Chief Financial Officer
What does a chief financial officer do?
Chief financial officers (CFOs) are responsible for an organisation’s day-to-day financial operation. CFOs coordinate the actions of the accounting and finance departments and ensure that the entire organisation meets its fiscal responsibilities according to established objectives.
A chief financial officer’s duties include:
- supervising the compilation and preparation of financial statements and reports
- developing and pursuing positive business ventures
- watching over mergers and acquisitions
- developing strategies for internal growth
- effectively managing the revenue of the organisation
- working in close cooperation with the chief executive officer to create plans and opportunities for the maximum benefit of the organisation
- directing an organisation’s financial goals, objectives and budgets
- overseeing the investment of funds held by the company, weighing up and managing associated risks
- supervising cash management activities and executing capital-raising strategies to support an organisation’s operations or expansion.
I’ve always believed that numbers tell a story, and have always been fascinated with predicting a company’s direction and future by merely looking at numbers; that in itself demonstrates the noble art of strategic intuition and insight. This profession to me is the most flexible since as an accountant, one can work in any organization.
What training did you undergo?
I did my training at KPMG Inc, where I started as a tax consultant in 1998. I then did three years of articles. Upon completion I became a management consultant, until I left the organisation in 2004. I also completed the ACCA professional qualification, so I am a proud member of ACCA.
What values does an accountant require?
Integrity and objectivity are among the necessary values, both in and out of the office.
Experience vs formal training
Experience is equally important to formal training since it gives one a feel of the real world. Experience also provides an in-depth understanding of how different strategies are implemented in achieving the organisation’s objectives.
Describe a typical day at work
I start every day with a reflection on the day before, and end every day with preparation for the next. For me, what matters most is to keep my team fired up to achieve all the tasks ahead of us. My main focus is to ensure that 80% of what we do is directly contributing towards achieving the organisation’s strategic objectives and 20% is routine work. More than anything, I believe in a happy team, because it is only teamwork that makes the team work!
What do you enjoy most about accounting?
When I see another school or house or hospital built for the poor, or another tar road laid, then I know I’ve played a part in ensuring that happened as part of my responsibility in administering South Africa’s taxes.
Which aspects are you least keen on?
I am not a fan of routine work and I am easily bored when doing the same thing over and over. Luckily routine work is at a minimum.
Your career highlight to date?
Having worked for organisations in both the private and public sector, I have been exposed to many industries. The most exciting thing is the strategic role that finance plays in all these organisations to ensure that the company achieves its vision. I’ve found it fascinating to put to test several strategies across companies during the economic meltdown, from cost savings to learning six sigma methodologies.
Any advice for young accountants?
Being an accountant starts as a dream, but it takes hard work and determination to make it come true. If you really want to be an accountant, you need to start by believing in yourself. Then, if you have the right discipline, nothing will stop you.
When I first started high school my mother told me to focus on accounting so I eventually chose it as a subject. At the time I didn’t know much about the profession, but later on in 1995 I read an article in The Sowetan about the first black chartered accountant in South Africa, Mr Wiseman Nkhuhlu. At the time there were only 96 qualified CA’s in South Africa. The article motivated me to defy this structural situation in which black people were being left out of this privileged career path and I made it my personal goal to become a qualified CA.
What training did you undergo?
Training to become a CA is a four-step process involving: a BCom degree in Accounting, an Honours degree with Certificate of Theory in Accounting, two board examinations, firstly through SAICA and secondly through IRBA and, finally, three years training at an auditing firm.
What makes a good CA?
An analytical person who pays attention to detail. CA’s are required to analyse financial data and advise management on organisational strategies based on this information.
Experience vs training?
Practical experience is definitely required, therefore CA’s are required to complete three years formal training known as articles. Upon embarking on a career as a CA, one has to be an expert in accounting, management, taxation and auditing.
Describe a typical day
A large portion of my days are spent in meetings advising colleagues and management on how to best deploy available funds. In addition to this, financial information needs to be constantly analysed to inform management decisions. I also have to oversee the daily operations and functioning of the organisations procurement processes. I generally work an 18-hour day.
What do you enjoy most?
Giving meaning to rands and cents means the most to me, but money alone means nothing without efficient management. What matters above all else is bringing about change with the money we have. The meaning found in the rands and cents of the NYDA is the change it brings to a young person’s life.
What aren’t you keen on?
I hate that I often have to disappoint other Executive Managers who need finances to implement new programmes or grow existing ones. Unfortunately, I have to be the person to tell them that there is simply no more money to put their plans into place
Advice for students
Chartered Accountancy is a hectic career path, both educationally and practically. 100% commitment and passion is needed to succeed and overcome the long hours studying in order to qualify and then the long working hours.
Describe your job in three words
Challenging • Fun • Progressive
WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED?
Most chief financial officer positions require at least a bachelor’s degree and extensive experience, although many employers show preference to candidates with a master’s degree. Some require applicants to have the certified public accountant (CPA) designation, as well. Many CFOs begin their careers as finance professionals, accountants or managers of small divisions, and work their way up to senior positions within a company. Professionals who wish to advance into a chief financial officer position can improve their career prospects by enrolling in an MBA with a specialisation in Management degree programme. Coursework typically includes accounting, finance, business or economics. It’s critical to keep up with continuing professional education, especially in today’s regulatory environment.
WHERE CAN I STUDY?
University of Pretoria
Bachelor of Commerce: Accounting Sciences
University of Stellenbosch
Bachelor of Accounting
Bachelor of Accounting Science
University of the Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Accounting Science; Bachelor of Commerce: Accounting Sciences
University of Johannesburg
Bachelor of Accounting; Bachelor of Commerce: Accounting Sciences; Bachelor of Commerce: Economics and Econometrics
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
National Diploma: Accounting
Tshwane University of Technology
National Diploma and Bachelor of Technology: Various
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Bachelor of Commerce: Financial Planning