Interview

A complete overview of interviews with South Africa's most prominent CFOs and FDs.

24 October 2017

I wanted to serve, says Ramasela Ganda, Public Sector CFO of the Year 2017

Earlier this year, Ramasela Ganda won the Public Sector CFO of the Year Award for her incredible accomplishments at Ekurhuleni Municipality. She dedicated the prize to “all public servants that serve us diligently and with honesty” and referred specifically to public sector CFOs who have “lost their lives because they said no to corruption”. Long eschewing a CFO role in the private sector, she left Ekurhuleni at the end of last year and started as CFO: rental and corporate service at Barloworld, which had been courting her for quite a while.

10 October 2017

I wish we could think in a truly radical way, says Investec CFO Nishlan Samujh

Nishlan Samujh, CFO of Investec, is one of those quiet CFOs that everybody who matters in the South African business world seems to know. He says winning the Governance & Compliance Award at this year’s CFO Awards was a huge surprise, and adds that his team is extremely proud of the accomplishment. In this conversation, Nishlan talks with verve about his humble beginnings, also revealing how to be an effective finance leader in a world full of entrepreneurs and “big people”. The most passion, however, he reserves for the prospects of South Africa’s youth. “Why can’t our kids be like those in India or Silicon Valley? We have a whole new generation coming and, as a country, we need to find out what our next big thing is. How do we get youth and education behind a common goal? Instead of talking about yesteryear, we need to fly out of it. These things are easy to say, but I do wish we could think in a truly, truly radical way.”

19 September 2017

Ensure the rationale behind an acquisition is sound, advises Telkom's Deon Fredericks

The industry in which Telkom operates is competitive; the environment fluid and prone to frequent change, says Deon Fredericks, the company’s group chief financial officer. Because of this, it considered BCX (then known as Business Connexion) twice, the smaller company first catching the eye of the telecoms behemoth in 2006/2007, and then again in 2012/2013. Eventually, the deal proved too good to be ignored: Telkom required an ICT company to provide end-to-end solutions to corporate customers and BCX was a complementary fit. Deon sat down with CFO South Africa to talk about the acquisition – a deal with a R2.7 billion price tag. “We are very focused on what we want to achieve with BCX in the market. We are starting to see some good wins through the venture.”

05 September 2017

I am an authentic leader, open to ideas, says Vodacom CFO Till Streichert

It didn’t take Till Streichert long to turn Vodacom’s finance team into a successful intelligence unit that keeps raising the bar globally. It is thus little wonder the German executive was named South Africa’s 2017 CFO of the Year, also walking away with the Strategy Execution and the Finance Transformation Awards. In this exclusive interview, Till tells us about the successful team transformation. “It was a stunning turnaround and an astonishing achievement for the finance team.”

29 August 2017

Success comes from surrounding yourself with positive, life-affirming people, says Nyasha Dzumbunu, CFO of SBU

“Change is the only constant in these times. In that situation of volatility and uncertainty, we always try to stay adaptable to change. Being a more agile and adaptable organisation is critical in enabling us to survive and thrive,” says Nyasha Dzumbunu, CFO of Shanduka Black Umbrellas (SBU), one of the leading enterprises in supplier development organisations in South Africa. While she may be a powerhouse CFO Monday to Friday, in her downtime, Nyasha likes to design women’s clothing – a passion she hopes might one day blossom into a full line of corporate and casual wear. “It’s about power dressing – helping women look and feel spectacular – and I’m very passionate about this. I feel it’s important to express one’s femininity even when you’re in a power role.”

22 August 2017

The future of finance will require a convergence of risk and finance, says RMB CFO Markos Davias

“One of my mentors that has impacted my leadership style and journey from early in my career is Hugh Harrison, a partner I worked for at Deloitte. He is now our RMB Global Markets CFO, but even in this role he still challenges, advises and guides me. In him, I have always had someone whom I could trust to place the mirror in front of me. He is brutally honest but fair in his feedback and if it means he needs to make you a little emotional and teary eyed, so be it,” says RMB CFO Markos Davias, who harbours a passion for young accounting talent, promoting diversity and embracing cutting-edge technology. A solid centre-back, strong in the air, leading from the back, stopping goals at all costs – these are some of the phrases Markos uses to describe himself on the soccer field, and indeed, many of these phrases correlate with the CFO’s approach to leadership. “My family, more recently fatherhood, sport and specifically soccer have all had an influence on my life and career choices.”

15 August 2017

I always lead the charge, says Musa Magongo, CFO of SWACAA

“The time has come for the CFO to become an important executive member who pushes for value creation other than the normal traditional financial role,” says Musa Magongo, CFO of the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA). “The CFO is expected to have a better understanding of the impact of each process, whether commercial or operational, and be able to provide the necessary advice and guidance to the technical team.” In his role, Musa oversees all of the financial management issues of SWACAA, from budget preparation and implementation to monitoring, treasury and reporting. While this includes a focus on both finance and strategy, he says the nature of the role means he spends a greater proportion of his time on strategy, and ensuring that the organisation’s overall strategy is implemented.

01 August 2017

Award-winning Cipla SSA CFO Nishant Saxena on how he made a loss-making entity super successful

Nishant Saxena successfully took Cipla’s sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) entity from a struggling, low-margin organisation to one of the most profitable pharma players in South Africa. The success yielded double success at the CFO Awards in May 2017 for the Indian expat, who played a key role in shifting the strategy and improving the finance team. “Finance is like an internal venture capitalist responsible for ensuring the right returns on investment, and as Cipla’s largest acquisition ever, all eyes were on South Africa’s performance.”

25 July 2017

Working at Transnet, I am basically doing my national service, says CFO Garry Pita

“It has been tricky to get politicians, our people and other stakeholders to understand that we can’t keep throwing capital at our problems. We need to focus on operational efficiencies,” says Transnet CFO, Garry Pita, winner of the Transformation & Empowerment Award at this year’s CFO Awards. Garry took over as Group CFO in February last year, replacing Anoj Singh, who was seconded to Eskom.

