Tjaart Kruger - CFO African Dawn Capital: `The sky is the limit`

“When you are working in limited resource environment as transpires in a turnaround situation it becomes counterproductive. The CFO will in future have to force himself to strategically focus on business,” says Tjaart Kruger, CFO of African Dawn Capital. “It has become a very complex and highly regulated environment in the listed environment.” Skills herein are vital, yet not always present. “A major weakness that I have encountered in education is that no amount of theory prepares the finance professional for the realities of business itself. Business acumen is that ingredient that makes a good finance professional great.”

Tjaart was appointed as CEO of African Dawn Capital Limited in January 2012. He is temporarily also acting as CFO. Prior to joining the company he had been working as a CFO and COO at a start-up debt counselling company, in which he managed to propel Consumer Assist to the biggest debt counselling company in SA within 15 months.

African Dawn Capital Limited (Afdawn) began life around 1998 as a micro finance company which, following its listing on the Alternative Exchange of the JSE in 2004, grew into a niche finance provider covering micro finance, debtor discounting and structured property finance.

In August 2010 Tjaart was approached to join African Dawn Capital as CFO to facilitate a turnaround of the AltX listed company. Tjaart: "The successful turnaround was achieved with a great team and culminated with an extremely successful rights issue." African Dawn Capital employs 100 people and had a turnover of R48,2 million and a profit of R4,4 million in 2011.The company has been listed on JSE since 2004.

Tjaart completed his articles with PWC and then joined Absa Corporate and Merchant Bank as trainee in the structured finance department. He spent 18 years with Absa, 4 years thereof was spent under the auspice of Barclays Capital. The areas he covered in this time included tax structuring, origination of bonds, securitisation and ETFs. His list of educational titles and exams is impressive: B.Com (Accounts) at RAU, B.Com Hons (Accounts), CA(SA), H Dip Tax (RAU), H Dip In advanced banking (SARB), H Dip Financial Markets, Successfully completed the NCR Debt Counselling exam.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I greatly enjoy working for a small company in a turnaround environment ensures that no day is mundane at all. Also, the challenges that it presents is truly gratifying when you actually get to resolve them. Lastly, getting to interact across the spectrum of unique personalities in the market has been a great learning.

How do you perceive the role of the CFO has changed in the last five to ten years?
I think the role of the CFO has become a very complex and highly regulated environment in the listed environment. When you are working in limited resource environment as transpires in a turnaround situation it becomes counterproductive. The CFO will in future have to force himself to strategically focus on business.

How do you see the role of the CFO evolving in the next ten years?
I am convinced that in the future, regulation and compliance will become the driving force and will take the majority of the CFO's time.

Would you say that accurate forecasting and budgeting is still feasible for a financial department in today's tumultuous financial markets?
The feasibility of accurate forecasting and budgeting is not in question, as it remains crucial in focusing the effort to ensure that all stakeholders are rewarded handsomely while ensuring that it sustainable over the long term. The crucial aspect in driving the numbers are that you are aware of what drives the budgets and when those assumptions show indications of change, how will your business react thereto. You need to be flexible to react promptly as each change in the underlying presents an opportunity not just risk. As a business you need to be clear on what risks you are not prepared to entertain. Those that are no go zones should be appropriately mitigated or eliminated completely.

What is your view on the current economic situation, and how it will evolve over the next period of time?
I don't believe that we have seen the end of the recessionary environment and in particular the banking and property environment. Access to cost effective funding will become more crucial and challenging. The credit affordability of the consumer in South Africa is under serve stress and I expect it to worsen further.

Which skill(s) do you think a finance professional should master to be most successful in his work?
A sound technical grounding in accounting and governance conventions (IFRS/King III) is crucial. A major weakness that I have encountered is that no amount of theory prepares the finance professional for the realities of business itself. Business acumen is that ingredient that makes a good finance professional great.

Which achievement or project in your business career are you most proud of?
Signing my first structured finance mandate with a top 5 JSE listed company and successfully concluding the rights offer for African Dawn against the odds in November 2011 - positioning the company for sustainable future growth .

What three things must you do every single day to feel fulfilled in your work and why?

  • Review the bank accounts…Cash is king.
  • Greet and talk to the staff…great way to keep in touch with the business and builds a solid team, the coal face is where it happens.
  • Keep up to date with market and news and spend some time considering the impact on business or just force blue sky thinking.

Who is your role model in life?
I have been blessed to have worked with many exceptional individuals who have had a profound influence on my career and personal growth for which I am eternally grateful, but …in God I trust!

What vital piece of advice would you give young ambitious finance professionals?
"Let theory not blind you but search for the underlying why there is a theory. Once you understand the underlying driving force the sky is the limit!"


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category: Interviewing the CFO