The Top 35-under-35 competition was launched six years ago and has been an incredible journey. We have met such dynamic young men and women who have worked so hard and achieve so much at their young age. This month to celebrate SAICA’s 40th year anniversary we profile 40 of these young chartered accountants who are Top 35 alumni. They share their highlights, thoughts on ethics and Covid 19, and how being part of the Top 35 competition has contributed to their career journey.
Ashanika Perimal CA(SA)
Ashanika Perimal is currently the head of finance and business control at Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology, Southern Africa. One of the achievements she values most is receiving the prestigious Woman in Finance of the Year award at the Future of Finance Awards and CFO Summit in London, as well as being featured as a cover story in ASA earlier this year.
Being part of the Top 35 has grown Ashanika’s network and created recognition within the profession and in industry. ‘Moreover, it has elevated me to be recognised on the international platform as the Woman in Finance of the Year 2020 at the Future of Finance Awards and CFO summit London.’ For her it is bigger than an accolade − it signifies her ability to ambassador young South Africans, and especially South African women globally.
‘Even as an 18-year-old, I relentlessly pursued my ambitions to be a professional and executive. I am content with my personal and professional journey thus far. But I’m not done, I continue to invest in myself and advance towards my goals. I wouldn’t change a thing. Leadership is a privilege, and you can influence people’s careers and lives. Take that seriously.’
Her next goals include to successfully motivate, grow and challenge her team, inspiring and supporting them to achieve their goals. Going forward, she aspires towards a chief executive role.
For Ashanika, morals and integrity are assumed traits in the profession. ‘Unethical practices will be the cancer of our brand. Be courageous in upholding ethics and challenge those who don’t.’
Rhett Finch CA(SA)
For Rhett Finch, deputy CEO at King Price Insurance and CEO of Stangen Life, the most significant highlight of his career was helping turn a R100-million start-up into a R5,2-billion company that employs more than 1 000 people and has saved their clients over R200 million in decreasing premiums … in just eight years. ‘Next up is the launch of King Price life and our first venture in Europe: a short-term insurer in Denmark.’
He wishes he could tell his 18-year-old self to appreciate the love and support of his parents a whole lot more!
Rhett believes South Africans are incredibly resilient. ‘We must put aside our differences, embrace the change and find new ways to move forward together. Be authentic and live a life you’d want others to emulate.’
When it comes to ethics and the profession, Rhett believes corruption and unethical behaviour are the cancer of any profession. ‘We have to cut them out if we’re to retain our credibility. Increased governance and risk mitigation procedures are a good start, but there’s no quick and easy solution.’
Wiets Wiehahn CA(SA)
“It not about you. It is the people around you that creates success, including partners, colleagues and employees. Look after them and greatness will follow,’ says Wiets Wiehahn, CFO at The Studio 88 group of companies.
His proudest career achievement was successfully implementing the amalgamation of multiple companies across different jurisdictions, including a management buy-in and private equity replacement capital transaction. Then being part of the team that grew it five-fold in seven years.
‘Now I want to understand people better, specifically how they make decisions, which is why I’m studying towards a qualification in neuroeconomics.’
According to Wiets, being part of the Top 35 gives you instant credibility. ‘Most people Google the person they deal with, so the Top 35 article comes up and it means you often don’t have to introduce yourself.’
Wiets has, however, raised some concerns about the profession recently. ‘Most accountants are practical: stakeholder focused and result driven. However, there seems to be growing complaints that accountants are overly academic, highfalutin, and not well integrated into real word business.”
When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa proved to be much more resilient than expected, according to Wiets. ‘If you listened to economists and futurists, South Africa was about to be turned into a dystopian wasteland. It turns out we are a nation of hustlers, in the good sense. South Africans found ways of making money, starting businesses, and seizing opportunity amidst the pandemic. It might just be the spark the South African economy needed.’
Grant Greeff CA(SA)
For Grant Greeff, group CFO of UDH Group, ‘the only way to learn how to swim (gain experience) is to get wet. It doesn’t matter if you start in the shallow end, as long as you get in the water. Your first goal should be to get wet, not to become an Olympic swimmer. And make sure you have a buddy to swim with. This can be a coach (mentor) or an actual swimming partner (co-founder).’
If Grant knew as a youngster what he knows now, he would have been more experimental when it comes to testing new business ideas.