13 June 2017

Lead the way you want to be lead, says Fabian Naidoo, CFO of Right to Care

“As a leader, you should create an environment that allows for growth in the team and for people to feel passionate about the work that they do,” says Fabian Naidoo, divisional CFO of non-profit organisation (NPO), Right to Care (Rtc). Fabian is currently also acting as finance director of the RtC Group. Fabian says his philosophy about work can be summed up by this quote from Steve Jobs, ‘The only way to do great work is to love what you do’.

06 June 2017

I want to be part of professionalising government, says National Treasury CFO, Silindile Kubheka

“You only have one chance for a first impression. I am always respectful but I never confuse respect with blindly following others,” says National Treasury CFO, Silindile Kubheka. We have tried to unpack the remarkable metamorphosis of the National Treasury CFO from a shy, quiet serial student to a leadership powerhouse with strong views on boardroom dynamics, youth development and ways to professionalise government.

23 May 2017

I came to finance less by design and more by default

“I am operationally focused and have good attention to detail and follow up. If there is a problem I determine immediately what the issue is and address and follow up with management and hold them accountable,” says Melanie Chong, FD of Oakbay Resources and Energy Limited, a company in the business of mining and exploration of energy-related resources. Oakbay mines coal for the local market and owns one of the largest uranium resources in the world. It also mines gold as a by-product at its uranium mine. We caught up with Melanie to talk about her role at Oakbay.

16 May 2017

Learn from those ahead of you, says Central Bank of Swaziland's Philile Nxumalo

Philile Nxumalo, GM: Finance, Central Bank of Swaziland, wanted to study Fine Arts, though her father persuaded her to rather pursue a BCom, like her twin brother. Good thing he did, as she’s enjoyed a successful career in finance and finds herself constantly challenged by the fast pace and rapidly changing landscape. “I like the aspects of my job where I have to formulate strategy for the department and translate this into executable plans. It’s a particular strength of mine. I love the thrill of achieving and seeing the results, the execution of strategy – it’s very tangible for me.”

09 May 2017

A good CFO maintains discipline in the organisation, says Mike Benfield of Macsteel Service Centres SA

“I want people to think logically about the business and pose questions to effect change. People must be challenged and held accountable to achieve the business’s objectives,” says Mike Benfield, Group CFO of Macsteel Service Centres South Africa.” Benfield, who has been in his post for 18 months, has enjoyed a successful and diverse career that has seen him occupy finance roles for companies including Metorex, Bateman Engineering, Norse Air, Super Group, Investec and Ster-Kinekor, after completing articles at Arthur Andersen. Having made a choice to study finance over engineering, he says he has no regrets, and believes it is those aspects of his personality that are interested in engineering and the challenges that it presents, that help him to be a better finance person: ‘It helps me move across the corridor to the operational side, and gives me more of an interest in the other areas of the business. I would be unable to add value from a finance perspective without a good operational understanding of what makes the business work.”

02 May 2017

Lead by example, says AFGRI's Johan Geel

AFGRI CFO Johan Geel sees massive potential on the continent for the food industry, as long as the approach is correct. He says: “Find trustworthy people, work with the correct information, do proper research, go there and make sure of things yourself – don’t stay away. Johan has been nominated for the CFO Awards in both 2016 and 2017, an impressive double-whammy that less than a handful other CFOs can boast about. We chatted to him about the past, present and future for AFGRI.

25 April 2017

Effective CFOs know their business, says Standard Bank's Sean Berrington

"In the early days of the Group IT transformation it became clear that, unless the finance team transformed as well, we would become irrelevant. As a result, we needed to radically relook at how we run our staff engagement and processes," says Sean Berrington, CFO for Group IT at Standard Bank. Sean has been the finance boss of a “billion-dollar IT organisation” since mid-2016. Add to this his intimate experience of agile ways of working and he might just be the ideal person to talk to about the crossroads of threats and opportunities that technology and finance bring to banks and finance professionals.

18 April 2017

A CFO understands the entire business, says PRP Solutions CFO Hiten Keshave

“I believe in four aspects of a leader: commitment, appreciation, respect, and trust. If you put the first letter of each of those words together it spells CART. A cart has four wheels and those form part of the carriage of a company and a team going forward. If I have those four aspects to my team, I believe we’ll be successful together,” says Hiten Keshave, CFO of PRP Solutions, a company in the business of people resource planning and which provides a management-by-exception workforce-based management system that operates in the cloud.

11 April 2017

Be proactive about risk, says Kiran Kumar, Finance Head for Africa at Wipro Technologies

Originally, from Bangalore, India, Wipro Technologies’ Kiran Kumar, has been living in South Africa for close to five years, initially sent here to reinvent the company’s processes and controls. He was elevated to head of finance towards the second half of last year, though he still shoulders the responsibilities of his previous role as finance controller. “I enjoy the visibility of the entire business. I don’t think anybody other than the finance team has such visibly of a company; it’s all encompassing.”

04 April 2017

Experience things outside your comfort zone, says Monash South Africa's Alvin Liew

Alvin Liew, Acting CFO of Monash South Africa, grew up and was educated in Malaysia, completing his articles in Australia. He came to South Africa on an assignment with Laureate Education, the largest private network of higher education providers in the world, which has a global network of more than 70 higher education institutions in 25 countries. Monash South Africa is the first partnership that Laureate Education has embarked on in Sub-Saharan Africa. “South Africa is a great country. It has its quirks and eccentricities, but I enjoy this,” he says. Alvin has worked for Monash South Africa for three years and says that when it comes to reaching economic transformation goals, nothing can have as big an impact as education: “I believe the greatest enabler of economic transformation is education – no other factors come close to the importance of education when it comes to radically transforming a country.”

28 March 2017

Good CFOs know their strengths, says Damain Matroos, SacOil CFO

“We need to be careful that we don’t make the mistake when going into the rest of Africa of thinking that we have better skills and expertise than others on the continent. This superiority complex will set us up for failure. The fundamental thing is, if you try to exploit the other African jurisdictions to the benefit of South Africa, you’ll come unstuck,” says Damain Matroos, CFO of SacOil, a South African-based independent African oil and gas company. We chatted to Damain about the challenges he faces as a CFO in the oil and gas sector, what opportunities exist, and what it’s like to do business in Africa.

