Tell us about your career path
I qualified as a Chartered Accountant in South Africa and also completed my articles with KPMG. I always wanted to get out into a commercial role as soon
as the opportunity presented itself. My first job out of articles was with Malbak Limited, a company listed on the Johannesburg stock exchange.
When I got the opportunity to work for McDonald’s South Africa I jumped at that. The brand had entered South Africa after apartheid had been dismantled and I was very keen to work for a multinational with such a great brand. It was fantastic to be part of a business in its growth phase and at the helm of the finance function during that time.
In 2002 I was offered a role to work in Australia as planning and strategy director for Yum Restaurants International (brand owners of Pizza Hut and KFC). Both the role and working in Australia for another highly successful business was appealing. During the course of my time at Yum my career really developed – I was not only given the opportunity to further my finance career as CFO, I also moved laterally into operational roles that enhanced my skillset.
Working for Fairfax Media Limited was also an exceptional experience. I had never worked in an industry that was so disrupted. It was exciting to be part of a team that was developing a strategy to adjust the economic model to respond to the change in reader behaviour onto digital media.
More recently I joined George Weston Foods which is a large FMCG in the food manufacturing space as their CFO. The fact that these businesses are such low margin, high volume operations brings about a different set of challenges for the finance folk.
What has been a career high?
My career high was being promoted to Director of Operations for KFC. After having transitioned out of finance into operations, it gave me confidence that I have the learning agility to take on other roles that are not necessarily pure finance roles.
How has the CFO role changed over the last decade?
Ensuring the business has an accurate set of accounts is really only the tip of the iceberg now. CFOs really need to be well rounded individuals who are capable of partnering with the CEO to develop and execute against the business strategy. Managing and dealing with complex people agendas and being part of the talent management process is also key.
What further changes do you anticipate?
I think the rate of change is not going to slow. CFOs need to be prepared to deal with the complexity and ambiguity that brings.
How far out can a CFO plan, given the pace of change at present?
We certainly still plan three years out, especially given some of the big capital investments we make. I think the change is more about monitoring the strategy and understanding whether changes in the external and internal environment require adjustments to the plan … we cannot just “set and forget”
Who was your most influential mentor?
Roger Eaton who was CEO of Yum Australia. He really backed me to explore an operational role and develop myself holistically, not just in finance.
How do you switch off?
I enjoy playing the piano. I also really enjoy exercising – a spin class is my favourite way to de-stress.
What would you say is the best business book?
Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It has some fundamental principles that are timeless.
What was the best advice you ever received?
Can you share a networking tip?
Be genuinely curious. People love chatting about themselves so if you are genuinely interested in them it’s a great way to start to build a relationship.