As one of the next steps in his career, Grant plans to join the SAICA Southern Regional Committee to advocate for SMEs and entrepreneurs in South Africa. ‘Eventually, I’d love to establish hubs that move youth from “unemployable” to “employable” for the next decade.’
For him, leadership is a practice, not a destination you ever reach. ‘We need more CAs(SA) practising leadership and setting an example for those around them. Remember, you don’t need a management title to be a leader.’
During the pandemic, Grant found it remarkable to listen and network with change-makers of our country. ‘The opportunity has inspired me to continue pushing forward with optimism for South Africa.’
Huzaifah Elias CA(SA)
As group commercial and marketing director at G.U.D. Holdings (Pty) Ltd, Huzaifah Elias feels ‘the opening of three international companies in Mozambique, Zambia and, most recently, a manufacturing plant in Mauritius were the culmination of extraordinary team efforts which I am proud of’.
Winning the Corporate category in SAICA Top 35-Under-35 in 2016 was also a highlight. ‘Having gone through the rigorous process and winning certainly meant that colleagues in and out of the profession have a greater appreciation for the work we have done. It has also served as a constant reminder to be humble and hold myself to a higher standard at work and personally. I’ve tried to improve everyday but certainly realise I will always be a work in progress.’
Huzaifah believes you should work as far out of your comfort zone as you can, then master it and move further.
What would he do differently if he were an 18-year-old again? ‘Wow, tough question, since I have no regrets. Apart from advising my younger self to plough all my funds into tech stocks, I would tell younger me to get more involved in community projects, non-profit organisations and to give back as much as I can as early as I can.’
His goal, which is to make a positive difference in the world, has not changed. ‘It was first in the context of the African continent where I plied my trade for the last decade; now I’d like it to be even further reaching and more meaningful.’
Rachel Nkgodi CA(SA)
Rachel Nkgodi, deputy CFO at Alexander Forbes, fondly remembers being admitted as a financial services partner at Deloitte as one of her proudest career highlights.
She firmly believes what got you here, won’t get you there. ‘Always be on a journey to reflect on your behaviours and skills. The world is ever changing so you have to reinvent yourself to remain relevant.’
Rachel’s next immediate goal is to enrol for an executive MBA and to open a centre in her hometown that will cater to the development of academic and leadership skills of high school students to ensure they are future fit and thus creating economic participants and not economic dependants.
On lessons from Covid 19, ‘South Africa should seriously evaluate which industries are going to be future growth nodes. The pandemic was a shock that highlighted which industries could be adversely impacted by a change in working practices, consumption of goods, consumer preferences and movement of goods and services. This experience has made many data sets available in this regard.
Businesses that utilise and leverage the messages in the data will prove to be resilient and sustainable in the future.’
Her thoughts on ethics and the profession are simple yet profound. ‘We are the change we want to see. As custodians of the profession we must be examples of proper governance and ethics in every sphere we occupy and influence. We are the sum of the parts that make the whole credible. Each of our actions count in creating a publicly conscious body of professionals.’
Lize Lubbe CA(SA)
Lize Lubbe, Principal at Phatisa, learnt early on that her career growth was in her own hands. ‘Consistent hard work is key. You always have to be on the lookout for opportunities for growth and grab every opportunity with both hands. Sometimes you might just be in luck. As the Roman philosopher Seneca said: “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.
”’One of her career highlights was being appointed first female principal at Phatisa and being one of the first women to represents Phatisa on several of their investment company boards of directors. ‘As part of this team, I lead large-scale impact investment projects across our continent and have been intrinsically part of the fund’s impact of delivering 3,5 million tonnes of food and food-related products, sustaining more than 10 000 permanent jobs and linking more than 84 000 farmers and entrepreneurs to investment and technical assistance.
Lize has a strong sense of purpose and for doing the right thing: ‘There should be zero tolerance of corruption and unethical behaviour.
Regulators and industry bodies should consistently keep people accountable and take action against any corruption and unethical behaviour. I do believe, however, that the examples of corruption and unethical behaviour are the exception and not the rule. We should showcase the positive examples of good leaders with strong integrity to reposition the image of the profession. The Top 35-Under-35 competition is a wonderful example of this,’ explains Lize.
