Nkosemntu Nika - CFO PetroSA: `I love how my job is not routine`

PetroSA is South Africa's national oil company. It owns, operates and manages South Africa's petroleum industry commercial assets. The company was formed in January 2002 from the merger of three previous entities, Mossgas (Pty) Limited, Soekor (Pty) Limited, and parts of the Strategic Fuel Fund Association.

Currently PetroSA employs about 1800 people, last year had a turnover of R10,6 billion and boasts cash reserves of R11,9 billion. The company has its headquarters in Cape Town. Vital part of their executive management team is Nkosemntu Nika, CFO of PetroSA. Prior to joining PetroSA in 2003 he was CFO of the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA). Before DBSA Nkosemntu was a Senior General Manager; Corporate Audit Services with Eskom and has held various internal auditing positions at Shell and Anglo American.

Besides several positions in South Africa, Nkosemntu gained international experience while working as senior analyst for the Royal Dutch in their London head office. He qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1987, just prior to joining Royal Dutch. However, it is mainly at Eskom where he gained vast experience in working at executive level of management, says Nkosemntu.


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

What I enjoy in my job is that it is not routine. I am a strategic partner of the business and I get job satisfaction when my colleagues accept my advice. Routine financial administration is done by my sub-ordinates; my role is guidance and supervision.

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

This fast evolving economic environment of the last few years has required a lot more on-the-spot decision making, increased business risk, but it has also provided lots of opportunities. The role of the CFO is a lot less about merely transactional processing and tactical decisions, and much more about direct involvement as the right-hand man of the CEO in strategy formulation and execution.

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

I foresee less financial stewardship and a greater role as business leader and strategic partner. Leveraging technology, data standardization, a rigorous management of external stakeholders and people development will become key focus areas.

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

An organisation requires appropriate technology tools and an agile business intelligence environment so as to be alert to the omnipresent challenges out there. We find adaptability to a fast changing environment is crucial, as is broad networking capability and strategic partnering; they are all important ingredients for coping in a volatile environment.

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

I think the greatest challenge is the globalisation of the economy, the flight of capital from the developed economies seeking opportunities in the emerging markets thereby increasing competition. The increasingly rigorous regulation and a variety of other pressures require the company to continuously demonstrate good corporate citizenship.

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

I personally believe that networking and stakeholder relationship management are key. PetroSA is going through a massive capital expansion programme and it is absolutely essential that appropriate partnerships and networks are nurtured in various areas including project execution, the investor community and operations, for example.

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

Whilst at Shell, I managed to significantly reduce the turnaround of producing the quarterly press release by curtailing certain procedures which were always considered critical and with operational company experience and research, proved that they were not.

Whilst at Eskom, I see the introduced theme audits to achieve greater impact across the organisation as my greatest achievement.

In my current job, I've been a member of a team that saw PetroSA build cash reserves that are to be used as a seed for growth.

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

(i) Greet my sub-ordinates - ensures that people get motivated

(ii) For those areas which are high risk - ensure that critical risk policies are complied with

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

That is most definitely Mr Winston Churchill - for his elegant character and decisiveness as a leader.

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

I would tell them that patience is important - meaning that people must always be prepared to start at the bottom.

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category: Interviewing the CFO