Lucas Ndala - CFO Bafokeng Holding: `Work hard, be flexible and have a never-die attitude`


Royal Bafokeng Holdings (RBH) is a leading South African community-based investment company. The company – with a turnover of R6 billion – is responsible for the management and development of the commercial assets of the Royal Bafokeng Nation, a 150,000-strong community of black South Africans and a turnover of R6 billion.

In 2002, Royal Bafokeng Resources was established to manage and develop the RBN's mining-related assets. Two years later, Royal Bafokeng Finance was formed with the aim of establishing a non-mining investment portfolio so as to diversify and stabilise the nation's investment income over time. In 2006, these two entities were merged to form Royal Bafokeng Holdings, which manages the nation's portfolio holistically. RBH aspires to be the world's leading community-based investment company.

Lucas joined RBH in 2004, after having done his articles with Deloitte and qualifying as CA in 2001. He then moved to Mettle in structured finance, prior to joining Barclay as a credit analyst. He joined RBH in 2004 as an investment manager, and was appointed CFO of the company in 2008.

1) What do you enjoy most about your job and why?

What I enjoy most is the complexity of the job and the various challenges that it brings on a daily basis.

2) How do you perceive the role of the CFO has changed in the last five to ten years?

I feel the role of the CFO has become more dynamic and is no more about accounting. The CFO has to understand the business and the various economic conditions that will impact the business and should be able to anticipate and plan for various scenarios. The CFO has to be flexible and be part of the strategy formulation and implementation thereof. The CFO also has to understand the legislative changes and how it impacts the business financially.

3) How do you see the role of the CFO evolving in the next five to ten years?

The CFO role will require individuals who are flexible, dynamic and a person who is more of a generalist than specialist as he will be required to interact at various levels. Interpersonal skills will also be key.

4) Would you say that accurate forecasting and budgeting is still feasible for a financial department in today's tumultuous financial markets?

Yes, it is still relevant and is still important as it assists with scenario planning and measuring performance to expectations. CFO has to stay abreast of economic development, legislative issues as well as political situations as this assist in dealing with volatility.

5) What do you see as the greatest challenge for South African companies in the global economic situation and for your industry in particular?

The current global financial uncertainty is the biggest challenge especially for raising funding for investment purposes. When raising funding banks require additional security as compared to the past and this is also exacerbated by the Base iii requirements.

6) Which skill(s) do you think a finance professional should master to be most successful in his work?

Technical skills and interpersonal/relationship building skills are quite key for any finance professional. I think that understanding the impact of changing tax legislation of the company and how to manage it effectively and interaction and relationship building with the financial institutions is also crucial.

7) Which achievement or project in your business career are you most proud of?

So far I am most proud of being appointed as a CFO at Bafokeng, as it gave me an opportunity to operate at a more strategic level. Also, I implemented the HFM reporting system, which I am very content with.

8) What three things must you do every single day to feel fulfilled in your work?

The three things that I would ideally experience every day is to see my team enjoying and learn from what they are doing; to interact with various stakeholders and lastly to experience the challenge that my job gives me everyday due to its unpredictability.

9) Who is your role model in life and why?

It has to be my parents. They encouraged me to study hard and be ambitious in life even though they never had an opportunity to study.

10) What vital piece of advice would you give young ambitious finance professionals?

"Work hard, be flexible in approach and have a never-die attitude."

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category: Interviewing the CFO

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