Showcasing talent brings a level of best practice, says IIA SA's Claudelle von Eck 

Claudelle von Eck, CEO of IIA SA, talks about her five years on the CFO Awards judging panel.

Hailed the ‘Oscars’ for South African CFOs, the CFO Awards started in 2014 and have gained much credibility and eminence over the years, leaning heavily on the stature of the panel of judges. Claudelle von Eck, CEO of IIA SA, has been part of the panel since the very first awards. 

How do you look back at five years of CFO Awards?
“Part of what we are trying to achieve with the CFO Awards is for the nominees to do some self-reflection on where they are and where their organisation is. It is not just about answering questions. Hopefully people get asked questions that make them go back and make some changes We often hear from nominees that they have learnt a lot through the interview process. There is also a positive effect on other CFOs to continually approve if they aspire to be future CFO Awards winners. Showcasing talent brings a level of best practice.”

Why do you like to be involved?
“The interaction with CFOs is rewarding, especially in the times we are living now, when there is so much bad news around corporate scandals, unethical behaviour and state capture. It provides great upliftment of the soul when you are able to interact with good people who are playing a significant role in our economy. Part of what I get out of it is a sense of ‘there is a hell of a lot of hope in South Africa’. It gives me a kick of joy to see what we produce in terms of good talent and good people.”

“It is also a learning process in gaining a better understanding of what is happening in various industries. From a selfish perspective, it helps me to get insight to be able to relate it back to the profession in which I play a leading role. It helps me to understand better what my members, internal auditors, are facing.”

What do you look for when judging nominees?
“I look for a person that is well-rounded. It is important that CFOs are not just number crunchers and that they have a very good handle on the strategy of the organisation. For me, it is key that they are emotionally intelligent. Sometimes you get people in leadership positions who are one-dimensional in their thinking of what winning and making money looks like. What I find important is that CFOs are able to see their organisation in the bigger context of integrated thinking and being a good corporate citizen.”

What have you learnt about CFOs?
“More often than not, I have found myself pleasantly surprised. I used to work for SAICA and have often come across CAs who are blind to people around them, that show a degree of arrogance that discounts the value that others bring to table. What I have found in a lot of the CFO Awards nominee interviews is CFOs who really understand how interconnected we are; CFOs who really care about uplifting people and about transformation.”

“CFOs spend an enormous amount of time coaching, mentoring and growing people. That defies the stereotype around the title. It is heartening for me to hear people talk about B-BBEE with sincerity and with a deep understanding of why transformation is needed beyond ticking boxes and compliance."

"Often CFOs have an enormous amount of power in how the resources of their organisation will be spent. If they come from a position of humaneness, it stands to reason that one should start to see more and more of our corporates playing a significant role in turning South Africa around and taking it where it needs to be.”

How do you see the future of the finance profession?
“Leadership is becoming more complex. CFOs need the ability to connect across spheres that are not familiar to them. Technology is also impacting the role. How do you lead a team that is a combination of humans and AI? How do you lead people that you are not going to see face to face? How do you keep human beings connected with AI in the game?”

“There is going to be a much greater focus on understanding value creation. Value is in the eye of the beholder, but it should be way beyond increasing financial capital and include the other five capitals of integrated reporting. I think that the one who keeps the wallet is becoming increasingly less important as opposed to the one who is able to see and create value.”