Summit reveals how integrating finance and passion can lead to opportunity

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CFOs Steven Kilfoil and Nerissa Jalim explain how using their finance leadership experience and skills, combined with their personal passion to drive more meaningful impact, has resulted in them giving back to society.

CFOs no longer need to be number crunchers only focused on wrangling figures. Instead, they can use their passion and their role in the industries in which they are employed to make a difference. Finance executives attending the recent CFO Summit in Johannesburg on 22 February heard two CFOs tell the tale of how they are giving back to society through their roles.


Making a difference at a company level

Steven Kilfoil, CFO at In2Food, said CFOs can do more to help business and society by ensuring that the money that is spent is directed towards where it will make the most impact.

“Our role has always been the grey-suited person who sits in the corner, and that is changing. We’ve got to see challenges as opportunities.”

Steven noted that there are many challenges in South Africa, including Eskom making it difficult to get into sustainable agriculture because of the inconsistent power supply. Key to what In2Food does is to supply locally sourced food to the export market. He explained that the industry as a whole is very power intensive, and when their 12 manufacturing sites aren’t able to produce because of load shedding, it affects their distribution to global markets.

He adds that it is difficult for companies in agriculture and vertical industries to secure procurement spending because of the nature of capital-intensive farming and processing. Agriculture is also a long-lead-time industry being cyclical with the seasons, and very weather dependent.

In2Food also works with hotels, quick-serving restaurants, sit down restaurants, food manufacturers and catering companies, for which it offers a variety of solutions for these industries to help reduce food waste, overhead costs and helps companies bring unique product offerings to the market.

One area in which In2Food has acted, that has helped the company overcome some of the challenges posed by an unstable supply of electricity, has also benefited staff.

In2Food set up a solar company 70 percent owned by colleagues, which was developed in conjunction with an energy group that is an expert in solar power. It redirected spend from Eskom into the company, and is looking at expanding to 11 sites in South Africa. Steven added that the spinoffs in terms of money saved on energy have also enabled In2Food to place money into bursaries. Although capital intensive at first, the solar project has been very successful.

“It’s actually been very successful from a cashflow point of view. The first few years were challenging as we paid down some of the funding, but it’s improved our procurement score, and generated money for our colleagues.”


Getting involved personally

Following Steven’s storytelling session, Nerissa Jalim, CFO at Cargo Carriers, spoke about how her personal journey had led to her helping others. Nerissa has had a varied career, during which she learnt much about herself, and the role she wanted to play in society.

“We sometimes underestimate our ability as South Africans to be resilient. The future CFO is leading with our head, heart, and hands to find sustainable solutions to complex business problems,” she said.

Her career started at Deloitte as a senior auditor, and she qualified as a CA(SA) in 2008. “Before articles, I was determined to make that year one of change. 2008, for me, helped shape me as an advocate for change. I started volunteering my spare time to help a foundation that works with mentally disabled children and adults, Little Eden Society.”

As a result of their limitations, the children and adults at Little Eden need very little – just love and essentials, says Nerissa. Many have been abandoned, and don’t know the love of a family, so Little Eden provides them with a loving home, food and care.

“I always look for solutions for life’s everyday challenges. Financial support is not the only way of uplifting others.”

This experience helped Nerissa become a better financial professional, though, because it taught her the importance of making a difference through how a company operates.

Read more: Serving others is what drives Nerissa Jalim, Cargo Carriers CFO

As Nerissa progressed in her career, she found she was better positioned to help and to use her skills to solidify how she helps in South Africa’s economy.

Prior to joining Cargo Carriers in 2019, Nerissa was the country controller for Lafarge Holcim. Before that, she was the manufacturing operating group finance business partner at Aveng. She also served as the chair of Kuehne + Nagel’s board of directors during that time. Nerissa has served as a FD for the Sub-Saharan Africa regions of Gunnebo and ESAB, as well as a financial manager for Imperial Logistics and First National Battery.

She is a firm advocate for ESG needing to be at the heart of a business strategy.

Currently working on an MBA at Henley Business School, which she expects to complete in November this year, she continues to combine her love for ESG with her financial skills. “I am in my last year, and doing a dissertation centred around how listed companies implement and find sustainable solutions for the future in South Africa,” she explained.

“My dream is to help create a sustainable economy,” Nerissa concluded.

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