercises a week, otherwise I become less productive than I should be, and more stressed out.”