Interview

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

09 October 2015

South African CFO goes global - an interview with Ray Leclercq (Unit4)

Ray Leclercq, a South African living in the UK and working from the Netherlands, has been with Unit4 as CFO for more than a year now and is working on probably the biggest transformation the company has ever seen. He is loving every minute of it, he says. “My job is to keep the business growing and performing, while simultaneously redesigning the company.” In this interview with CFO South Africa, Leclercq talks about business transformation, the ideal role of finance and how new technology can help finance to be a better business partner.

08 October 2015

African FinTech businesses can conquer the world, says IDM's Benay Sager

"FinTech is a fantastic thing, but lenders must be responsible and conduct proper creditworthiness assessments," says Benay Sager, chief operating officer at Intelligent Debt Management. Benay will be on the panel of experts during our upcoming FinTech Africa event in Cape Town on 20 October. Our journalist Ebrahim Moola spoke to him about FinTech's benefits and barriers. "My hope is that many more people will enjoy access to mobile banking technology and not have to go into a branch."

06 October 2015

Suren Singh, Morvest Business: 'superstar' CFO leading the change

Morvest Business has been through some radical, strategic changes over the last few years and Suren Singh has been leading the charge as CFO. No longer an ICT company, Morvest now positions itself as a global diversified investment holding company à la Bidvest. Singh believes in clarity and says his passion rubs off on others. “I want to know more about my craft and the work I do than anyone has ever done in the history of the world,” he enthuses. As finance chief, Singh says during this interview with CFO South Africa, he is “in an ideal position to bridge the natural tensions between the CEO and the Board”.

29 September 2015

The Crisis Manager, Sasol CFO Bongani Nqwababa

He sure doesn't choose the easiest CFO roles, does Bongani Nqwababa. After a career at firms like Shell Southern Africa, Eskom and Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), he is currently tasked with navigating national pride Sasol through a tricky period of low oil prices. Luckily, Bongani has earned his striped as crisis manager par excellence at Amplats, where his calm head was crucial in times of strikes. The new strategy he plotted recently saw Amplats selling off its Rustenburg mines to Sibanye, but Nqwababa has already moved on to other challenges.

22 September 2015

CFOs are myth busters, says retiring Standard Bank CFO Simon Ridley

“As CFOs we need to be trusted advisors, rather than critics,” says Simon Ridley, CFO at the Standard Bank Group and last year’s CFO of the Year. In an exclusive interview with CFO South Africa, Ridley talks about the myth busting responsibility of CFOs and CAs, the charm of over-disclosing, the reason everybody at the bank knows his mother and about being the perfect business partner: “You can’t just throw stones at a problem.”

15 September 2015

Lawrence Weitzman - Guiding Telkom-acquisition BCX through the storm

The acquisition by Telkom, the death of its beloved CEO and the need for a major restructuring have kept Lawrence Weitzman, CFO at Business Connexion (BCX), busier than ever. Twice nominated for the annual CFO Awards, Weitzman has successfully navigated his company through the trials and tribulations and is understandably proud the firm has managed to do well. Managing people in the right way and being a trusted leader is the real reason behind the success, says Weitzman, who comes across as a soft-spoken accountant but has established himself a real leader. “I try and give people space to do their own things and to make mistakes.”

08 September 2015

Eskom's acting CFO Anoj Singh: "Exposure the key to career development"

As one of the quiet men behind Transnet's relative success - for a State-Owned Company (SOC) - CFO Anoj Singh was recently drafted as acting Eskom CFO, joining his Transnet chief Brian Molefe at the battling power utility. Singh started working at Eskom and already messages from Megawatt Park have started to become clearer. Only the future will tell if the top executive, who won 2 CFO Awards in both 2014 and 2015, will save Eskom.

01 September 2015

Unpredictability, transparency, excellence: a chat with RAF CFO Yolande van Biljon

Yolande van Biljon learnt valuable lessons when the IT bubble burst around the turn of the century, grew into a finance leader at Denel and now has the unenviable task of sorting out the cash flow problems at the Road Accident Fund (RAF). Her recipe for success should work for any CFO: “What scares people is uncertainty. It is better to be open, even if you cannot tell people what they want to hear.”

18 August 2015

Triple CFO Award winner Colin Brown raises the bar at Super Group

“You need to understand what world class means and then raise the bar for your own company.” There is no doubt that Colin Brown knows what he is talking about. In his position as Group CFO, he assisted the Group Chief Executive Officer, Peter Mountford, and the current leadership in rescuing the flailing Super Group from the abyss five years ago, turning it into a profitable transport logistics and mobility group once again.

11 August 2015

Spur CFO Ronel van Dijk: tasting, testing and the Spur DNA

She visited our very first CFO event in Cape Town, featured in one of our first interviews way back in 2012 and recently gave some sizzling insight in the international expansion and IT innovation at the Spur Group. This year Ronel van Dijk (favourite food: ribs) was nominated for the 2015 CFO Awards and we spoke to her about her relationship with CEO Pierre van Tonder, her take on coaching, her deep involvement in everything strategy - from testing the equipment to tasting the food - and her passion for the Spur Foundation.

04 August 2015

Denel CFO Fikile Mhlontlo: from bailouts to superiority

Denel CFO Fikile Mhlontlo has been instrumental in cost cutting, efficiency drives and improving financial ratios. Together with the other executives he has changed the state-owned aerospace and defence technology conglomerate from a loss-making public enterprise into a successful, profit-making company with an increasingly international focus. Denel’s international image is now superior, says Mhlontlo. “The strategy of decentralisation and partnering has worked wonders.”

07 July 2015

Fintech - Wizzit CEO Brian Richardson aims at the 'unbanked'

Banking both the world’s unbanked and underbanked population through the use of mobile technology is what Wizzit International hopes to achieve. "Our primary focus is on financial inclusion and empowerment. In the world there are 3 billion people without access to financial services. In Africa there are 700 million people who do not even have a basic bank account,” says Brian Richardson, Wizzit International’s Chief Executive Officer.

