Tramayne Monaghan: The unexpected accountant

Tramayne knew from his days auditing Spree.co.za that he wanted to work in the tech space.

Tramayne Monaghan first joined Tencent Africa as CFO in April 2014. Since then, he has enjoyed a whirlwind of responsibilities including launching new products into the continent, and managing data, business development and marketing for the organisation. These are not typical CFO responsibilities, but Tramayne has relished the broad scope and freedom to execute. “I feel like I’m growing and changing each day. I’m involved in financial management, people operations and ideation and creation,” he comments.

Since March 2020, Tramayne has taken on the role of chief people officer at Tencent Africa alongside positions as both CFO and chief innovation officer. While innovation has taken somewhat of a backseat this year, the Covid-19 pandemic has put both finance and human resources into the spotlight.

“We’ve focused on severe cost-cutting including renegotiating office space contracts, analysing every line on the income statement, and doubling up roles when employees resign. From a people management perspective, the emphasis has been on helping people to survive the pandemic. This has included recruiting a childminder for a single mother,” he adds.

Tramayne enjoys both the binary black and white world of finance and the many shades of grey in the people management space. He is incredibly passionate about helping team members to perform optimally – taking 75 percent performance up to 100 percent.

While not possible in 2020, one of the perks of the job include travel to China and many other countries. “I’ve always wanted to travel and see new things. Travel unlocks different pathways in the brain. It opens your mind. If people were to travel more, there would be less hatred in the world,” he comments.

At 26, Tramayne was the youngest divisional CFO for Tencent. He is a CA (SA) and holds an MBA from Regenesys. His MBA thesis was on the impact of mobile wallets on banked and unbanked populations.

Tech-obsessed
Tramayne is a digital native who has been passionate about technology since he was a child growing up in Port Elizabeth. “I’m blown away by the power of technology – whether in uplifting people from poverty or making massive online markets of value exchange. With technology, the boundaries of what is possible don’t exist,” comments Tramayne.

He had his first career taste of technology while working at Deloitte, auditing the e-commerce platform Spree.co.za. From that moment, he knew that he wanted to work in the tech space. He would download 25 apps per month to test and learn from them.

Since those days, he has held positions at Naspers and a six-month learning sabbatical at Over. Over was a US tech company, with offices in Cape Town and London and teams dotted around the globe.

Working as the COO at Over, a mobile app for editing images, gave him perspective on a Silicon-valley funded start-up. “It’s a completely different culture that is focused on the number of hours spent at work. On the positive side, they don’t accept the status quo. They operate at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in the self-actualisation space. This means that they have so much freedom to innovate,” he adds.

The frontier market
Technology company Tencent Africa opened its doors in 2013 as WeChat Africa, the company responsible for WeChat operations on the continent. The company is now primarily responsible for the operations of the JOOX music entertainment app throughout Africa. JOOX is one of the most popular music apps in emerging markets from Indonesia to Thailand and Malaysia in 2015, rivalling the likes of Spotify. The Chinese online giant is hoping for another runaway success in Africa.

Africa’s mobile population is among the world’s fastest-growing, with the Global System for Mobile Communications Association estimating that there should be 623 million unique mobile users, or half the continent’s population, by 2025.

“Africa is an especially important frontier market for Tencent. Many Africans will not know computers but skip this step and go straight to mobile. Africa is not without its challenges, including high data costs and questionable corporate governance practices in some territories,” says Tramayne.

Tramayne has launched and runs various consumer mobile products such as WeChat, WeChat Wallet, VOOV, JOOX and PUBG Mobile. Plans include promoting Tencent Cloud, an alternative to Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud.

Tencent Africa employs about 40 staff members with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The music team is based in Johannesburg while the firm’s developers are based in Cape Town. Opening offices in Kenya and Nigeria is on the cards. “The intention is to build products by Africans for Africans. While the tech talent pool in South Africa is small, the talent available within this pool is incredible,” he adds.

Reading and writing
Tramayne is an avid reader, consuming books on psychology, leadership and technology. Some of his favourite psychology books include works by Carl Jung and Jordan Peterson. His business picks include books by Ben Horowitz and Seth Godin. “I am fascinated by the human mind and psychology – the balance between our dark and light sides,” he comments.

He is in the process of completing his first book, which he plans to self-publish sometime next year. The manuscript, titled The Shepherd and the Beast contains stories of leadership throughout his career. These include experiences with supportive, inspirational leaders as well as hurtful, destructive ones.

For Tramayne, the journey of writing has been deeply fulfilling. He hopes this book is the first of many as he grows a personal brand outside of his CFO responsibilities at Tencent Africa.