14 March 2017

The CFO must be a voice of reason in the boardroom, says Frencel Gillion, CFO of KTH

“What makes me able to do this job is a strong understanding of the business, its operations and risk, as well as fundamentally accepting the need to grow the business,” says Frencel Gillion, CFO of Kagiso Tiso Holdings (KTH). “I think a CFO should have a strong grasp of the numbers but also be able to intuit what is happening within the business and be able to communicate this to the stakeholders through the financials. It’s not just about regurgitating numbers.”

28 February 2017

A balancing act: Shafeeq Abrahams, CFO of the NHBRC

As CFO for the National Homebuilders Registration Council (NHBRC), Shafeeq Abrahams has to juggle a lot of balls, and appease various stakeholders. Complicating matters, he says, is the fact that the entity has a public sector mandate: “The public sector mandate is about spending a budget against stated objectives. I think the psychology around budget allocation and spending is quite different where you’re a self-generating revenue entity and have to manage your sustainability and profits. And therefore, what you need to deliver has to happen in the confines of financial sustainability and efficiency. Being able to speak to these two sets of terminologies is a challenge because some of your stakeholders say, ‘You’ve got a budget, spend it’. But on the other end you have to look at operating profits, costs, operating effectiveness, and sustainability in the long run. In my role, I’ve had to shift thinking around these concepts.”

08 February 2017

Important ethics questions to ask prospective employers

An organisation’s ethical credentials and values are an important factor in their ability to attract and retain talent. But it’s not easy for candidates to get a handle on organisational culture from the outside. Assessing whether an employer can offer an environment conducive to ethical practices is a crucial part of the decision-making process, especially for professionals such as accountants who must abide by ethics codes.

07 February 2017

How to turn finance turnaround - Coca Cola Beverages FD Walter Leonhardt

In July 2016, ABI merged with Coca-Cola and local bottler SABCO into the new entity Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa – and Walter Leonhardt, ABI financial director, had his transformative work cut out for him once again. In this interview, we speak to Walter about what it takes to establish a culture of continuous improvement, the innovative ways his ABI finance team overcame its challenges and the secret ingredients of a prize-winning leader.

24 January 2017

Knowledge is power, says NCR CFO Ayanda Mafuleka

“Everything I do is informed by risk. At any given time, we try to manage risk – be it business, financial or other. The NCR’s approach is that it takes risk management very seriously,” says Ayanda Mafuleka, chief financial officer of the National Credit Regulator (NCR), which falls under the Department of Trade and Industry (dti). Ayanda’s role includes overseeing the financial health of the organisation and ensuring that it complies with all the financial management-related legislation, as well as overseeing supply chain management and information technology (IT). A firm believer in the value of education, Ayanda is currently doing a Postgraduate Diploma in Forensic Auditing and recently applied at Unisa for an LLB. “I’m passionate about legislation and compliance. I was made to be a lawyer.”

12 January 2017

Expanded CFO Summits meet demand for learning

The role of the CFO is shifting beyond the traditional set of responsibilities. More and more financial executives are talking about the growing pressure on them to have a handle on a range of issues, from technology to people and strategy. This accelerating demand on finance professionals of all levels to evolve and add more value to their organisations is coupled with a rapidly increasing demand for quality peer-to-peer learning and networking opportunities. CFO South Africa is in intent on meeting this demand through events, dinners and print and online content. One of these events is the CFO Summit, which brings together leading minds to interrogate pertinent topics and has been expanded to encompass three learning tracks this year. We spoke to CFO South Africa MD Graham Fehrsen to find out more about the Summits.

10 January 2017

Take the chances you are presented, says BAT CFO Wayne Beifus

When Wayne Beifus took up his current role as area head of finance at British American Tobacco (BAT) South Africa around nine months ago, it was the culmination of a two-decades-long journey that sent him around the world and had him working on four continents and in seven regional offices. Once again on home soil, Wayne brings all his cultural experience to bear on the local team, reconnecting with South Africa at the same time. In this exclusive interview, Wayne talks to us about navigating diverse workplace cultures and increased uncertainty in globalised business. “In general, South African employees want to be empowered to operate within their own space but they are sometimes apprehensive to take the space. When I started to give permission to the team to make the calls, we saw quick results.”

27 December 2016

You need to be a creative thinker, innovative and flexible, says Jabulani Dlamuka, uShaka CFO

In the two years since he has been at the helm of the finance department, uShaka Marine World chief financial officer Jabulani Dlamuka has increased revenue by 20% and cut costs by 5% overall. He has implemented various new strategies and systems, and changed governance structures to make the department more efficient. To do all of this and keep the tourism entity successful, he’s had to be on his toes. “You cannot be relaxed. You need to be a creative thinker, innovative and flexible. At the same time, you need to understand the market you’re operating in. The industry is quite flexible, so if you’re not increasing your pace you’ll get left behind.”

20 December 2016

Don't think risk, think business, says Ryan McDougall, Group FD Trustco Group Holdings

Ryan McDougall, Group financial director of Trustco Group Holdings, was almost lost to the financial world as he came close to pursuing a career in paleontology. Having recently announced he will be leaving Trustco and Namibia to return home to South Africa and take up a position as CFO of MyBucks from January 2017, we caught up with Ryan to chat about his time at Trustco. “I will really miss Trustco. The people create a unique atmosphere of energy and confidence, which other mid-sized companies seem to lack. There is something intangible and exciting about an organisation of this size which can respond rapidly and dynamically to shifting strategies and market trends.”

13 December 2016

EPPF CFO Nopasika Lila's road to success - in her own words

“Growing up, I remember being told that accounting was a difficult field and that those who were studying to become CAs were considered to be part of the elite,” writes Nopasika Lila, CFO of the Eskom Pension and Provident Fund (EPPF), in this self-penned piece. “I was initially overwhelmed by the task at hand, but over time I elegantly succeeded. My confidence grew and I’ve learned to be a lot more decisive, deliberate and immediate in my actions.” In this guest article, Nopasika reveals how she charted her path to success, talks about her love for the piano, and shares some crucial lessons about mentoring and people management.

