“Africa is full of opportunities and although South African companies are best located to do so, we are not seizing those opportunities.” Van Zyl Botha (31) is one of the youngest CFOs we had the pleasure of interviewing. Despite his young age, he has a great vision on how a modern CFO should ensure the long term financial sustainability of an enterprise.
After qualifying as a chartered accountant, Van Zyl founded a financial consulting firm called FinFive Inc. focused on the mining industry. He consulted for dual-listed mining companies and was involved in government consulting at the Department of Defence through the office of the Auditor General. Van Zyl has been involved with mergers, acquisitions and the accompanying regulatory requirements of the JSE, SRP, Competition Commission and the SARB. He has also dealt with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States and American Depository Receipt programs. He joined JSE-listed company R&E in 2006 to assist with accounting and forensic requirements and was subsequently appointed as group financial manager and as CFO on 1 August 2009, he was appointed as financial director in May 2010.
Some of the things I enjoy most are new business research, evaluating new opportunities and developing financial strategy.
2) How has the role of the CFO changed in the last ten years?
I believe the role of the CFO is less focused on financial reporting and more focused on compliance and developing financial strategies in support of the company's goals.
3) How do you see the role of the CFO evolving in the next say five to ten years?
In an increasingly complex world where the global financial systems are drifting in a sea of uncertainty, I believe the primary responsibility of the CFO is to ensure the long term financial sustainability of the enterprise.
4) Would you say that accurate forecasting and budgeting is still feasible for a financial department in today's tumultuous financial markets? ?
Traditional forecasting and budgeting is essential for short term operational management but CFOs should also focus on scenario planning. We always do a high road and low road scenario and test sensitivities.
5) What do you see as the greatest challenge for South African companies in the global economic situation and for your industry in particular?
Africa is full of opportunities and although South African companies are best located to do so, we are not seizing those opportunities. SA will have to focus on employment, productivity and labour cost in our own backyard in order to be competitive elsewhere. Business and government should start working together as closely as possible to jointly access the opportunities in Africa.
6) Which skill do you think a finance professional should master to be most successful in his work?
Anybody can master the technical skills - the real challenge is to be innovative and adaptable in applying the skills.
7) Which achievement or project in your business career are you most proud of?
Unravelling the Brett Kebble legacy at Randgold & Exploration. It was a four year process from forensic investigations, restating financials and eventually re-listing the company after a five year suspension.
8) Which education would you recommend for a successful career in business, and why?
The obvious qualifications are CA and CFA, but I believe the individual should focus on a diverse range of skills and continuous development.
9) Who is your role model in life and why?
I am not fixated on a roll model but I am inspired by anyone and everyone creating something from nothing. Innovative and entrepreneurial people who are changing the world with creative business ventures are my role models.
10) What vital piece of advice would you give today's young ambitious finance professionals?
There is simply no substitute for hard work. And when you have finished with the daily grind, find the time to think creatively about the future. Increasingly, financial professional must be able to "see around the corner" and plan for any number of possibilities.
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category: Interviewing the CFO