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.”

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