Paul Masson is hardly the picture of a conventional CFO

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Paul Masson pitched up at Deloitte for his articles 15 years ago in a lime green shirt, and still ensures he leads with his unique personality today as the CFO of Float.

Paul Masson’s road to becoming a CA started when he followed his parents’ guidance and went to the University of Johannesburg to do a BCom (Hons) in accounting. There, he got quite a surprise when he was buying textbooks and, among these, were some on law, which he had not anticipated. “The person behind the counter just shook their head as if to ask how I got there if I didn’t even have a handle on the course requirements.”

He started his career by doing articles at Deloitte, where he arrived for the interview in a slim-fit black and white pin-striped suit and a lime green shirt. He had blonde highlights in his hair too. This made him really stand out, and his approach to following his gut also led to another unconventional choice: selecting Winnipeg when he was seconded overseas during the time he was there.

“I went for the interview in a slim suit and a lime green shirt because Deloitte’s corporate colour is lime green. At that stage, I had highlighted blonde hair that was quite long. None of that was in fashion 15 years ago.”

This was hardly the grey suit that previously typified the auditing and accounting professions. To make matters worse – in an age before companies routinely checked social media postings – Paul wasn’t expecting the Deloitte Partner to pull up his Facebook page, with Paul’s topless profile picture.

After the hour-long interview, the Deloitte partner conducting the interview told Paul that he had been sceptical when he first arrived and thought it unlikely that Paul would be chosen. The result was far from that.

“He called his PA in, who brought in a contract which we signed right there and then.”

Embracing new experiences

At Deloitte, Paul ensured he balanced his new workload by taking advantage of team sports at the auditing and accountancy firm. He found this helped build culture, which has been important to him throughout his career. Seconded to Winnipeg in January 2010, he chose that location because he thought he would be able to snowboard.

“It's one of the flattest and coldest places in the world. It went down to -46°C and there’s an alert on TVs that warns you not to go outside without being fully covered up. I went outside and took my glove off, and then put it back on. That’s how long I could last. It just burned immediately.”

Paul finally got to snowboard recently, and took his fiancée along. This, he says, was not his best idea for a short trip, and they won’t be repeating the experience anytime soon.

From Deloitte, Paul moved to AlexForbes, where he started as a senior financial accountant and worked his way to group consolidations, having told recruitment to just “get me a position and I’ll find my way through”.

He then moved to strategy and his supervisor at the time expressed concern, stating that it was not the best move for him, especially since he had a solid career path mapped out.

“Again, I went with my gut. And I knew that if I was ever going to make it, I was going to have to be placed in an area I was extremely passionate about and where I believed I could grow and add value.”

He went on to serve eight years with the company, and served in various senior roles, including as senior manager of group strategy and M&A.

Chasing new opportunities

During his time on the AlexForbes Junior Board, Paul met Alex Forsyth-Thompson, who founded Float, Africa’s first card-linked payment platform business, in 2020. “Alex asked me to spend a bit of time with him to understand Float.”

He liked what he saw, and joined Float in 2021, where his broad experience has come into play perfectly. “At a startup, you need to understand the whole picture – from sales to operations – in order to be successful.”

Being able to take what he had previously learnt and apply it in a startup context meant having to wear multiple hats, including CFO and COO.

Moving to Float has presented new challenges, however, and offered Paul an opportunity to develop his skills while also following his gut. “The amount of work that I’ve done in these two-and-a-half years is probably more than I’ve gotten through in my whole career. You grow with the team. And you see the output.”

As Float gains traction, Paul aims to grow personally and professionally, as well as nurturing his team.

He allows his team to take chances with courage. “Be brave enough to take risks and don’t worry about making mistakes. Everyone’s got to make errors. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work out because you will still learn a lot.”

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