Sage financial director Jordaan Burger on finance beyond the numbers

Jordaan Burger enjoys being the strategic finance leader within business management service Sage.

Jordaan Burger has been Sage’s financial director for Africa and the Middle East since September 2019. In his role, he supports the executive vice president and senior leadership team to formulate and execute the financial aspects of the firm’s strategy. His daily routine typically involves back-to-back virtual meetings including check-ins with this team of eight finance professionals.

“The people I work with make my job worthwhile. I had the privilege of appointing smart people who act as trusted finance advisors to the business. This means I am more strategic and work closely with the rest of the C-suite,” says Jordaan. In his role, he interacts with the sales, product development and services teams on a regular basis.

Increasing complexity and the speed of change in finance are the main challenges Jordaan faces in his role. These challenges are typical for today’s CFOs, who must adapt to a world where the finance role is rapidly evolving.

“CFOs need to be versatile by marrying accounting, analytical, business and strategic thinking skills. The job is no longer just about number crunching. With powerful data and emerging technology, CFOs can be true agents for change within their organisations,” adds Jordaan.

Jordaan acknowledges a rising shift in the workplace: there is good collaboration within the C-suite, between the CHRO, CFO, CEO and CIO around driving the strategy and digital transformation of the business.

Ahead of the COVID-19 curve
The challenges of being a CFO have been amplified by COVID-19, including new complexities related to managing a remote workforce, as well as an expanding security and compliance mandate.

For Jordaan, working from home has been an overall positive experience. He has enjoyed having extra time with his family and hasn’t missed the daily commute. Work at the global technology giant has continued apace.

“It was initially a rush to get more than 1,000 employees at Sage working from their homes under lockdown. We are busier now than we were before the lockdown started. Our day-to-day work functions seamlessly and our team is generally thriving working remotely,” says Jordaan.

Sage has exited leases on its offices in Durban, Cape Town and Pretoria, and has retained its head office in Midrand. This bold move will undoubtedly shape the company’s working environment and culture for many years to come. Jordaan says the response from colleagues to this decision has been mixed, but that the positives of remote working far outweigh any negatives.

Not everyone is well-equipped to work from home. Here, Sage has delivered desks, chairs and second computer screens to support colleagues’ working environments. To combat the risk of social isolation, the company introduced a virtual community called [email protected], designed to provide colleagues with peer support. At the end of every week, Sage also encourages colleagues to celebrate one another and their achievements on Hi-5 Fridays. The company has also looked to protect its employees’ mental wellbeing.

“During COVID-19, we have promoted our Employee Assistance Programme and invested in a free subscription for everyone to Headspace, the award-winning app and guide to everyday mindfulness. Headspace covers aspects such as meditation and various techniques designed to impact everything positively, from your mood to relationships and sleeping patterns,” adds Jordaan.

Technology and the CFO
The global pandemic has also driven technology adoption. “COVID-19 has given us the fastest, biggest digital transformation in business that we have ever seen. This has meant the role of the CFO is also evolving at a rapid pace. Technology gives the CFO more time to focus on strategic and creative thinking, and to innovate from an efficiency perspective,” comments Jordaan.

Sage recently commissioned a CFO study – CFO 3.0 - Digital Transformation Beyond Financial Management report – surveying 311 senior financial decision-makers in South Africa who spoke about the evolution of the CFO. According to the study, the CFO 3.0 is a new breed of senior financial executive who uses data and emerging technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to create a forward-looking financial picture.

This compares to the CFO 1.0 who only provides retrospective financial information and the CFO 2.0 who provides real-time data and dashboards. “Today, most companies exist in a state of CFO 2.0 but, by living in the present, they can at least see the road ahead of them,” adds Jordaan.

In the study, 90% of financial professionals surveyed have already adopted some form of emerging technologies. Contrary to concerns that emerging technology threatens finance jobs, over two-thirds surveyed are not at all concerned, and only one in 10 believes technology will destroy jobs.

“While digital transformation may be daunting for some, this study shows just how positively most finance professionals view this journey,” comments Jordaan.

The release of the CFO 3.0 study coincides with the launch of Sage Intacct, a cloud financial management platform. Sage Intacct provides multi-dimensional accounting, automation for efficient financial operations, and sophisticated visibility for real-time decision-making. According to Jordaan, the local response to Sage Intacct has been phenomenal and he expects that a large share of the company’s clients will adopt this solution.

A varied finance career
Prior to joining Sage, Jordaan spent four years as financial director for cybersecurity firm, MWR InfoSecurity (now F-Secure) in South Africa, where he was also responsible for finance operations in New York, Singapore and Poland. He also spent time as an audit partner at TAG Incorporated (now PKF Pretoria), where he worked on multinational, technology and services clients.

“I’ve always been interested in finance and have been fortunate enough to have incredible, challenging job opportunities, good mentors and colleagues along the way,” he says.

Jordaan is a chartered accountant and holds a BCom Accounting Science from the University of Pretoria, a BCom Accounting Hons from Unisa, and a MCom in South African and International Taxation from North-West University.

A time for patience and adventure
To relax, Jordaan spends time with his family and loves being outdoors. He recently started adventure biking with his BMW GS and enjoys the thrill of getting off the beaten track.

He collects cycads and cultivates them from seeds. He has more than 200 cycads in his garden. “Cycads are rare and interesting plants. Growing cycads from seeds is a real exercise in the importance of patience,” says Jordaan.