02 June 2015

Meet Brett Tromp (Discovery Health), double CFO Award winner 2015

Can someone who introduces a whole new way of reporting - the fourth bottom line - be a CFO? Can somebody who is at the forefront of innovation in the pharmacy industry be a CFO? Can someone with a happy and popular team be a CFO? Or someone who coaches many colleagues and authors articles for magazines for fun? And what about someone who says his church pastor is his example in life or someone who never misses any of his kid's cricket matches? Can he be a CFO?

12 May 2015

Anoj Singh, Transnet: the appeal of the public sector for CAs

“If you want to be a great CFO, you need to be in a position where you can learn to manage a complex organisation,” says Anoj Singh, Group Chief Financial Officer at the dynamic State-Owned Company (SOC) Transnet and winner of two CFO Awards at the annual gala evening on 15 May 2014. In the run up to this year’s CFO of the Year gala, we are publishing a short version of the interview we had with Anoj for the first issue of the brand new CFO Magazine – which will be launched during the CFO conference and awards event on 14 May.

05 May 2015

Colin Brown, Super Group: a CFO that doesn't understand IT is at risk

“I believe that a CFO that doesn’t understand IT is at risk,” says Super Group CFO Colin Brown, whose recipe for success includes his deep understanding of IT, something he believes will aid any CFO tremendously. Brown was the winner of both the Finance Transformation and Strategy Execution award at the inaugural CFO of the Year event in 2014. In the run up to this year’s CFO of the Year gala, we are publishing a short version of the interview we had with Colin for the first issue of the brand new CFO Magazine – which will be launched during the CFO conference and awards event on 14 May.

21 April 2015

Reeza Isaacs, Finance Director Woolworths: enjoying the fast paced retail race

When the Woolworths CEO Ian Moir suggested that they have dinner, Reeza Isaacs didn’t think much of it. He was Managing Partner at services firm EY that audited the Woolworths account and there was a long standing relationship between the organisations. Then came the job offer and Isaacs hasn’t looked back. From closely being involved in the spectacular acquisition of Australian retailer David Jones to getting used to receiving daily updates about trading results, it has been a real roller coaster ride for the FD of Woolworths. We spoke to Isaacs about the importance of mentoring, his proudest moments at EY and his successful shift to the fast pace of retail. “It has been a phenomenal experience.”

10 March 2015

Exclusive: FirstRand's retiring CEO Sizwe Nxasana on CFOs, SAICA, BEE and the economy

Business power house, Chartered Accountant and Fort Hare graduate Sizwe Nxasana (57) started KwaZulu-Natal’s first black audit firm in 1989, listed Telkom at the JSE in 2003 and more than doubled FirstRand’s market cap to R295 billion in 2015, after becoming CEO in 2010. Last week he announced he will step down as CEO in September. In an exclusive interview with CFO South Africa, Nxasana chats about the role of CFOs, SAICA, the economy and BEE. He also has some tips for ambitious CAs.

03 March 2015

Casper Troskie, Liberty: communication is key for modern CFO

“It is very important to understand how investors see the business, because if you don’t listen to them, you might miss important trends,” says Casper Troskie, Financial Director at financial services company Liberty. In an exclusive interview with CFO South Africa Troskie shares valuable advice for ambitious Chartered Accountants, recalls his proudest moments and elaborates on the culture change that Liberty has embarked on. “It has been a great journey, but I see the task only as a third of the way done.”

24 February 2015

CFO of the Week: Steven Whiley (Neotel): great CFOs take risks

“A great CFO needs to have appetite for a certain level of risk,” says Steven Whiley, CFO at Neotel, South Africa’s second fixed line operator. Whiley is currently part if the negotiations for the sale of Neotel to communications giant Vodacom and has earned his stripes during a long and varied career as CFO in several industries. “The best CFOs can look at the balance sheet and understand from there what makes the business tick.”

10 February 2015

CFO of the Week: Nishant Saxena (Cipla Medpro): Finance as business partner and in-house venture capitalist

Last year Nishant Saxena traded his job as CFO of pharmaceutical company Cipla India for a move to Cape Town, where he is now the Chief Financial & Administrative Officer of Cipla Medpro. During the CFO event at the Cape Town Club on 19 February, Nishant will be the key note speaker. He will share some of his experiences in South Africa so far and he will talk about the transition of finance from a bookkeeping role to a true business partner.

03 February 2015

Fanus le Roux, CFO Africa - Middle East, Aurecon: being trusted is the ultimate reward

There are not a lot of South African CFOs who have experienced and contributed to such spectacular corporate growth as Fanus le Roux. When he joined Tshwane-based engineering, management and specialist technical services company Aurecon (then Africon) 20 years ago, it had a turnover of R132 million. These days the company is a global one, with its African operations contributing a R2.6 billion turnover annually. “It has been an exciting journey,” le Roux says modestly.

27 January 2015

CFO of the Week: Jonathan Maehler, ChemSpec: honest information - a recipe for success

“I have always had the philosophy that honesty, which at first, in some cases, may lead to a negative response, in the long run acts as a motivator,” says Jonathan Maehler, Financial Director at ChemSpec, one of Africa's largest paint and coatings companies. He has been guiding the business through a difficult period over the last three and a half years. “Being a CFO requires toughness in these situations, because you have to bring the truth to the fore. Through an intense focus on growing sales and regaining customers, we have found our way up.”

16 January 2015

Lenore Kerrigan, Sales Director OpenText: preparing for the Digital First World

“As companies prepare for a Digital First World, the CFO will play a key role in providing the financial underpinning of this digital transformation, says Lenore Kerrigan, Sales Director for Sub-Saharan Africa at software company OpenText Corporation. “It is controversial, but in many companies CFOs are still mainly reporting on historic facts and figures. The role of modern CFOs, however, is forward looking and includes a very strong focus on understanding risk and financial growth. Our Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Enterprise Information Management (EIM) systems can help them accomplish this.”

13 January 2015

CFO of the Week: Linda Kumbemba, loveLife: being the NGO's 'bad guy'

“If you’re a quick-solutions type person, you tend to look like the bad guy at a non-profit organisation,” says Linda Kumbemba, CFO at loveLife, South Africa's largest HIV prevention initiative for young people. “The environment is slower-paced compared to the corporates, but you have to move and keep agile. It is also great to be part of a successful behavioral change campaign even though its results can’t be measured in the way a CFO would usually want results to be measured.”

