CFO of the Week Talelani Enos Ramaru (Cosatu): learning from other CFOs is very valuable

“A platform like CFO South Africa is very useful,” says Talelani Enos Ramaru, Chief Financial Officer at The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). “There is a lot of innovation happening and as a CFO you have to know about it,” says Ramaru, who is proud of the work he has done to bring stability to the trade union federation’s finance team.

"When I joined COSATU financial system controls were lacking," says Ramaru, who joined the federation five years ago. The other challenge was a backlog of 6 months of work, he recalls. There was no proper handover of all financial affairs. "As result I had work it out and make things happen considering that it was end of the financial year. I needed to work around clock."

Ramaru said he needed to be creative to get to grips with the situation and develop a properly working finance team. He doesn't lament the challenge though. On the contrary: "I am very proud of the fact that most things that are now in place I have developed myself. The directors of the organization have given me that space. I am independent-minded so this has suited me very well."

Not being a Chartered Accountant, Ramaru had to work himself up from the 'bottom' of the finance world. "I believe that ability is not based on the highest qualification, but on determination, hard work and understanding of things like finance controls and compliance. What I do know is that I have proven myself by turning things around at COSATU," he says, adding that his ambition is to gain a qualification in forensic accounting.

After working as a teller at Absa, Ramaru worked as a financial accountant at SARS and as a branch accountant at the Landbank. He further paved his career as accountant at Council for Geoscience, where he learned a lot about business processes. "I am proud to have had the opportunity of working in different big organizations where I have acquired experience on business process and financial system process flow."

His move to COSATU was unexpected, Ramaru says. "It was not something I was looking for, but I was head-hunted by audit firm Deloitte. The CFO role is something that I have always wanted to fulfil and because of the opportunity I got at COSATU it came earlier than I expected," he says. "I like making decisions and have confidence. I am completely in charge of all controls, compliance, processes and financials. For me, this is preparation for the next step in my life."

For Ramaru "personality , ethics, self-discipline, loyalty and honesty" come with the territory as CFO. He feels his practical, hands-on approach will stand him in good stead. "You can have all the qualifications, but a lot of finance work is about background experience and knowledge acquired; knowing what to do in a particular situation. You can always refer to a book, but it is about understanding what is happening and what to achieve. Finance is the backbone of the organization and plays a crucial role."

The COSATU CFO feels that attending the CFO South Africa events will stimulate his career, exposing him to people and ideas that will help him to "grow and soar." "There is always a lot to learn and it is a privilege to be learning from people of calibre, like the one's presenting and attending the CFO South Africa functions. We're all facing similar issues, whether at a large corporate or any organization. Whether you are working towards making a profit or are a NPO like us, at the end of the day it is all about your business processes and serving your organization to the best of your ability by implementing good financial controls."