29 November 2016

Finance teams are a sounding board for decision-makers, says Philip Timberlake, CFO of Liberty Health

When he’s not hard at work heading up the finance team at Liberty Health, CFO Philip Timberlake can be found running along his favourite trails on Table Mountain, developing his “mental fortitude”. The key to being a successful CFO lies in communication, he says: “Within our economy of knowledge, ideas are currency. Of course, to understand, we need to listen, engage and be prepared to let go of our own ideas.”

22 November 2016

Evan Tsatsarolakis, Taste Holdings' CFO, talks about the Starbucks and Domino's acquisitions

“We started a new business in Domino’s – our stores had only been open for a year before we started another new business with Starbucks. The food business was like a startup within a startup. At this point in time there are a lot of moving pieces,” says Evan Tsatsarolakis, Group CFO of Taste Holdings, and a CFO Awards 2016 nominee. He adds that while this brings its own complications and challenges, he is confident that future growth opportunities will be plentiful. We sat down with Evan to talk about the two acquisitions, his role as CFO and what it is about Taste Holdings – which began as a family-owned business but which is now a JSE-listed group operating eight brands within its Food and Luxury Goods divisions – that makes the company so successful.

15 November 2016

The Woolworths watershed: Reeza Isaacs, CFO of the Year 2016

“Setting a target, being clear about it and measuring it are some of the key ingredients for my success,” says Reeza Isaacs, group finance director at Woolworths, who was elected CFO of the Year 2016 at the CFO Awards on 12 May. Reeza talks to us about his adventures in Australia, acquiring a new brand, his passion for transformation, and changing the mindset of the business to focus on balance sheet and return on capital.

11 November 2016

Brian Molefe, Eskom CEO, quits

"I have, in the interests of good corporate governance, decided to leave my employ at Eskom from 1 January 2017," wrote Brian Molefe (pictured), CEO of Eskom, in a statement released today regarding his decision to leave the company. "I do so voluntarily: indeed, I wish to pay tribute to the unfailing support I have had since I took up office from the chairman, the Board and with those with whom it has been my privilege to work. Together we brought Eskom back from the brink. I will take time off to reflect before I decide on my next career move."

02 November 2016

Four top finance bosses reveal the reasons for their success on the continent

What does it take to be successful in the rest of Africa? We asked four CFOs who were nominated for the 2016 CFO Awards to share some tips. Here’s what Bikash Prasad from Olam International, Johan Geel from Afgri, Mohammed Abdool-Samad from Illovo, and Osman Arbee from Imperial Group had to say on the matter. Bikash Prasad (right): look at the long term Bikash Prasad has quickly moved through the ranks and last year became CFO for Africa and the Middle-East at Olam International, a global agri-business operating from seed to shelf. Bikash has been a long-standing supporter of CFO South Africa and the panel of judges voted him as winner or the 2016 Moving into Africa Award, which he received out of the hands of Standard Bank’s CIB CFO Luvuyo Masinda on 12 May 2016. We asked him what it takes to be successful in Africa. “Look at the long term. You might have challenges in the short term, with the global economic slowdown and the slowdown in China impacting the continent, but the long term is looking very bullish and positive.” “To operate in Africa, you have to be a noble corporate citizen. You cannot be non-compliant. You need to really believe in sustainability and get a license from the community you want to work in, not just an official license from the government you are dealing with. We hardly ever run into any trouble because of that approach. Recruiting and developing talent is also crucial.”

01 November 2016

Osman Arbee, double winner at CFO Awards 2016, ready for new challenge at Imperial

Far from slowing down now that retirement age is looming, Osman Arbee is about to enjoy a serious promotion. The CFO of Imperial Holdings will become CEO of Imperial Motors in January, and will hold both posts simultaneously for three months while he grooms the next CFO to replace him. “It’s not a bad way to finish off your career, running a big business for three to four years then retiring,” he says. “It’s a nice change at the right time of my life, working with people I enjoy working with in a business I know and enjoy. It’s an opportunity to use my brain in another way.”

25 October 2016

Public sector CFOs must adapt quickly to change, says Irene Mathatho, CFO of the Companies Tribunal

Growing up in a rural village in Mokopane, Limpopo, Irene Mathatho, current CFO of the Companies Tribunal, didn’t have a role model. But she liked to read and loved to learn. “I even found it interesting going to the bank, watching the tellers. I used to think, one day I want to be somewhere in these offices,” she recalls. Discovering she had a natural aptitude for accounting, Irene chose to embrace this, though she laughs when she says she wasn’t aware of all the hard work a career in finance would entail. The Companies Tribunal is an agency of the Department of Trade and Industry (dti). It was established in terms of the Companies Act No. 71 of 2008 to adjudicate applications made in terms of Section 195 of the Act and resolve disputes through mediation, conciliation and arbitration. As CFO, Irene oversees the full finance function. Given the relative newness of the entity – it was established in 2012 – her job is not without plentiful challenges. We chatted to Irene about what she’s achieved since taking up the position and how she’s finding life in the public sector. Tell us about your current role and your team. “I am the first CFO at the Companies Tribunal. When it was established, many of the functions were outsourced to KPMG, including some of the CFO functions. I had to begin by reviewing some policies that KPMG developed and devise my own. I also had to align policies to processes. I’m responsible for the overall management of the finances and the preparation of financial reports, supply chain management, risk management, payroll management, asset management and strategic planning. I also need to ensure compliance with the Public Finance Management Act, as well as that everything complies with generally recognised accounting practices.”

07 October 2016

AAT (SA): The professional home for accounting technicians

“The Association of Accounting Technicians South Africa [AAT (SA)] adds value where CFOs and strategic people need to make decisions. If you get the work right at support staff level there are less errors, the quality of financial statements should be better, you should see shorter month-end periods and cleaner audits,” says Nadine Kater, General Manager of the organisation. We had a chat to Nadine about the organisation and where it fits into the industry, as well as what value it adds to finance professionals.