06 January 2015

Brooks Mparutsa, Hollard Insurance: success requires vision

“At the age of 16 I made the decision to become a CA and a business leader,” says Brooks Mparutsa, the eloquent Group Chief Financial Officer of Hollard Insurance. His impressive career in the public and private sector has taken him all over the world. “I am following the path I set out for myself. What many people lack is a vision for their lives and careers. I benefited a lot from staying at my audit firm for a number of years and spending years in the public sector – it is a path I definitely recommend.”

09 December 2014

CFO of the Week: Shabeer Khan (DTI): CAs should consider the government

While Shabeer Khan, Chief Financial Officer of the dti, admits to dreaming of becoming an astronaut, a Formula One racing driver and even a fireman as a young boy, he would now like to encourage young Chartered Accountants (CAs) to take the route that he has taken. At the age of 34 he confesses to having considered other career prospects but working for Government was a conscious decision for him and he assures us that nothing compares with the daily fulfillment he gets from his current role. The perception is that working for government can be a risky career choice but Khan says that working for the government provides an opportunity where you can enhance your skills and make a real contribution to your country. Khan currently leads a team of 90 people and was the only CA within the dti when he joined in 2013.

02 December 2014

CFO of the Week: Austin McDonald (Promasidor): choose the consumer over the product

When Austin McDonald became a Chartered Accountant, he was already “the world’s worst engineer”. Although he is a self-professed “maverick” the Finance world has clearly suited him much better than engineering did, especially after he joined the family’s business: Promasidor. Now his CV boasts a successful rescue operation, a handsome R9 billion annual turnover and unequalled insight into African opportunities. “When looking at African countries, be consumer driven and not product driven,” he advises.

18 November 2014

CFO of the Week: Clint Capitano, Cunningham Lindsey: take decisions and move on

Decisiveness is one of the most important characteristics of a good CFO, says Clint Capitano, Chief Financial Officer at loss adjusting firm Cunningham Lindsey. “People procrastinate and take a long time to take decisions; being decisive is one of my strongest points. I do research, get the information I need, take a decision and move on. I get things done and live with the consequences of my decisions.”

31 October 2014

Badibanga Promesse, Strategic Account Director CIMA: what CFOs need to know about strategy

“We have grown tremendously in Africa over the last five years,” says Badibanga Promesse, Strategic Account Director- Global Corporate Relations at the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). With evident energy, he tells us about the upcoming shift to online-only exams and the continuous drive to keep the syllabus and short courses relevant. “For CFOs this is crucial, because CIMA is the only accounting qualification that has really embedded strategy in its syllabus for many years.”

21 October 2014

CFO of the Week: Tudor Hungwe, SAMSA: Partnering the CEO makes the job fun

When Tudor Hungwe joined the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) more than five years ago, it was a matter of “getting the accounting right and putting controls in place”. With time though, his role has shifted. “The priorities in my day-to-day job have changed. I find myself working more and more as a partner to the executive team. It is challenging, but it makes the creative juices flow and it is much more fun.”

17 October 2014

Anna Puzone, Zetta Solutions: keep information management simple

“Our biggest message to CFOs is to strive for simplicity,” says Anna Puzone, head of enterprise performance management at information management company Zetta Business Solutions. The two year old firm is part of IS Partners (established in 2001), which implements Microsoft-centered solutions. “Zetta was born out of the need for a client centric approach to technology solutions. Our approach is advisory in nature, as we seek to offer solutions in a simple, cost effective and impactful manner”

13 October 2014

In the News: Travel and IT innovation for Spur's longtime CFO Ronel van Dijk

Last month Spur Group announced that sales across its restaurants have increased by 13.5 percent and that restaurant turnover per annum now exceeds R5.5 billion. In the next year the group wants to open 10 new Spur outlets, 10 Panarottis‚ 7 John Dory’s‚ 8 Captain DoRegos and 6 outlets for The Hussar Grill. We thought that was reason enough to phone longtime CFO Ronel van Dijk and ask her about how her finance team has contributed to this success and the group’s exciting international prospects.

07 October 2014

CFO of the Week: Tsholofelo Molefe, CFO at Eskom: success comes through focus

Her proudest professional moment was the presentation of Eskom’s Annual Results announcement and the financial sustainability plan to key stakeholders, says Tsholefelo Molefe, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at the public electricity utility. “Eskom is always in the spotlight and as it took a while to fill in the Finance Director permanently after my predecessor Paul O’Flaherty left, my very first challenge was to make sure that I pull the Finance team together to remain focused so that we could deliver a successful annual report, which continues to receive a string of awards on Excellence in integrated reporting. I am proud that our integrated report tells our story in a way that helps people understand what the company is about.”

03 October 2014

Andrew Hannington, CEO Grant Thornton: Making a mark after the merger

The merger of two proud audit and advisory firms is not an easy process, but Grant Thornton Johannesburg CEO Andrew Hannington feels his company is in a strong position to face the competition. “We still have two buildings but we have moved half of our people across to promote integration. We are looking at new premises so we can all be under one roof. It hasn't been easy, but tax and audit departments are already working very well together.”

26 September 2014

Miles Fisher, partner at Mazars: passion for audit

“As an auditor you have the opportunity to get exposure to numerous companies and industries,” says Miles Fisher, partner at audit and advisory firm Mazars. Fisher is a Chartered Accountant (SA) with a real passion for auditing and says he is always ‘lecturing’ young talent not to leapfrog into the business environment too soon. “People often don’t realise the massive learning opportunities the position of auditor offers.”

23 September 2014

CFO of the Week: Rofhiwa Irene Singo: I am known as CFO Clean Audit

Popularly referred to as “CFO Clean Audit”, Rofhiwa Irene Singo leads the Finance Department at the Department of Mineral Resources, and has a remarkable story of perseverance to tell. Irene, as she prefers to be called, has been instrumental in turning around the failing financial reporting at three public institutions and prides herself in having achieved these under very difficult conditions. “I always knew that I could do it, hard and smart working paid the price. The name CFO Clean Audit resonates well with me and I like it,” she says.

