Raisibe Morathi reveals what drove her to accept the Vodacom CFO role

In an exclusive interview with CFO.co.za, Raisibe says she's looking forward to Vodacom's youthfulness.

On 25 August, two press releases went out in quick succession, one announcing that Nedbank group CFO Raisibe Morathi would be leaving Nedbank after ten years, and the other announcing that she would be joining Vodacom as group CFO.

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CFO.co.za chatted to Raisibe to gain some insights into the Nedbank stalwart’s big move. She was quick to assert that she hadn’t been planning to leave Nedbank and that she is extremely grateful for her time at the bank.

“I’ve grown up in Nedbank as a CFO, and I am so grateful for the opportunities they created for me. This was a difficult decision, but when I looked at the upside of the opportunities with the Vodacom Group, opportunities that don’t come along every day, I accepted.”

She added that the decision came with extremely mixed emotions. “I am sad to leave Nedbank. I have lots of friends and associates that I have made over the last decade, but I am excited about this new chapter in my life.”

Raisibe will complete her handover to CFO-designate Mike Davis in September, take a month’s leave in October (“I do need a bit of a break”) and start in her new role at Vodacom “hopefully energised” on 1 November.

She says she’s looking forward to the younger environment at Vodacom. “In my 26 years of working, I have worked in companies that are old and mature in their industries or sectors. Nedbank is 180 years old, and has been listed for 60, and Sanlam is a 100-year-old company. Vodacom is only 25 years old and it’s still growing. There’s lots of excitement. So that change is what appealed.”

She also explained that the telecommunications group’s focus on technology was a drawcard. “When I was involved in a technology project at Nedbank, one of my colleagues went to Singularity University, and when he came back, he couldn’t stop talking about it. I wanted to see it for myself, so I went on one of the executive programmes in 2018, which opened a door for me, and got me more and more interested in technology. When the Vodacom opportunity came along, I wasn’t looking for a change, but I realised that this would be my moment to do something I am excited about.”

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The Vodacom announcement stated: “As one of the most experienced and one of very few African black female CFOs of a listed company in South Africa, Raisibe’s appointment underscores Vodacom’s commitment to driving diversity across the workplace.”

Transformation and women empowerment are causes very close to Raisibe’s own heart.

“I am a firm believer that we need to continue to increase the voice of women in the corporate environment to create more role models, so that more younger women are inspired to follow through, and so that some of the critical obstacles shift to be more inclusive. Numbers matter, and if there are women in the workforce, changing culture to be more inclusive is easier. We need more women getting into higher education, and aspiring to build a professional life, so we have to create the opportunities for them to grow. There are lots of women in finance roles, but not in CFO roles – so we need to make sure that the path is there for them to follow.”

Raisibe says that the work-from-home revolution of Covid-19 has been an eye opener for her.

“I am really pro working from home. For the first time, I realised that this one of the key solutions towards a work-life balance. It is definitely not a zero-sum game, therefore when the Covid-19 challenges have subsided, I believe that there will be reasons that I will want to go back to the office, to be able to interact and enhance team networks, which are critical in business. Importantly, I believe that this should be as a parallel or a blend, with flexible work practices. If you can spend more time at home, and be able to fetch kids from school, do homework support, look after an elderly parent or complete chores that are on your mind, for me that will be  an amazing thing and will open opportunities for several people. Until now, business has followed a recipe for having people sit at work, but this new approach creates a more inclusive culture, especially for women.”

She says that Vodacom has already made this outlook of inclusivity part of its culture. “I am excited about how Vodacom has taken this on board, and I am looking forward to working with everyone, men and women, young and old people, people form diverse educational backgrounds,  as I believe diversity is a necessary part of success in business.”