27 September 2016

Sibanye Gold CFO Charl Keyter talks risks and results

Charl Keyter was first introduced to mining as a child, when he used to visit the Gold Fields operations with his dad’s cousin. He was fascinated. “The atmosphere on the mines in those days was almost holiday-like,” he recalls. “Maybe because we only ever spent a day or a week there, every so often, but the facilities and the people living in the community, the activities they did with the kids, there was always this great atmosphere.”

20 September 2016

Talent and diversity make finance strong: Dineo Molefe, CFO T-Systems

Dineo Molefe took on the role of chief financial officer of T-Systems at the beginning of May. She oversees both the Johannesburg and Cape Town teams, with 47 people and six direct reports looking to her for guidance. She strongly believes the secret to a solid and successful team is having exceptional and talented people. In her words, a varied skills base is also very important: “You have to have a diversity of skills and backgrounds. When you have people who all think the same that doesn’t help the team. Diversity of mindset is also important. And you need people who are self-starters.” CFO South Africa caught up with Dineo to find out how the first few months have been. How are you enjoying your new role? Have you encountered any challenges since you took office? What changes have you made, if any? “It was a bit of a hit and run to start! Within finance we have Controlling, Corporate Finance, Commercial, Procurement, and Legal. The role provides a good balance between being strategically focused and being involved in operations. Our finance team is embarking on a journey to transform itself and to be more of a business partner, so that we play our role in being an enabler to business and not a stumbling block.”

06 September 2016

Changing mindsets and looking to the future, a chat with Brigid Mosola, Walter Sisulu University CFO

“When I came on board the staff were demotivated and unproductive. There was no teamwork and they did not trust in each other. It was a disaster,” says Brigid Mosola, CFO of Walter Sisulu University (WSU). In this exclusive interview with CFO South Africa, Brigid, who has been CFO for around 18 months, and who was recently placed on a precautionary suspension by the University’s new Vice Chancellor pending charges, speaks candidly about the state of the university’s finance department, the challenges of restructuring and building staff morale, and making unpopular decisions.

23 August 2016

Focus on value: an interview with IBM South Africa's new CFO Sandra Atkins-Sadler

“We have to shift the lens through which CFOs look at finance transformation and make it effective by focusing on value,” says Sandra Atkins-Sadler, who joined IBM South Africa as CFO earlier this year. “I think IBM can make a difference by continuing to invest in skills training and development of future CFOs. At the same time our business solutions will make a difference to the bottom line of current CFOs.”

16 August 2016

Mentoring is an enabling activity, says Deloitte Consulting CFO Aneshree Naidoo

"Make it count. Everything I do should be positively impactful. I feel there should be a theme of constant improvement, whether that's for yourself, the business or the people around you," says Aneshree Naidoo, CFO at Deloitte Consulting. Aneshree believes strongly in the power of mentoring and peer-to-peer learning and encourages aspiring and seasoned professionals to snatch up every chance they get to grow their knowledge base and skills. "I've rolled out mentoring programmes in organisations I’ve been a part of. These programmes were initially afforded to women as part of specific diversity initiatives and then to all interested. I believe in inclusive mentoring." How did you come to pursue a career in the finance industry? "It's a simple story. I enjoyed Science and Maths at school. My career choice initially was to pursue chemical engineering. One holiday I had the opportunity to do vacation work at a well-known plant. On site, I didn't take to the daily wear of heavy boots, jumpsuits and goggles. I then tried vacation work at Ernst Young. I enjoyed it thoroughly – the client interaction, how numbers told a story. I learnt that I could use numbers to make really big, bold decisions – and I took to the corporate, professional attire. My passion for Accounting and Maths came together and I decided to become a chartered accountant." Who were or are your mentors? "I've had mentors within the group of companies I've worked for but not directly in the company I was employed at. At Avanade, I was fortunate to have a professional coach and mentor based in the UK. It is enabling to have a mentor. As you grow into various roles, you need somebody to playback ideas or challenges. I extracted value from mentoring experiences where my mentor was in a different role, industry or even company from me as the experience supplemented my skills." How important is it for leaders in the finance industry to meet peers? "It's essential. Personal interactions are energising, especially when you hear peers experiencing similar challenges to you. It's encouraging to learn of solutions that are working for others and even discover opportunities to partner in business. We’re getting better at connecting more in SA." What are your career goals? "My career goal centres on creating leadership capacity within our country. I'm driven by purposeful roles and I’m now more about supporting education, training and/or mentoring initiatives in our country rather than progressing the ‘corporate ladder’ or being defined by a job title. I am passionate about education, positively influencing it at a very early stage in a deep and significant way, enabling more South Africans to be brand ambassadors for our country and lifting SA’s global contributions." What do you most enjoy about working in finance? "I love the picture or story that gets created through numbers and that I have the ability to influence and create that story. I love that diverse people, complex processes, relationships and overall many moving parts come together in the form of financial results. I enjoy connecting these various moving parts to tell the financial story and propose and steer financial and operational excellence." What do you most enjoy about the CFO role? What do you dislike about it? "I enjoy the challenge of growing companies, especially in our current economic climate which presents new learning and evolving opportunities for business. I enjoy understanding business levers and driving change to improve business performance. There’s a new problem to solve every day. What I dislike most is when custodians of business allow self-interest to override sound business decisions. I have a fiduciary responsibility and a bigger purpose, so I challenge those behaviours." You joined Deloitte Consulting in March. What has it been like so far? "It's been going well. There are immediate operational finance topics I am steering across Africa and with the broader firm and I’ve gone through our budget and year-end process already. I’m learning about the broad array of professional services offered by Deloitte Consulting, not to mention the exciting M&A activities. I’m also the Lead Committee sponsor for Deloitte Women in Leadership Consulting, which is progressive." Prior to this you were at T-Systems South Africa. What did you achieve while there? "T-Systems is a large technology company. My notable achievements were bringing about marked efficiencies and increased effectiveness of the finance team. I strengthened team skills through hiring qualified professionals and introduced strong commercial themes of finance enabling business growth. Through innovative deal shaping and pricing, pro-active support for our internal and external customers and introducing a theme of ‘Finance gets Loud’, I brought about a cultural team change for the better. I am proud of the strong 2015 results posted, which included milestone profitability achievements. I also drove the M&A strategy. It was an exciting journey to unlock new revenue streams with different partners in the market." You are young and yet you've enjoyed great success in your career thus far. How does this make you feel, and what has been key to your success? "I'm proud, I'm excited and I’m mostly humbled. Success is not finite to me; it's continuous and evolving. I’m always energised to explore the next level. I constantly try to displace myself so I create space for new leadership capacity."