16 September 2014

CFO of the Week: Jurgens Myburgh, new CFO at Datatec: "I strive to be multidimensional"

“I strive to be a multidimensional CFO,” says Jurgens Myburgh, who recently swapped an impressive career in Corporate Finance at Standard Bank for a role as CFO at information technology group Datatec. In anticipation of learning from more experienced peers, Myburgh has joined CFO South Africa as a platinum member. “It will be great to network with like-minded people, bounce ideas off experienced individuals, gather intelligence on best practice and stay up to date. You can’t afford to operate in a silo.”

26 August 2014

Futuresense-directors Steven Hyslop & Simon Jackson: CFOs needs to understand IT

“I think the role of the CFO is becoming far more interesting and complex,” says Steven Hyslop, founder and director of Futuresense, a high-end implementation firm for Oracle’s Hyperion solutions. “Our work always starts with a CFO wanting a solution,” adds Simon Jackson, his fellow director. Hyslop and Jackson recently spoke to CFO South Africa about the role of the Chief Financial Officer in driving digital transformation.

05 August 2014

Mike Brown, CEO Nedbank: Brilliant CFOs are persuasive

"The best CFOs are intellectually persuasive without being arrogant," says Nedbank CEO Mike Brown, a former Chief Financial Officer himself. In a candid interview with CFO South Africa Brown talks about himself, growth opportunities in the rest of Africa, the importance of small businesses to jumpstart the South African economy and the characteristics that set brilliant CFOs apart from merely solid ones. "You need to be able to read the tea leaves and persuade others about what this means for the future and what the organisation needs to do differently as a result."

17 June 2014

Karl Kumbier, CEO Mercantile Bank: Weight behind entrepreneurs

“The difference between a good and a great CFO is that the latter assists his CEO pro-actively and spends a lot of time in the business,” says Karl Kumbier, Chief Executive Officer of Mercantile Bank. In a candid interview with CFO South Africa he talks about his impressive career in the banking industry and the way his bank can help spur on economic development and employment by providing financial solutions for entrepreneurs.

12 June 2014

Tyrone Soondarjee, Financial Director Sasfin: Carving out your role as CFO

“As a commercially-orientated CFO, I like to play a leading role in business which is why Sasfin is good fit for me. It offers opportunities to broaden my horizons and that is what appeals to me,” says Tyrone Soondarjee, Financial Director at Sasfin bank and the JSE-listed Sasfin Holdings Group. Speaking about the Group, Soondarjee says: “We understand entrepreneurs, because we are entrepreneurial ourselves.”

11 June 2014

Johann Kunz, ?Managing Director WNS Global Services SA: Financial outsourcing in CFO toolkits

Most CFOs will agree that it would be ideal if the talents in their finance team could be freed up to support the leadership with acquisitions, shareholder engagement and other value adding activities. Outsourcing company WNS Global Services offers them exactly that opportunity, says Johann Kunz, Managing Director at WNS in South Africa. “Outsourcing of financial functions is slowly taking off in South Africa and will become a standard part of a CFO’s toolkit,” says Kunz.

06 June 2014

Philip Panaino, Division President South Africa MasterCard: Contributing to a truly inclusive financial environment

“This job has given meaning to driving Financial Inclusion in South Africa and doing good as a corporate citizen,” says Philip Panaino, division president South Africa in International Markets at MasterCard. “It has always been a passion for me to contribute to a truly inclusive financial environment. Here I am able to do that, whilst working for a large multinational. For me it is a perfect marriage, the best of two worlds.”

04 June 2014

Mteto Nyati, Managing Director Microsoft South Africa: Connecting the next billion

“There are still billions of people that have not been touched by technology. That is where our enormous potential lies,” says Mteto Nyati, Managing Director at Microsoft South Africa. “Technology is not an end goal; it is all about what it can do to help humanity reach its potential.” As the famous IT-company shifts from being a software company to a device and cloud company, Nyati is full of ambition and enthusiasm about opportunities in South Africa.

03 June 2014

Pieter Bensch, Vice President Oracle South Africa: Rewarding innovative CFOs

Chief Financial Officers are important stakeholders for technology firm Oracle, so it is no surprise that Pieter Bensch, Vice President at Oracle South Africa, has a keen interest in these professionals. Bensch has been involved in various CFO South Africa events and was one of the jury members for the inaugural CFO Awards. When adjudicating the candidates Bensch specifically looked for executives who “run a world class business” and “show innovative spirit”, he says.

27 May 2014

Gregory Nott, Director Werksmans Attorneys: Follow the trends, not the headlines

When somebody with experience and a great deal of insight speaks positively about South Africa, it makes a lasting impression. Especially when he is a former Global Lawyer of the Year, argued for the release of political prisoners during apartheid, defended the dignity of a number of sports heroes and has been praised for brokering successful deals in the energy sector. Such a person is Gregory Nott, who joined Werksmans Attorneys in 2012 to develop the Africa practice.

13 May 2014

Bikash Prasad, CFO South and East Africa at Olam International: Contributing to Africa's agricultural future

“Africa should be a net food exporter, but it is a net importer at the moment,” says Bikash Prasad, CFO South and East Africa at Olam International, a Singapore-headquartered integrated supply chain managing firm and processor of agricultural products and food ingredients. The Durban-based Prasad has a passion for the continent. “We want to play an important role in the growth of Africa,” he says.

23 April 2014

Deon Fredericks, Acting CFO at Telkom: Learning from each other

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” says Deon Fredericks, Acting Chief Financial Officer at Telkom, Africa's largest integrated communications company. Fredericks joined the then state-owned landline monopolist in 1993 as a senior manager in internal audit and has worked himself up the finance ladder in an admirable fashion. Fredericks says he fully supports CFO South Africa’s mission to connect the country’s finance leaders. “CFOs are starting to play a more significant role, specifically on strategy. It is very valuable to learn from each other.”

