Lehlogonolo Masete from the Mr Price Group on why finance is more than just ‘number crunching’

Lehlogonolo Masete talks about the dream team at the Mr Price Group and the dynamic world of finance.

Lehlogonolo Masete (better known as Hlonny) is the corporate financial director for the Mr Price Group, which had a good year on the JSE in 2021. Retail sales and other group income grew by 19.2 percent to R9.3 billion in the quarter to the 1st of January 2022.

Hlonny enjoys working in retail and says it is a dynamic space.

“As the corporate financial director, I take care of group finance which includes financial planning and analysis (FP&A) group statutory reporting, management and board reporting and finance shared services. I support the office of the CFO. We have different reporting rhythms and cycles and there are different activities within those cycles.

“It is exciting to bring new businesses into our Mr Price Group and to have the integration be seamless. We are also on the journey of transforming our finance function as a group, looking at implementing new reporting systems to unlock additional efficiency and capacity.

“We are trying to move away from doing stuff that takes up a lot of time without adding any value. So, we are evaluating different reporting, budgeting, and forecasting tools to make sure that we have a comprehensive, integrated reporting system, obviously one that guarantees the integrity of our financial information.

“As a finance team, it is very interesting for us to utilise robotic process automation (RPA) and to explore how to incorporate that in our day-to-day function. We’ve introduced RPA into some of our processes where there’s a lot of manual and repetitive tasks in transactional accounting which can be automated. It is an exciting journey to be on, especially when our leader, the CFO is at the centre of the transformation,” Hlonny says.

Finance is an exciting space
Hlonny went to a boarding school in Limpopo (Lebowakgomo) and since it was a commercial school, she naturally gravitated towards subjects such as accounting and economics.

“It was obviously the natural route for me when I went to varsity. And yes, when you get to varsity, everybody talks about chartered accountancy being the highest qualification within finance. And it just made sense for me to follow that route and I’m really glad that I made that decision,” she says.

According to her finance is an interesting field that is always evolving.

“Finance has changed so much, and it encompasses a whole lot of other things than just number crunching. So, what excites me is the fact that every business is centred on making sound commercial decisions and finance is at the centre of some of the business cases. As a finance professional, you get to be part of a whole range of other things within a business and you get to understand how decisions are made. You have a sense of understanding for business, and the fundamentals of running a successful business.”

Hlonny has had the opportunity to get international experience working for GE (prior to joining the Mr Price Group). She has worked in other parts of Africa, the US, the UK, and the Middle East.
“I have worked in many industries. I have worked in Oil and Gas, Power, Healthcare, Financial Services and in Aviation. Finance gives you the flexibility to chop and change, and do multiple things in different roles, and you are not necessarily tied down to traditional finance.”

Her mentor at the Mr Price Group
Mark Stirton is the CFO of the Mr Price Group and according to Hlonny, he is the best boss that she has worked for.

“Mark is a visionary. He's a forward-thinker. His leadership style is very empowering. He lets you do what you need to do. He will provide support and guidance, but he is not a micro-manager and not restrictive in his style of leadership,” she says.

“He is not afraid to think big and he pushes the team to think outside the box and not to settle for average. He taught me to always show up as my best self and to push myself to go the extra mile. He is well-read and he likes sharing what he’s reading and the lessons from the books he’s read. He has this thirst for knowledge and a commitment to lifelong learning which I find quite incredible. And this has obviously influenced his approach to work. He just wants to take the organisation to the next level and believes we shouldn't be doing what others are doing. Why can't we be leaders and pioneer new ideas and new ways of working? I second that.”

On future goals and favourite things
“I would like to be a CFO of one of the Top 40 JSE-listed companies,” says Hlonny. “I don’t have a timeline for my goals, but I would definitely like to see myself in one of those seats one day.”

She mentions that her CFO is one of her biggest inspirations, but she also looks at other successful women in retail such as TGF’s CFO, Bongiwe Ntuli.

“Bongiwe is such a powerhouse. It is motivating to see a woman in a leadership position at one of the biggest retailers in SA because representation matters. I look forward to the day that I can take up the same space.”

Her motto is simple but powerful: “Just do your best every day and have fun while doing it.”

When she is not at work she enjoys getting lost in a good book. She is also a passionate foodie and enjoys discovering new restaurants, sampling new food, and appreciating good wine.

She is also quite the outdoor adventurer and with the Mr Price Group’s head office in Durban, she is fortunate to live close to the coast. “I love hiking and I have recently taken up cycling. I enjoy riding a circuit along the Durban promenade. It is difficult to find the time to do it, but whenever I do, I find that it relaxes me to be outside.”