09 August 2016

Integrity is everything for a CFO, says Rendani Sadiki, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform CFO

“You have to be mindful of operating within the law at all times as a CFO in the public sector, because it’s your career on the line,” says Rendani Sadiki, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform CFO. “Colleagues may make requests that are outside the ambit of the law, but you have to explore the prescripts before you respond. You mustn’t just say no; you must bring a solution. That person might not be intentionally trying to break the law, they might just not be acquainted with those prescripts. So I rather try to advise them of their options.” The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is mandated to create and maintain equitable land dispensation and acts as a catalyst in rural development to ensure sustainable rural livelihoods, which it does through various programmes and initiatives. Rendani oversees strategic financial management within the Department – a mandate she says is quite broad. “As the financial strategist, I have to develop and implement financial strategies to manage limited resources at our disposal so that the department is able to deliver the services efficiently and effectively, and within budget.” She also oversees the governance of the Department.

02 August 2016

Balancing personalities is key to a strong team, says Graham McGregor, New GX Capital Holdings CFO

“The most unsettling thing for anyone is uncertainty,” says Graham McGregor, CFO of New GX Capital Holdings, a BEE investment holding company with interests in the environmental solutions, logistics, power and telecoms, and corporate finance advisory sectors. Sharing his experience, while in his previous position, of a merger that happened between two very different businesses under one umbrella company McGregor says keeping staff abreast of what was happening at all times was crucial: “Because if there’s a communication gap, people fill in the gap themselves.” He also learnt an important lesson:

29 July 2016

Seyi Bickersteth, National Senior Partner KPMG Nigeria, on Africa's potential to be great

“We [Africa] need to market ourselves more. We have a continent with lots of opportunities for people, we have a young and vibrant population and a growing middle class. We need to let people know that we are open for business and that we are very investor friendly,” says Seyi Bickersteth, National Senior Partner KPMG Nigeria & Chairman KPMG Africa Practice. Seyi has enjoyed a long and illustrious career – one that spans 40 years, in fact – and is no stranger to change. Currently, he oversees KPMG’s business in Africa, and calls his most important responsibilities developing people, outlining the vision for KPMG, and setting the strategy for how the firm will move forward. “Our clients are increasingly telling us they want to succeed in Africa but in order to do that they need a firm that can provide a single point of contact to meet all of their expectations in the region. This guides our strategy.”

19 July 2016

Successful CFOs must be able to self-reflect, says Lewis Kangausaru, CFO of Groeneveld South Africa

"To lead you need to know yourself and why you’re doing things,” opines Groeneveld South Africa CFO, Lewis Kangausaru. Lewis has been a part of the Groeneveld team since October 2013, and is responsible for the full financial governance of the company. He says reflectiveness is a core of the leadership principle: “To be forward-thinking you need to be reflective, to take time to think about what has occurred in a given space of time, the decisions you’ve made, why you’ve made them and the current outcomes.”

11 July 2016

Peter Christie on the power of storytelling for effective leaders

As a youngster, Peter Christie was enormously fond of Western movies, particularly those which featured North American Indians giving cowboys what he calls “a good klapping”. One movie in particular made a big impression on the youngster: The Great Sioux Massacre, where, at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, shaman Big Chief Sitting Bull led the defeat of General Custer and other troops of the US Army. Peter can still recall a gift he received from his parents at this time: a colourful North American Indian costume that included feathered headdress, leather-tasselled vest, moccasins and tomahawk. Needless to say it immediately became a firm favourite of the energetic six-year-old who, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, answered without hesitation, “Big Chief Sitting Bull”. Peter being quite the chatterbox, his dad adapted this to “Big Chief Talking Bull”, and the name stuck. Peter has always had a liking for stories – reading them, telling them, watching them, and writing them. As an adult, he turned this talent into a career, establishing a successful consultancy that teaches business people how to unlock their storytelling potential in order to become better, more influential leaders.

08 July 2016

How to become the world's most inspiring accountant: a chat to Coenie Middel

"We have always believed passionately in the role accountants play in creating a better world by helping to make businesses more successful, creating jobs and generating wealth," says Coenraad 'Coenie' Middel, whose firm Middel & Partners has been named as one of the most inspiring accountancy practices in the world and has been included in the recently published ‘The World’s Most Inspiring Accountants’ by author Steve Pipe.

07 July 2016

Meet Simon Ridley (Standard Bank), recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award at the CFO Awards 2016

CFO South Africa chose to honour Simon Ridley (pictured), recently retired FD of Standard Bank and CFO of the Year 2014, as well as esteemed member of this year’s judging panel, by presenting him with a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s CFO Awards. Unfortunately, Simon was unable to accept the award in person and spend the evening celebrating with his peers, as he was touring Namibia on a motorbike at the time of the event. Simon’s colleague, Luvuyo Masinda, CFO Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB), accepted the award on his behalf. Masinda said:

05 July 2016

DigiCore CFO Cobus Grove: The Good, the Bid & the Ugly

Most CFOs dream of saving a company with sheer accounting brilliance, fantasise about lining shareholders’ pockets through a spectacular M&A deal, and secretly yearn for fame. Cobus Grove achieved all that before he turned 34 years old. In a series of interviews with CFO South Africa, Cobus shares how he saved JSE-listed company DigiCore and sold it to US firm Novatel Wireless. He talks about his compulsion to keep succeeding and gives candid insight into the personal toll of managing such high-stake corporate manoeuvres.

28 June 2016

Fear and uncertainty after #Brexit - Peregrine Group CFO Robert Katz

The British withdrawal from the European Union (Brexit) would very possibly have an effect on South African businesses, although some industries will be harder hit than others – and some might see opportunities. “Personally I don’t think Brexit is a good thing,” says Robert Katz, CFO of wealth and asset management firm Peregrine Group. “South Africa is a risk-on economy. That means that when there are global jitters, South African stocks get sold off and the rand comes under pressure.”