06 April 2014

CFO Awards jury interviews CFOs Discovery, JSE, Transnet, PSG and Postbank

The CFO Awards jury interviewed a number of prominent Chief Financial Officers in the last few days, all of whom have been nominated for the prestigious awards. On Thursday Brett Tromp (Discovery Health), Aarti Takoordeen (JSE Limited) and Anoj Singh (Transnet) were the ones making their case and on Friday Wynand Greeff (PSG Group) and Nicky Dewar (Postbank) answered the questions from the jury. Among the jury members involved in the interviews were

02 April 2014

CFO Awards jury interviews CFO of Business Connexion

On Wednesday the jury for the inaugural CFO Awards resumed its interviewing duties with a visit to the Midrand offices of IT outsourcing company Business Connexion. Jury members Victor Sekese (CEO at SizweNtsalubaGobodo) and Professor Ben Marx (University of Johannesburg) chatted to Lawrence Weitzman, CFO of the Business Connexion Group since September 2011. It was fascinating to hear how Weitzman attributed most of his successes to his team and his colleagues in the leadership of the company.

27 March 2014

Lesley Plaistowe, Partner Financial Services at IBM: CFOs should mine their unstructured data

“CFOs are very familiar with structured data, because that is what they work with every day,” says Lesley Plaistowe, Partner Financial Services at technology firm IBM. “What they need to know more about is unstructured data: information from phone conversations, emails, social platforms, the weather report and much more. Often a lot of operational data is hidden, but can be found when technology mines your unstructured data.”

14 March 2014

CFO Awards jury interviews MiX Telematics CFO Megan Pydigadu

On Friday the jury of the CFO Awards 2014 interviewed Megan Pydigadu, Group Financial Director at MiX Telematics, an incredible South African success story which is now listed on both the JSE and the New York Stock Exchange. With her CEO working from Miami, Florida, Pydigadu works from the MiX Telematics head office in Midrand, playing the crucial role of finance leader at this company, a leading global provider of fleet and mobile asset management solutions.

12 March 2014

Jury members CFO Awards interview Simon Ridley, FD at the Standard Bank Group

Yet another top CFO was interviewed on Wednesday as part of the jury process for the 2014 CFO Awards. Simon Ridley, Financial Director at the Standard Bank Group, has been a CFO for a quarter of a century - mainly with Absa and Standard Bank. He was quizzed about his challenges and successes by two jury members, both leading figures in the South African business world in their own right: CEO Victor Sekese of fast-growing accounting firm SizweNtsalubaGobodo and Rob Otty, Managing Director of Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa - Africa Law Firm of the Year 2012.

11 March 2014

CFO Awards jury interviews CFOs of AfroCentric, Howden and Eqstra

Jury members of the 2014 CFO Awards on Tuesday interviewed three talented gentlemen, who have made a name for themselves as CFO. The interview series will inform detailed reports that will help the impressive team of jury members to choose the winners from a select list of nominated CFOs. The 7 prestigious CFO Awards will be handed out to the winners during a black tie event on May 15 at the beautiful Summer Place in Johannesburg. For more information visit cfoawards.co.za

10 March 2014

CFO Awards jury starts interview process with the CFOs of Invicta and PPC

On Monday interviews with two of South Africa's best CFOs officially kicked off the interview process to decide who wins this year's inaugural CFO Awards. Over the next two months an impressive team of jury members will chat to nominated CFOs according to a pre-determined list of questions. The interviews will form the basis for their jury reports and eventually for the decision who wins the 7 prestigious CFO Awards. The awards will be handed out to the winners during a black tie event on May 15 at the beautiful Summer Place in Johannesburg. For more information visit cfoawards.co.za

25 February 2014

Etienne Prowse, CFO Cashbuild: Being accountable for IT innovation

Does a firm hire a Chief Information Officer or should IT and ERP-systems fall directly under line management? Building materials retailer Cashbuild has elected to put the responsibility squarely with each line executive and CFO Etienne Prowse says the company is reaping the benefits. “Even though IT implementation can get in the way of other tasks, we believe there is a huge advantage when the finance management is accountable for the automation.

19 February 2014

Tanuja Naidoo, CFO Transnet Pipelines: Invest time in people

“My best contribution as a CFO is that I aim to develop leaders,” says Tanuja Naidoo, who has been in charge of finance at Transnet Pipelines since 2009. After turning around the finance department, she was recently tasked to do the same in procurement and risk management at their Durban headquarters. The key to every successful manager is investing time in people, she says. “That is something I live by. I lead by example.

17 February 2014

Liesl Tweedie, Acting CFO Gijima: Courage crucial for success

Liesl Tweedie knows all about courage, having stepped into the acting CFO position at Gijima, the listed South African IT-company that has been struggling lately. “Either you look like a star or you fail,” she says. “But I have always enjoyed a challenge and have often volunteered for difficult projects when I was working at ABB.” So it is no surprise that Tweedie believes that today’s young finance talents should possess “confidence and courage.”

11 February 2014

Pierre Heistein, business analyst: dealing with a changing work force

CFOs are dealing with “unprecedented uncertainty”, says Pierre Heistein, business analyst, economics instructor and regular columnist for Business Report. Heistein will be one of the speakers at CFO South Africa’s 13 March event ‘Get Smart in 2014’ and he is keen to address ways to tackle that uncertainty. “I especially want to look at what type of people you need to deal with this. There needs to be a rethink about how labour is used.”

05 February 2014

Delphine Maidou, CEO of Allianz AGCS: CFOs should plan for succession

Introducing the CFO Awards Jury Delphine Maidou is CEO of Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty Africa, one of the largest and most renowned insurance and financial services providers in the world. Delphine is one of the 12 jury members who have committed to be on the jury for the CFO Awards 2014. Together with the other members of the jury she will decide on who will win one of the 7 prestigious CFO awards. The event will be held May 15 at the beautiful Summer Place in Johannesburg. For more information visit cfoawards.co.za

03 February 2014

Rob Otty, Managing Director of Norton Rose Fulbright: CFOs need more recognition

Introducing the CFO Awards Jury Rob Otty is Managing Director of Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa (Africa Law Firm of the Year 2012) and one of the first who committed to be on the jury for the CFO Awards 2014. Together with the other members of the jury he will decide on who will win one of the 7 prestigious CFO awards. The event will be held May 15 at the beautiful Summer Place in Johannesburg. For more information visit cfoawards.co.za

28 January 2014

Matthias Wellhausen, CFO ArcelorMittal South Africa: Pick your battles

“More than in the past you have to pick your battles and prioritize,” says the experienced Matthias Wellhausen, CFO at steel producer ArcelorMittal South Africa. “There are a zillion things going on that are challenging. You have to focus your resources on the most important ones. This goes as much for an individual CFO as for the company as a whole, which should also put its energy into a limited amount of challenges.”

