Visionary Woman Leader: Zoliswa Mashinini isn’t just the CFO of G4S South Africa, but dons various different hats

Zoliswa has had to wear sales, risk and operation leadership hats throughout her career at G4S South Africa.

Zoliswa Mashinini, is a born and bred daughter of Gugulethu, Cape Town. She was raised by a single working mother, grandmother and a community of strong women who taught her the value of hard work, sheer determination and humility. Growing up in the streets of Gugulethu she inherited a street-smart bravado that also allowed her much stronger traits that carried her throughout her career at G4S South Africa and the security industry as a whole.

Zoliswa joined G4S’s security guarding business in 2017 as its CFO and was tasked with bringing about transformation within the organization at a time in which the business was operating at a loss. For the next two years after joining, Zoliswa occupied various leadership roles, which became a catalyst for the much needed transformation, which she is seemingly executing effortlessly to date.

With the stereotyping of the security industry being that of a male-dominated sector, Zoliswa would be tasked with the daunting task of bringing about greater female representation not only at an executive level but also at ground level, the areas which would fuel the desired change that Zoliswa was hired to implement. She mentions that in order for any security company to make it in the industry.

Zoliswa regards herself as a commercial CFO and not only as a “purely finance person,” having occupied roles which would expose her to other functions within the organization and sharpen her leadership skills. She worked hard in transforming the entire finance department of G4S South Africa over the years by bringing in more women to occupy certain roles. She proudly states that finance is currently one of the areas within G4S that has the highest concentration of women in the business. Zoliswa also emphasizes that finance is not the only department within the organization exclusively to experience this radical transformation.

She makes mention of one of her non-negotiable rules as CFO, is that each female within finance would have to spend time in operations, to better comprehend the numbers games. She boldly states that she expects them to be good business partners to the operations team, to ensure that they can grow into roles way beyond the finance space. During this process of transformation, many women within the finance department have shown an interest in moving to operations. “That’s how we are going to transform the industry and the sector as a whole,” says Zoliswa.

Her journey to becoming CFO, at G4S South Africa has been an experience of acquiring wisdom in becoming the strategic leader that she is today. She stepped into the position with an overall lens of the organization which allows her to synergize sales, risk and operational functions with those of finance for planning and execution purposes.

Leading in a variety of spaces
G4S as a guarding security business, has been competing with over 300 other companies within the same industry. Zoliswa found herself occupying different portfolios, one of which being sales, for a better understanding on how G4S can offer a premium service while still remaining cost competitive. “I have spent a lot of time understanding our price offering to the market, going to customers to sell our services and actually landing a number of quite lucrative contracts,” adds Zoliswa.

During her time as CFO, Zoliswa has managed to distinguish G4S from its competitors by offering premium and integrated security services, an achievement which led to her promotion in 2019, to take over the rest of G4S South Africa’s portfolio, including its cash management service.

Zoliswa mentions how, in 2019 during a conference shortly after she stepped into her current role, she had made a bold statement of telling everyone how she and her team were going to turn the business around. Looking back, Zoliswa states that it was definitely a leap of faith because while she had previously succeeded in bringing about a turnaround to other businesses, the security industry was a very competitive and high-risk environment. She is proud that her faith was founded and this was accomplished.

At the time of assuming her role as CFO, Zoliswa mentions that the competitiveness of the cash management industry was experiencing a price war. She exercised her risk management skills to convert the contract structures to maximize financial efficiency.

She explains that, in the cash management industry, security companies are constantly thinking about cash-in-transit heists and have to make sure that the health and safety aspects of their employees are taken care of. “I wasn’t going to risk delivering a cash management service when I know I’m going to lose so much in the process,” says Zoliswa.

She says that cash management and CIT services experience a large amount of crime when transporting money. “You have to understand the risk and how to mitigate it in order to be successful in this industry.”

This became especially important during the recent civil unrest in South Africa, where various ATM services were vandalised and looted. “We had to work closely with our banking customers to make sure we could get into those areas and clear out the ATMs to prevent any more loss,” explains Zoliswa.

Now G4S and its customers are thinking about how the ATM services business is going to change because of the impact of the civil unrest. “South Africa has a way of bouncing back and rebuilding,” she says. “I think there’s a level of confidence that our customers will still remain in those areas, but it will take longer for them to get back to pre-civil-unrest and pre-Covid-19 operation levels.”

Having spent countless hours on the operations side of the business and focusing on how to take the business forward, Zoliswa managed to turn the company around into becoming profitable. “During these long hours I discovered how passionate I am about business turnaround,” she says. “I realised that, in this business, the largest hat you have to wear is that of an operations officer, followed by a risk manager, and then the numbers follow suit.”

Cash isn’t dead
The civil unrest was not the first change that posed a risk to the future of cash management services. As the world moves more and more to digital transactions, many might think that this will render cash services obsolete. However, having spent five years working as the CFO for the South African mint, Zoliswa says that this is not the case. “If you look at the first world countries, they are more advanced and high in adopting a cashless environment, but in the South African landscape we haven’t been that successful in adopting a cashless environment. It will take us a long time to get there. All attempts in South Africa to migrate has resulted in very slow adoption.

Wearing the mother hat
Zoliswa says the moments she treasures the most in her free time are those she spends with her family. “The Covid-19 pandemic forced us to reflect and build on our relationship and it has forced me to spend and appreciate more time with my family.” She explains that, once working during a pandemic became “normal”, she started introducing new family routines to bring them closer together. “On Saturday mornings my son, Sizwe (16), and I go into the kitchen and spend time together to create the most amazing breakfast spread,” she says.

The family has also started its own book club on Saturday evenings, where they get to pick a book, read it during the week and discuss it at the next book club meeting. “We encourage our children to read more motivational books to help them drive a certain mindset,” adds Zoliswa. It is extremely relevant with the current Covid situation that we encourage positive motivation.

Zoliswa mentioned that she also tries to encourage her children to have honest conversations with her so that they will grow up to be much more engaging adults. Her nine-year-old daughter, Naledi, has definitely taken well to the honesty policy and is quick to call Zoliswa out when she doesn’t keep her promises of spending time with the family.

“Encouraging them to be honest will set them apart to be open and able to have those conversations that we might not have been able to as we were growing up,” she says. This will benefit children in their personal and emotional well being as well as their professional lives.