28 June 2016

A humble CFO is a successful CFO, says Lauren Van Zyl, Divisional CFO of Eqstra Fleet Management and Logistics

“For me, being a successful CFO is not even technical; it’s about being humble. The role can go to your head and that creates drama,” says Lauren Van Zyl, Divisional CFO of Eqstra Fleet Management and Logistics. “Being humble makes you approachable, and the more approachable you are the more likely staff will be to come to you if there’s a problem, and that’s important.” Lauren, who pursued a career in finance after convincing herself she would never be interested in the industry, heads up a team of 45 staff members, and says the people aspect of the job is as rewarding as it is challenging. “That’s what nobody prepares you for. As a finance person, you’re very comfortable with the numbers, with the technical, but you aren’t comfortable with having so many people report to you, trust you and rely on you.” How did you first get into finance and how did you come to be a CFO? “At school, one of my main subjects was speech and drama. I was convinced I was never going to go into finance. When choosing my studies, I first registered for industrial psychology, but I didn’t even make it through one lecture and realised that wasn’t going to work. I changed my degree and went into Informatics. I was doing really well but realised I didn’t have a passion for it – it didn’t gel with me. I found my way to finance and thought I’d pursue general finance, believing there was no chance I’d do a CA. But at that moment I realised I would be stopping just before the finish line, so I decided to go the whole hog and completed my B.Com (Accounting) Honours, and then my articles through Deloitte. After my articles I stayed on for a short period, but I decided I wasn’t audit manager material. I was battling with the concept of siting across the table from a CFO and telling him how to run his business when I didn’t know what it was like to be in his position. I wanted to be able to give a CFO advice based on my own experiences. I felt like I needed that foundation.”

23 June 2016

Zaf Mahomed, McDonald's: Demand more - real leaders are listening

CFO South Africa MD Graham Fehrsen was recently invited to sit in on a monthly meeting of the senior finance leaders from one of South Africa’s largest financial services providers. In this monthly meeting, arranged by the CFO, the senior team gets insight from an expert or leader from outside the business - on this occasion Zaf Mahomed (pictured), CFO of McDonald’s South Africa, who shared some of his experience and insights from his time as the CFO of Ellerines.

21 June 2016

BP Southern Africa CFO Udayan Sen: The CFO as co-pilot

CFOs are business partners across multiple business functions – an attribute of the role that has evolved the most in the last decade or so, opines Udayan Sen, CFO of BP Southern Africa. He says: “The once maligned bean counters are now businessmen and women, who by the way also happen to be the head of the finance function. Almost to say, if there was a tag line to describe CFOs, it would say: ‘We also have Finance accountability’. In BP, the CFO is the co-pilot, and supports the CEO to run the business."

15 June 2016

Celebrating success with future-ready finance professionals

The 14th of June 2016 marked a first for CFO South Africa as MD Graham Fehrsen hosted a lively dinner with finance leaders in Durban at the impeccable Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga. Although the bright lights of KwaZulu-Natal may not be quite those of Gauteng, the province is home to a number of significant multinationals and leading corporates. This dinner attracted finance professionals from Olam, Tiger Brands, Mondi, Illovo Sugar and ARB Holdings.

07 June 2016

Finance is the backbone of business says Fabian Cazares, Philips Healthtech CFO Southern Africa

A CFO should have a clear view of the potential risk areas and their mitigation actions, says Fabian Cazares, CFO/Head of Finance Southern Africa for Philips Healthtech. "Risk management is a key area, especially in volatile and emerging markets. The CFO needs to ensure that there is a proper risk management strategy in place and closely drive this, as well as to develop both short and long-term mitigation actions to guarantee business continuity." Fabian sees change as a journey, and believes that communication and transparency are important in effecting change, as they allow all stakeholders to see both the impact and benefits of such undertakings. The majority of your career seems to have been with Philips, albeit in different capacities and divisions. What keeps you here? "Something I really like about Philips as a company is that they take seriously the development of their employees. Philips use to be well known in electronics, but its focus in the healthcare arena is making a greater impact in people lives. This echoes the vision, mission and values of the company, and that motivates me to stay here." In which post that you've held over the years did you learn the most? "I've been with Philips for 10 years, seven of which I've worked in emerging markets. I would say that in this position I've learnt the most because I've had the opportunity to build the business all across the African continent, for example." What key learnings have you taken away from your assignments in emerging markets? "I'm originally from Mexico, so I feel familiar with emerging markets. My main takeaways, especially in South Africa and Africa, are about the passion, entrepreneurship and desire of people to improve their lives. These values are reflected in both the social and the business environments." You've been in your current role since July 2015. What have you achieved during this time and what more do you still want to achieve? "As Philips Healthtech focuses on the development of new business in the healthcare arena, I have been setting the roadmap for the enablers required. But this isn't enough just yet. I want to keep achieving; keep making a difference and ensure I am the agile business partner required for this market and my organisation."

