Rudolph Torlage - CFO ArcelorMittal: `From the score keeper to a business partner and key member of strategy`
“The role model in my life? My personal assistant Annatjie: she is always positive and encourages me when I’m down.” Meet Rudolph Henry Torlage, the Chief Financial Officer of South Africa’s leading steel producer ArcelorMittal. Why don’t all CFOs value their PA’s as much as Rudolph, we wonder.
Rudolph's impressive list of titles read as follows: BAcc (Stellenbosch) BCom Hons (Accounting) (UNISA) CTA (UNISA) CA (SA) MDP. Prior to his appointment as CFO of ArcelorMittal in September 2010, Chartered Accountant Rudolph held a number of senior management positions in the finance portfolio at ArcelorMittal South Africa. ArcelorMittal South Africa Limited is the largest steel producer on the African continent, with a production capacity of 7.8 million tonnes of liquid steel per annum. The company - currently staffing around 10,000 employees - was founded as early as in 1928 and has its headquarters in Vanderbijlpark in the Gauteng Province. It was listed on JSE in 1989.
Rudolph has been with the company for over 20 years - with the exception of a brief stint at Absa as Manager of Group Finance between 1998 and 1999 - heading a number of different divisions. Over the past five years, he had been taking up the role of AMSA company controlling GM, working closely with the company's former CFO, Kobus Verster, who left the company earlier in 2010 to take up the position of financial director at construction group Aveng.
Rudolph has held a number of senior management positions in the finance portfolio at ArcelorMittal South Africa. He has been an Executive Director of ArcelorMittal South Africa Ltd since September 3, 2010. He serves as a Director of Coal of Africa Limited. He serves as Board member of various unlisted ArcelorMittal Group companies. He serves as Director of ArcelorMittal South Africa, ArcelorMittal Maputo SA, Pietersburg Iron Ore Company, Consolidated Wire Industries, Collect a Can, Toyota Tsusho SA Processing, Saldanha Steel, Microsteel and Macsteel International Holdings.
1) What do you enjoy most about your job?
There are three things in particular I greatly enjoy about my job. Firstly, I love partnering with other businesses, secondly I like how the job is forward looking and lastly I enjoy the challenges I face on a day-to-day basis.
2) How do you perceive the role of the CFO has changed in the last five to ten years?
I personally think changes have been mainly in the intrinsic role of the CFO. That moved from being the score keeper to being a business partner and key member of strategy, while also maintaining corporate governance requirements.
3) How do you see the role of the CFO evolving in the next five to ten years?
For the next years to come I foresee that the CFO has to place an even better emphasis on corporate governance while focusing on improving profitability and sustainability.
4) Would you say that accurate forecasting and budgeting is still feasible for a financial department in today's tumultuous financial markets?
It is. Budgeting remains key corner stone for next year and basis to adjust for changing environment to accurately forecast future performance based on best assumptions and information available. To adapt to volatility is key to survival and to capture opportunities.
5) What do you see as the greatest challenge for South African companies in the global economic situation?
The greatest challenge for South African companies is to cope and stay competitive in a volatile and strong exchange rate, especially export orientated industries and companies competing with cheap imports. Other factors that South Africa companies have to face are the continued increase in electricity costs and the tight increases in labor costs and how to stay competitive internationally.
6) Which skill(s) do you think a finance professional should master to be most successful in his work?
One needs to always see the bigger picture - don't get bogged down in the detail. Secondly, finance professionals need to be more robust and make the right financial decisions - don't hang on to the past.
7) Which achievement or project in your business career are you most proud of?
My biggest achievement in my career so far has been when we managed to reduce compressible cost by 40% in order to secure the survival of a plant. That was definitely a highlight in my career.
8) What three things must you do every single day to feel fulfilled in your work and why?
Every day I need to:
- Engage with employees;
- Achieve a deadline or target;
- Feel that as a team we made a difference to the company.
9) Who is your role model in life and why?
My personal assistant Annatjie: she is always positive and encourages me when I'm down.
10) What vital piece of advice would you give young ambitious finance professionals?That it is probably the best position to make an immediate and lasting difference to the company and with your back-ground and interaction with most disciplines you can grow into general management fast.
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