Tryphosa Ramano - CFO PPC: `Always be up to date on risk management`

“In the past companies never forecasted on corporate governance – now with the financial crisis people realize that forecasting is key.” A lot has changed for the modern CFO, according to Tryphosa Ramano, CFO of PPC; leading supplier of cement in southern Africa. Tryphosa qualified as a Chartered Accountant (SA) in 1994 and since then has gained experience working in a number of organisations including: Price Waterhouse Coopers, JCI, RMB Asset Managers, National Treasury, SAA and WIPHOLD.

While working as the chief director asset management (National Treasury), Tryphosa was responsible for the restructuring of State-Owned Assets, ensuring compliance by public entities with the Public Finance Management Act, monitoring contingent liabilities of government and was instrumental in developing a new division to focus on financial analysis and treasury operation of SOE's (state owned entities). It was also during this period that Tryphosa formed part of the team that listed Telkom on the Johannesburg and New York Stock Exchanges.

As CFO of SAA from 2004 to 2006, Tryphosa made significant achievements including the closing of SAAs' R6 billion hedge book; the restructuring of the finance department and the implementation of the SAA turnaround strategy in 2004/05. At WIPHOLD she was responsible for the group's financial management and strategic development, whilst also representing WIPHOLD on the boards of companies in which WIPHOLD is a shareholder.

Tryphosa has been or is a member of a number of boards and committees which include; Old Mutual Property Investment, Real Africa Holdings, Adcorp Holdings, Chairman of the Audit Committee of the National Credit Regulator, Audit Committee & Board of South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, University of Stellenbosch Business School, Financial Services Board, African Union External Board of Auditors, and the National Research Foundation.

In 2010, PPC celebrated its centenary as a JSE-listed company, joining an extremely small and elite group of listed centenarians, not only in South Africa but worldwide.


1) What do you enjoy most about your job and why?

I enjoy how every day is a challenge because you do different things every day. In my daily routines I love everything that has to do with the financial strategy - I find all extremely challenging. As a CFO you unpack all plans to the essence of it; apply it to the financial field.

2) How do you perceive the role of the CFO has changed in the last five to ten years?

The role of the CFO has shifted from being only responsible for reporting to that of being very much involved in strategy. Nowadays the focus of a company fully is on its financial strategy, and also has changed more towards leadership and risk management within the company. Therefore drafting on financial strategy and leadership has changed.

3) How do you see the role of the CFO evolving in the next say five to ten years?

Following from what I said above - the role will continue to be more focused on risk management and strategy of business and corporate governance. In practice this means that as a CFO you always need to be up to date on risk management and processes within corporate governance. In the past companies never forecasted on corporate governance - now with the financial crisis people realize that forecasting is key. People focus fully on the CFO, because they - since they deal with tangible facts and real numbers - are commonly the most trusted within a company. The CFO will continue to be in compliance, but they will also - even more so - be drivers of the strategy. The CEO relies to an enormous extent on the CFO for implementing the most efficient strategies.

4) Do you feel that accurate forecasting and budgeting is still feasible for a financial department in today's tumultuous financial markets?

Yes it is, though challenges, how you deal with volatility is by doing sensitivity analysis. You build it in your models and budgets. You base your forecasting and budgeting on a number of scenarios. I deal with all variables, calculated in my model, deal with the currencies and tolerance level - and you decide risks going with all scenarios.

5) What do you see as the greatest challenge for South African companies in the global economic situation and for your industry in particular?

Competing in a global market is key. Companies simply can not only forecast on their own; they have to be fully aware they must compete in the global market. Take for instance Wal-Mart coming to South Africa last year, which seemed to come as a shock for many national retailers. Companies realize they need to change their businesses, to start looking on what's happening outside the borders of our country. You need to benchmark yourself to your global competition in order to stay ahead, and constantly be aware of what you can do better to keep up with global players.

6) Which skill(s) do you think a finance professional should master to be most successful in his work?

In order to be most successful in all daily operations of a CFO, as well as to be able to anticipate on what is ahead, one most definitely needs finance skills, leadership and management skills and lastly - but perhaps most importantly - be able to think strategically.

7) Which achievement or project in your business career so far are you most proud of?

I have only joined PPC late 2011, so still fairly new there. When it comes to big achievements so far I am proud of, I look back at some of the successes I experienced while still working at South African Airlines (SAA). Amongst the projects I am most proud of are the restructuring of their balance sheet; clearing the hedge book of R6billion loss and arranging funding of U$2bn of aircrafts for a loss making company.

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

Every day I aim to do the following things in order to feel satisfied:

- Plan for the week

- Discuss with team (weekly)

- Review the cash management daily and strategic progress.

9) Who is your role model in life and why?

My grandmother and my uncle - they were both strong people and had values for family.

10) What vital piece of advice would you give young ambitious finance professionals?

I would tell him or her to be humble and always get involved outside area of speciality in order to expand your horizon.

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category: Interviewing the CFO