Meet Anoj Singh (Transnet), double CFO Award winner 2015

When Transnet CEO Brian Molefe was 'redeployed' to save Eskom earlier this year, that was largely due to his successful tenure at the state-owned company responsible for South Africa's rail, ports and pipelines. And it's an open secret that Molefe's success at Transnet is for a big part thanks to the man behind much of the strategy and the numbers: Chief Financial Officer Anoj Singh.

At the inaugural CFO Awards last year the judges rewarded Singh the Public CFO of the Year Award and - much to his own surprise - the Compliance & Governance Award. This year, during the gala event at the Summer Place on 14 May, the Transnet CFO struck again. Yet again Singh was crowned the best CFO in the public sector and this time around he was also handed the much coveted Strategy Execution Award.

I have had the pleasure to interview Anoj a number of times. In the section From the Editor in our first ever CFO Magazine, I wrote this about those encounters:

But nothing compares to the 49th floor of the monumental Carlton Centre just down the road from the bank. Once the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, its walls seem to hide the secrets of success and failure. Its height talks of ambition and advancement. And its interior - now bustling after years of neglect - speaks of industriousness and perseverance. But it's the view from the top - mine dumps in the distance, hawkers down below and Sandton hidden behind building cranes - that really gets to me. It brings home the gravitas of the CFO role and I always find myself slightly relieved when Transnet CFO Anoj Singh is in an upbeat mood when he meets me there.

Singh also features in the magazine, a shortened version of the interview can be accessed here. The below quotes speak volumes about the CFO's personal drive and his passion for the public sector. It's the best school for CAs, he believes.

"If you want to be a great CFO, you need to be in a position where you can learn to manage a complex organisation,"

"From an exposure perspective it doesn't get more complex than at a SOC or in the government. There is a reason entities like Transnet are state-owned. They do things that private parties don't have the risk tolerance for."

But it is to a large degree the massive investment plan, the elimination of waste of public funds and the generally healthy state of Transnet that has helped Singh win those 4 awards in the last two years. Based on the interview with the 2015 panel of judges, the following summary of Singh's work was included in the CFO Awards program booklet:

Continuing with a massive capital build program in a depressed economy has been the biggest strategic decision Anoj Singh has taken in the last year - and probably one of the biggest of his career. The Transnet CFO says his job would be very difficult if he were "too prudent" and sees being "hands on" as another reason for his success. Singh is proud of Transnet's integrated report and of the fact that he and his colleagues have taken billions of rands worth of waste out of the organisation. Influencing the "broader economy" is another perk of his job, he says.

That really says it all. When I spoke to Anoj Singh the last time, he told me that he thinks SOCs like South African Airways and Eskom are getting worse press than they deserve. First of all, SAA is forced to fly non-lucrative routes because they are a state-owned carrier and they are required to fly to certain destinations - for example in fellow Brics countries - due to political reasons. That way they will never bring in big money. And in Eskom's case, Singh is convinced that the company will deliver the goods - financially as well - once power plants Medupi and Kusile are online. The Transnet CFO almost sounded confused that Eskom hadn't been able to come up with a better funding plan and/or communication strategy for these investments...

Without his partner Molefe and with two more CFO Awards in his pockets, Singh continues to show the public sector the way at Transnet, with an investment program to the tune of R336 billion as flagship.

  • Transnet CFO Anoj Singh is one of the winners at the CFO Awards 2015. Next year's CFO Awards will take place on 12 May 2016, once again at the Summer Place in Johannesburg. If you would like to buy a table, join the panel of judges or become a partner you can email Jurrien Morsch. Attendance is free for members. Visit CFOawards.co.za
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