27 January 2014

Nicky Dewar, CFO of Post Bank: Testing the boundaries

“Don’t be afraid to get boxed in by going for opportunities as they present themselves,” says Nicky Dewar, CFO Post Bank at the South African Post Office. “If I look at my career, especially in the beginning, I did not know what to do,” says Dewar, when asked what she would advise young accountants. “But I have noticed that all experiences build on the others – nothing goes to waste. You should not be worried that you will be limited if you choose a certain direction. Don’t worry and just go for it.”

04 December 2013

Dikeledi Nakene, CFO Palabora Mining Company: Resist temptation of short-term gains

Surround yourself with people that encourage you, believe in yourself and resist the temptation of lucrative offers before finishing your degree or articles. That is some of the great advice that Dikeledi Nakene, CFO at Palabora Mining Company Limited, has for young, aspiring talents in the finance world. “I was born and bred in Limpopo province in Ga- Modjadji not far from Phalaborwa and look at me now. I want to tell local people, especially village girls, that everything is possible!”

03 December 2013

Dick Borsboom, Regional CFO Dangote Industries: Employees key to success

“Employees are the key to success in every company,” says Dick Borsboom, the Nigeria-based Regional CFO for Dangote Industries in East and Southern Africa. The Dutch national is an experienced finance leader and joined cement firm Dangote in August 2012 to broaden his horizons even further. Borsboom has a lot of great tips for Nigerian and other African CFOs, many of them boiling down to engaging staff in decision making. “Negative management – do this or else – is something we should move away from.”

18 November 2013

David Gleason, Owner of DealMakers Magazine: There are deals cooking

“There are several merger and acquisition deals on the table at the moment,” says Business Day columnist David Gleason, who publishes the quarterly M&A magazine DealMakers. He says those deals are being “worked on and discussed”, but they’re “cooking in the pot for now” because of the political uncertainty in South Africa. “We have to get through the elections and see what sort of cabinet we will get. If it is a team of reasonable people, it will unlock a lot of energy for the economy.”

28 October 2013

Eugene Hangwani Lufhugu, CFO at Rand Mutual Assurance: Thinking about growth

While most CFOs spend their days maximizing profit and fighting competitors, Eugene Lufhugu’s primary role is “to make sure our beneficiaries are taken care of and focusing on the long term sustainability of the Group”. However, just like his peers, the CFO of Rand Mutual Assurance sees cost management as one of his most important briefs. “I worked for FNB and Toyota Tsutso Africa, but I would not say I miss profit driven commercial business. I joined Rand Mutual when the company just started to think about growth and there are lots of exciting things happening.”

22 October 2013

Professor Deon Rossouw, CEO of EthicsSA: Ethical culture still lacking

Although awareness about ethical business practices has increased tremendously over the last few years, most South African companies, departments and organizations are still struggling to translate that into an ethical culture. “CFOs need to be aware that this needs to change,” says Professor Deon Rossouw, CEO of The Ethics Institute of South Africa (EthicsSA). “Because the financial cost of unethical behaviour is enormous.”

14 October 2013

Steven Waugh, Group CFO TBWA: The virtues of discipline

“Managing growth is a lot of fun, but also a lot of work,” says Steven Waugh, Group CFO at Johannesburg-based advertising group TBWA. The Scottish trained Chartered Accountant worked in London for most of his career and is therefore in an excellent position to assess where South Africa is currently at. So what about B-BBEE, minority shareholders and cost cutting? And are our accountants really as brilliant as they think they are? Waugh started his career in the music and film industry at Time Warner and BMG Music. “That gave me a very good grounding, because a record company has everything: production, marketing, publishing and challenging people.” However, salaries for finance professionals in the industry were “terrible”, according to the Scotsman. “So it was time to grow up and move on.” For eight years Waugh was the CFO of a group of digital and marketing technology agencies within the advertising and marketing holding company Omnicom. “We were at the forefront of the digital revolution with growth of crazy – 30 to 40 percent per year.” It was a lot of fun and a lot of work, Waugh recalls. “In our industry it is all about staff target levels. If you hire to far behind the curve, you make good margins but it’s not sustainable. If you hire ahead of revenues, it’s too expensive. So do you hire permanently? Do you use freelancers? You have to continuously balance the quality of your staff – and its skills set –with the type of contracts you have. The hire/fire routine is definitely one of the most difficult things to get right.” Although it’s common knowledge these days that great CFOs and Finance Directors do much more than crunching numbers, this is particularly true in the advertising and marketing world, says Waugh. “The accounting itself is not too challenging, but you have to get far more involved in the operations of the agency,– legal, IT, building administration and HR. You are a generalist, tapped into the commercial side of the business. Often finance people run the sales meetings, which sounds bizarre. We make sure the meetings happen, actions are followed up, send out a warning if revenues are dropping off, and release funds if additional staff is required on new wins. We make sure the business ticks. We’re the discipline in the company.” Waugh resigned and came to South Africa in 2011, when his wife was offered a job at Old Mutual. “It was a huge risk for me,” he says. After a short stint at Omnicom affiliate Interbrand Sampson South Africa and a voluntary project with an enterprise development fund for young black entrepreneurs, Waugh found his feet at TBWA. “It’s been great and similar to some extent to my previous time with Omnicom, but there are more regional aspects. We deal with affiliates in the rest of Africa and South Africa itself is much more regionalised than the UK. My senior team is more spread out and I travel more, which I had to get used to.” Obviously Waugh has noticed some marked differences with London, like South Africa’s onerous labour laws, the challenges of dealing with SARS and the amount of paperwork required to bring on new clients and suppliers. “I found all the red tape and administration quite frustrating. There is so much paperwork and in the early days of working in South Africa, little things like every page on every agreement requiring a signature drove me quite mad. I was definitely worth avoiding some days” The Scotsman was also hired to “bring a more commercial dynamic to the finance team”, he explains. “The quality of accountants is very good, but they often just provide numbers for the senior management to interpret. It is my focus to get them to be more commercial and I strongly believe that this increases job satisfaction and performance.” Procurement personnel now play a much bigger role in the marketing divisions of large clients than in the last few years and it has a bearing on agencies like TBWA. ”Sometimes the role procurement plays is a positive one, especially where they ensure that marketing departments operate in accordance with processes that we have agreed, but the time it takes to negotiate the contract can slows things down considerably. It can take many months to get fees finalised and the initial excitement on the client win can be dampened during the elongated process. Procurement has also required agencies to be focused on cost cutting. “It is the name of the game in South Africa, like it became in London, says Waugh. “Procurement personnel come to me and say they want 10 percent more work output for 30 percent less cost. And that has actually happened three times to me already this year. A huge part of what I do is to find cost savings, ensure that we buy efficiently for our clients, and pass on cost savings whenever possible. Every cost is under the spotlight and we are constantly monitoring our productivity and effectiveness.” Waugh says he has helped the company to slow down at the right moments. “I am working closely with senior management to ensure that we don’t make fast decisions that look good initially but don’t fit in the medium to long term plans.” Waugh is enjoying the entrepreneurial spirit of South Africans (and of course the weather). He’s been intrigued by ownership structures in the country, often involving minority shares for founders or B-BBEE trusts. “Black empowerment is absolutely key for business, but often very challenging and complicated. The challenge in the marketing industry is that there is a small pool of black talent, which leads to issues of affordability and the loss of talent that you have trained.” It has helped Waugh to come in as an outsider, he says. “Being a foreigner can be positive, especially when it comes to implementing transformation. I have no axe to grind and look neutrally at the process. I am actively working towards a black finance professional to take over from me as Group CFO and I have brought in new software to track every month our B-BEEE score and how key decisions, especially hiring decisions affect our score. We have tough targets to improve our scorecard ahead of the change in the codes and are embedding them into all areas of the organisation. This is one of the projects that I am most proud of.”