31 May 2016

Africa's potential is exponential, says CHH CFO, Seithati Bolipombo

“Transformation won’t happen by osmosis or natural selection because at its core and at its foundation, it is a people thing. It comes down to behaviour and is a decision that people make,” says Seithati Bolipombo, CFO of Chancellor House Holdings (CHH), a privately held investment holding company founded in 2003. Seithati is extremely passionate about the subject of transformation and opines that while we’ve made good strides, there is still plenty of room for improvement. She also thinks we need to be prouder of our African heritage: “We need to elevate the pride of the African identity. The more globalised and Westernised we become, the more anything that was founded or established in Africa seems to have less of a reputation than the equivalent founded outside the continent. In business and in civil society, the African identity has to be prioritised and celebrated.” How did you get into finance? “This wasn’t always the plan! When I was in high school I actually wanted to work with young people. I had a chat to one of my teachers, who was like a mentor to me at the time. She said to me, ‘The world needs more people with strong values in critical pillars of society than it does within social services. You need people with the right heart and mind to be making those decisions in terms of where resources go’. She encouraged me to look into finance.” What do you most enjoy about the industry? “You get to shape the economy. Your area of financial excellence contributes to a bigger economic landscape, which really determines the growth of the country and therefore how it benefits its people.” In your opinion, what are the most important elements or considerations when devising a business strategy? "Every business exists for its customers or its clients. That’s first and foremost the thing you’ve got to preoccupy yourself with; being obsessed about understanding the people for whom you exist as a business, their needs, their demographics, and what keeps them awake at night. Then you have to consider what solution you are providing and how you meet their needs. My philosophy is that business concepts don’t fail due to a lack of either resources or the right people or staff. I believe that business concepts fail due to an inability to bring value to the table of exchange. I believe that people are willing to spend money as long as the solution that is being provided is a valid and valuable one. That’s the biggest element of business strategy for me.” What role do you think the CFO plays in the strategic vision of a company? “As CFO you may be the ’bean counter’ but you should also able to add value to strategy and decision-making based on numbers, so that business decisions are not made on gut feel or emotion. The strategy has to be based on strong strategic and financial fundamentals.” “In formulating strategy, management undertakes a critical assessment of the industry the business is in, as well as its competitors. It is crucial that this assessment is also based on financial evidence too. If it comes down to a choice of two paths the company could take, it’s a question of what do the numbers say. I’m particular about the numbers because I feel they’re objective to a certain extent – as long as we’re not cooking them.”

26 April 2016

Reputation is everything, says Black Rhino CFO Paul Inbona

"As an executive, your greatest asset is your reputation. I think that a lot of people in finance in particular would do very well to focus on that issue and ensure that they are able to make the tough decision when it comes to being asked to do things that are not in their view of the world, or which they deem unacceptable," says Paul Inbona, CFO of Black Rhino, part of the Black Stone Group, which focuses on development projects in the power generation and oil & gas infrastructure industries. Paul, an avid bridge player, believes that while it is crucial to have a CFO network, it is as important to have a network within your own industry. "I find people aren't immersed enough in their own business. To understand the story behind the numbers you have to understand the market, the industry and the players. For me that is as important as the technical aspect of the CFO role." How did you come to pursue a career in the finance industry? "I'm actually an engineer by background. I studied at one of the top French academic institutions and was thinking about what I wanted to do at the end of that school and it was either to go be an engineer in production or be in a lab, and neither of those appealed to me. Then I came across the auditing profession and what interested me there was that through the lens of the auditor you got to look at the whole business and touch on all the business processes from recruitment to procurement, investments, assets capitalisation and depreciation, sales and marketing even. Every aspect of the business ends up being reflected in your books. And that's how I got involved and interested in the financial world at large. I started with the auditing profession and moved into management consulting and private equity business after I did my MBA. I then moved on to CFO and operational CFO roles." You've been with Black Rhino Group since May 2015. What have you achieved during this time? "I took on a position where there was virtually no one in charge of finance, so I had to start from scratch getting the books up to the standard that I strive to achieve and strengthening the team, bringing in additional people with the critical skills needed to get the finance function into place. I hired a tax manager and an HR manager. We've also been implementing a new ERP system. I'm happy with the progress so far. It's going well, not as fast as I would've liked, but we are moving in the right direction. In addition, I spend a fair amount of time supporting the transactions in terms of tax and accounting advice where required and I am involved with the General Counsel in the overall structuring of the Group." You've worked in various countries – DRC, Canada, Australia, France, South Africa and Switzerland. How does the working culture differ between these places, and how do you adapt each time? "To adapt to different cultures you've got to be open and agile, as well as willing to understand where you're moving into before trying to impose on other people how you think they should do things. You've also got to learn the local language, the way people interact, the way they communicate, and the nuances of that country's business culture." "The finance function is fairly common across countries, what is different is the level of education and the level of sophistication among the people. In Australia there is a very skilled, computer literate, professional workforce. It is really impressive. In the DRC it was quite the opposite. The education is poor, though people are very willing to learn. So you've got to adapt yourself to the level of the audience, and learn how things are done in those places, because it can be quite different to what you're used to in your environment of origin." Where do you go for advice about doing business in Africa? "We rely a lot on local and international legal and accounting firms. Local firms give you the local insight, which is very important, to ensure you understand the local context and you get advice that is relevant and you may even pick up upcoming changes in legislation that a big international firm may not be aware of, but international firms give you experience of structuring transactions with the correct jurisdictions and understanding and navigating the landscape of transfer pricing issues that the local firms may not be fully aware of, as well as international tax and legal issues. You've also got to develop a network of contacts in those countries. When I was in the DRC I became a member of the Chamber of Mines. It's important to be able to lobby at the right level of government and institutions that you deal with." How important is it for CFOs to meet peers? "We are in the position where we are more and more subject to compliance and regulation and very often a CFO in another industry may have some specificities at the margin. So somewhere, someone will have faced the problem you are faced with. Meeting peers accelerates the learning curve. Using your network to leverage your relationships ensures you are able to deal with the issue at hand quicker than if you don't use your network. So it's extremely important."

12 April 2016

Learning from the best: new DigiCore CFO Nicholas Bofilatos

The 33-year-old Nicholas Bofilatos is one of South Africa's youngest CFOs, having recently succeeded Cobus Grove as DigiCore CFO, after vehicle and fleet tracking firm was bought by the American digital solutions behemoth Novatel Wireless in October 2015. We spoke to Nicholas about learning from his predecessor and from other peers during our CFO events, about his promotion and about combining his hectic work with a family life - including young twins.

14 March 2016

Give African executives opportunity to develop: Pratik Chandaria (Africa Advisory Group)

Contrary to perceptions, there is a strong potential pool of great local business leaders in Africa," says Pratik Chandaria of Africa Advisory Group, a company specialising in recruiting executives and developing the next generation of leadership for Africa. "The strength of the leadership pool is defined by the potential you see in it. This means you have to be willing to give leadership talent the opportunity to develop; particularly in Africa where leadership skill sets are still developing. I rank the pool highly in terms of potential."

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