Business partner, strategist, change agent, IT evangelist, operational genius … who is today’s successful CFO?
This question was the starting point of an enlightening discussion attended by the CFOs Antionio Agostinello, Valsir Uneeq, Nichola Dewar, Postbank, Molly Gallant, Ryden International, Jo-Ann Pohl, Standard Chartered Bank, Richard Somanje, Mvula Trust, Heleen Wright, Moonwater and Aarti Takoordeen, JSE at the Platinum Member lunch at KPMG's elegant Wanooka House dining room on Friday, 17 April 2015.
KPMG's Carel Smit assured us that there are no particular characteristics associated with successful CFOs. "I have worked with many brilliant CFOs over the years, and they have all done things differently," he said. "The way they shape the role is influenced by their personalities as well as by the kind of support they have in their organisations."
The CFOs attending the event were certainly evidence of this, representing large, listed companies, public sector organisations, start-ups and owner-managed businesses. Yet, all agreed that today's CFO needs to play a strategic rather than an operational role, in any organisation.
Supporting the changing role of the CFO
The skills required to be a successful CFO are changing - so much so, that we may not be far from a world where being a CA is no longer a requirement for being CFO. CFOs must be able to educate and influence others, and manage expectations, both within the business and with external stakeholders. They must do more than simply report on financial results - they must also be able to communicate the message around the numbers.
While enjoying an excellent lunch served with fine wine, the CFOs shared their experiences and agreed that, as the role of the CFO today is such a broad one, it is vital to have the right people, including IT and operational experts, supporting the CFO function. The profession needs diversity and dynamism if it is to move from being a back-office accounting function to one that adds value as a strategic business partner.
They also discussed the benefits of automation and standardisation within the CFO function. CFOs with established finance functions encouraged those who were building or restructuring their departments to use innovative solutions, such as outsourcing and the cloud. Starting without the burden of legacy systems was seen as a dream, not a challenge!
Taking time out at Heineken
It was fitting that our afternoon ended with a trip to Heineken's Sedibeng Brewery. Danie de Kock, Heineken's Tax and Treasury Manager, explained that the plant is the second-largest in Africa (after Nigeria), with the most technologically advanced and environmentally friendly system of all Heineken's plants worldwide. Producing up to 90,000 cans and 60,000 bottles an hour, and 4.2 million hectolitres of beverages a year, the plant was a fascinating model of the kind of efficiency that can be achieved with advanced technology.
CFOs who attended the function said it was impressive and informative. They found great value in being able to network with one another in an informal way and are looking forward to the next event.
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