10 October 2013

Lucas Ramagaga, CFO Total Client Services: Affecting people's lives

“What we do as finance directors and chief financial officers affects people’s lives,” says Lucas Orapeleng Ramagaga, 32-year old CFO at Total Client Services. “We deal with shareholders, but also clients, suppliers and our own employees – it is a big responsibility.” Having made short work of the corporate ladder, Ramagaga does not shy away from the task. “I have a high appetite for growth, so a future role as CEO, chairman doesn’t scare me – it will just be an opportunity to affect even more lives.”

26 September 2013

Barry Doran, CFO G4S Africa: Believing in human capital

“For a CFO, working in Africa is almost like a Rubik’s cube, it is a challenge but it’s very rewarding,” says Barry Doran, Finance Director for Africa at security firm G4S, the largest private employer on the continent. “The development opportunities are very rewarding professionally and it’s great to see cities changing. The last time I was in Lagos I suddenly saw traffic lights where there were never any.”

19 September 2013

Francois Reyneke, Financial Director Waltons: The challenge of moving into the cloud

“There should always be a challenge in life. Because of the continuous changes at my company, I have always been able to find those challenges internally,” says Francois Reyneke. The Group Financial Director at office products supplier, Waltons, is not a typical CFO type, who changes jobs every few years. Working for the same firm since 1995, he is currently in the middle of one of his greatest challenges to date: the switch from a distributive replicated ERP system with servers at all 80 branches to a centralized ERP system through a Waltons private cloud.

03 September 2013

Kirsten Mocke, Finance Director EMC: what do the numbers mean?

With nearly 18 years of experience as a finance expert in the IT world, Kirsten Mocke has acquired a good grasp of the strengths and weaknesses in the management of South African IT firms. Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) “is often very high”, sales processes “could be more refined and defined” and forecasting is not taken seriously enough. “Many people can generate numbers.- I always say to my staff: don’t give me numbers, but tell me what the numbers mean.”

28 August 2013

Aarti Takoordeen, CFO JSE Limited: A holistic approach to growth

"I feel there is untapped innovation in the finance world,” says Aarti Takoordeen, who became the CFO of Africa’s leading stock exchange, JSE Limited, in February this year. While Takoordeen may only be 32 year’s old, she has gained extensive experience financial management. “I studied to be a Chartered Accountant as I wanted to manage a business but could not afford to start my own. My career goal is to become a CEO of a business one day,” she says.

27 August 2013

Abigail Brooks, Trustco: the importance of soft skills and confidence

“I needed a bigger challenge,” says Abigail Brooks, Financial Controller at Trustco Financial Services since May 2013. The Namibian firm has recently moved into South Africa and has ambitions to roll out its innovative microfinance and insurance products into the rest of the continent as well. Brooks is based in Johannesburg and will be overseeing the financial department. “What is crucial for this position is soft skills and confidence,” she says.

23 August 2013

Farid Vania, Group Finance Manager SMEC SA: patience to develop people

Personality, many CFOs nowadays proclaim, is just as important as accounting acumen. But don’t make the mistake of sending everyone who makes a flat impression in a first job interview packing, implores Farid Vania, Group Finance Manager at SMEC SA. “I interview a lot of finance people with a thousand degrees, who – despite this but because of their background – initially don’t come across as very dynamic,” he says. “But if you let them go and they end up at small enterprises they might not develop at all – and developing people is one of the things I enjoy the most.”

23 August 2013

Jan van den Handel, Group Finance Manager Business Connexion: balancing risk in Africa

Exposure to political uncertainty and ever changing exchange rates make it tricky to run – let alone start – a sustainable business in Africa. But, although the African market is difficult to get into, it’s the next destination, even though the risks are considerable. “If we want to grow, that is where we have to go,” says Jan van den Handel, Group Finance Manager: International Operations at Business Connexion.

20 August 2013

Philip Nottingham, CFO a.b.e. Construction Chemicals: Business processes before ERP

“First you have to make sure that your business processes are robust and world class, only after that does it make sense to invest in a brand new, upgraded or different ERP system,” says Philip Nottingham. Half a year ago the experienced finance expert was hired as CFO by a.b.e. Construction Chemicals and one of his main tasks was to roll out more efficient automation. “There was a general idea that our systems were old, but there was generally more information available than we realised. That is why I have delayed the investment in a new ERP for now.”

02 August 2013

Alwyn Smith, Group Financial Manager, FPT: "What you want to achieve will come in time."

Alwyn Smith is an Excel man through and through. No fancy informatics programmes for him; this CA prefers to do things manually. “I love Excel so I try to automate as much as possible to pull numbers from other sources. I’ve done courses in Visual Basic (the back end of Excel) and in writing macros, and so have extensive training of Excel.” New Technology This does not mean Alwyn is not interested in new technology. On the contrary, the Group Financial Manager looks forward to how innovations can impact at the coalface. “Driving technology forward and evolving business, especially through mobile technology is also part of the Group Financial Manager’s role. For example, salesmen can go to customers and do sales orders at premises and upload to ERP. Using tablets, they could get sign-off right there with the customer.”

29 July 2013

Werner Barnard, Mondel?z International: People skills make the difference

“People skills are what set good and bad leaders apart,” says Werner Barnard, Finance Business Lead: Integrated Supply Chain at Mondel?z International. Barnard is an ambitious man, a business leader of the type that believes a strong finance background is a stepping stone to even greater things. Barnard has just landed at snack company Mondel?z, formerly known as Kraft Foods, after a career that saw him fulfil roles in the chicken processing industry and telecoms. Mondel?z is an international firm with 62 brands under its wings, including Cadbury’s chocolate, Jacobs, Tuc and Stimorol. The company has five factories in Africa: one in Port Elizabeth (chocolate), Namibia (‘seasonal’ chocolate), Swaziland (bubblegum, Halls and Eclairs), Botswana (chewing gum) and Kenya (drinking chocolate). “There is massive growth potential in Africa, so that makes it very exciting.”

19 July 2013

Chris Povall, CFO Accéntuate: Doing more with less

“The role of CFOs in organisations has not changed as much as some people like to think it has,” says Chris Povall, Chief Financial Officer at Accéntuate Limited, a listed South African company that specializes in vinyl, laminate and wooden floors, chemicals for the flooring industry and a broad range of cleaning chemicals. Povall is a highly experienced finance leader, having held influential positions at Impala Platinum, Times Media, Chemical Services and Protea Chemicals. “What has changed is the technical and compliance side of the job: rules, regulations, IFRS… there are more and more regulations and standards to comply with. Each day we have to do more with less.”

19 July 2013

Michael van Straten, Financial Director Servest Marine: "Treat one with respect and you will get it back."

Michael van Straten begins our interview with a walking tour of Servest Marine’s operations at Cape Town harbour. Seeing him greet dock workers by name and check on the boats of “the competition”, I’m reminded of my first feeling when I met Michael at the CFO Café some months previous – here was someone who knows his place in the world and makes one feel instantly at ease. Not bad for a man who until last year was working for one of the largest multi-nationals in the world….

12 July 2013

Humphrey Borkum, Chairman JSE Limited: Extraordinary accomplishments since democracy

“A listing at the stock exchange is still the best way to raise capital,” says Humphrey Borkum. It’s something you would expect the chairman of JSE Limited, the largest stock exchange in Africa, to say, but not a lot of CFOs have felt like taking their business public lately. “When companies get bigger though, these considerations become inevitable,” says Borkum. “I believe there will be a number of new big JSE listings in the future.”

09 July 2013

Alex van der Watt, University of Johannesburg & SAICA: Grooming the CFOs of the future

“It is very exciting to work with the new generation,” says Alex van der Watt, auditing lecturer, Head of the Department of Accountancy at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and education specialist on the board of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA). “When I studied we more or less just accepted what professors said. There is a new generation now, which is challenging the way things are. They are the CFOs of the future.”

25 April 2013

Rolam Ait Si Birouk, CFO Ropetec: African challenges are cash, skills and tax

“NETWORKING is very, very important for finance professionals who are working in Africa,” says Rolam Ait Si Birouk. As CFO of Cape Town-based company Ropetec, which does maintenance and inspection work in the oil and gas industry, Rolam has a lot of experience working in countries like Angola, Ghana and Congo. “We are all facing the same challenges in these markets and it will be great to hear how other people find solutions to these challenges.”

23 April 2013

Bright Amisi, Group Finance Manager at SABS: `Risk management is going to become a key part of the CFO portfolio`

Bright Amisi (37) has been the Group Finance Manager of the SABS, a leading conformity assessment industry player, since 2008. SABS is the largest conformity assessment body in Africa and is the official publisher of South African National Standards (SANS) used across all sectors of the economy. He thinks the most challenging about his position are that the non-finance issues demand a lot of his time. He doesn’t always sit in his office worrying about the numbers; He is frequently out there trying to enable the business to be successful. Everybody wants advice before making decisions. Before joining SABS Bright was employed by the Development Bank of South Africa as the GM: Finance and Administration - NEPAD for three years. Bright has also previously served as the Finance Director of Africare Zimbabwe, Head of Finance and Administration for the Red Cross in Zimbabwe and as an Auditor. He holds an MCom (Accounting), BSc (Hons) and is an Associate member of ACCA, CIMA and CIS. Bright is married to Diana with four kids and is a Formula One fanatic! Which skills do you think a finance professional should master to be successful in his/her work? A finance professional needs knowledge of accounting standards (IFRS), tax, ICT systems and systems integration, as well as risk management.

19 April 2013

Ian Graham, CFO of GE Oil & Gas Africa & GE Southern Africa: "South Africa can be a launch pad for the continent"

“South Africa has the unique opportunity to be a launch pad for the whole of Southern Africa and the rest of the continent,” says Ian Graham, CFO of GE Oil & Gas Africa & GE Southern Africa. As part of the huge American multinational company General Electric, GE is quickly growing its operations in Africa. There are huge opportunities in countries like Angola, Mozambique and Zambia,” says Ian. “If South Africa can leverage this, they can also minimize their exposure to slower economies like Europe.”

14 April 2013

Callen Hodgskiss, HPCA: opportunities for finance talents at NGOs

“FOLLOW what you value,” is the advice of Callen Hodgskiss. As CFO of the Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa (HPCA) he knows what he is talking about. “I hope young financial professionals realize there are a lot of opportunities in the NGO sector. It is a dynamic environment and there is a lot that you can contribute. There is growing need for qualified people at NGOs and the salaries are becoming more and more market related.”

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