Nico van der Merwe CA(SA)
Nico van der Merwe, associate professor and leader of the chartered accountancy programme at North-West University, believes that with hard work and commitment, anything is possible. ‘My proudest career moment must have been when the NWU achieved the highest pass rate for the first time in the ITC in 2017. Another highlight was when I was named winner in the Academic category of the Top 35-Under-35 competition in 2016.’
‘Being a Top 35 winner gave me more exposure and affirmed my presence in academia. On a personal level, it was recognition for the hard work that I have done over many years.’
Nico feels he has achieved much in his career thus far. ‘Now is the time to give back by sharing my experiences with young scholars and aspiring professionals to assist them in achieving their goals and to leave the world a better place.’
According to Nico, the COVID-19 pandemic has put the integrity of professional tertiary education at risk, though many lessons were learned that academics will carry forward to a post-COVID-19 world. ‘Success will not lie in high pass rates but in the way newly qualified professionals are able to make a difference and excel in the workplace.’
For him, the importance of ethics in the accountancy profession cannot be overemphasised! ‘Recent scandals have illustrated how a few individuals can put the entire profession into question. Accountants can have all the knowledge and skills in the world, but if they are not responsible citizens, we would have failed in our task.’
Wikus Lategan CA(SA)
The greatest lesson Wikus Lategan, group CEO at Calgro M3, has ever learnt was: ‘Stay humble and work harder than anyone around you, then more things will go right than wrong. Every business needs its fair share of belief and hope and then an even bigger share of luck every now and then.’
He believes South Africa has been through so much and yet every time we get to the other side. ‘It’s easy to stand on the side-line and say, “just look where our country finances are …” Let’s not forget where the country’s finances were in the early 1990s.
No team has ever won because of one single thing they did or one person’s performance. A winning team is made up of team players, mutual respecting players, and a winning goal that binds them together. Every person’s role, no matter how small, is important. For example, if the water carrier does not arrive, the team won’t be hydrated and can’t give their best. We have too many people who like to criticise. Let’s get together, erode inequality, make all lives matter, make sure our children know that this is a country where you either stand together for the better good of all, or get on a flight and get out if you don’t want to be part of the solution. There is not only one answer and there is not only one road to recovery, but let’s put South Africa first and see how things start falling in place across sectors.’
Wadzanai Mabuto CA(SA)
Wadzanai Mabuto, Senior Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg and director of the South African Leadership Forum (SALEF), won the Power of Professional Thinking category in the 2018 SAICA Top 35-Under-35 competition. ‘Winning catapulted me into a zone whereby the confidence I have in myself and the confidence that others have in me were in full alignment. This honour gave me the opportunity to partner with other giants in the industry to come up with solutions to societal issues.’
Her most significant achievement was designing and implementing an online-gamified learning application called the WorkSmart Rewards Programme, a rewards points system that simultaneously encourages students to work consistently and take responsibility of their learning.
Wadzanai learnt her greatest lesson from Stephen Covey who said: ‘Do not let the things you can do nothing about interfere with the things you can do a great deal about.’ This life motto is why Wadzanai has no regrets. ‘Everything that I went through, every decision I made, every person I encountered was all part of the greater plan of becoming who I am today!’
She is in the final stages of creating an online digital platform called Dilemma (dilemma.co.za) that provides professional accountants with information pertaining to ethical dilemmas: ‘a safe place to meet, discuss and develop strategies on how to collectively deal with the dilemmas that we face on a day-to-day basis. She has also published two books: “I Have A Story To Tell” and “My First Shona Words with Anashe & Takudzwa”
Waseem Carrim CA(SA)
For Waseem Carrim, CEO of the National Youth Development Agency, the pain of discipline is far better than the pain of regret.
His proudest career highlight was when NYDA was acknowledged in the President’s State of the Nation 2020 address for the first time in its ten-year history, as well as being mentioned as a key partner for implementation of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention.
His goal is to scale more of their youth employment interventions. ‘We are losing the energy and passion of our young people by leaving them unemployed. We should think about how we value work in society. There is so much work to be done, yet we have so many unemployed. Social employment and a right to work in a post-COVID-19 world could be a game changer in altering South Africa’s trajectory for the future.’
Waseem feels corruption is eating away at the soul of society. ‘If we are to have any hope for the future, we must be the generation that ends corruption. CAs(SA) have not found themselves exempt from State Capture. We must acknowledge our wrongs and contribute to the betterment of society.’
About being part of the Top 35, Waseem explains that the profile that it creates for one as a young person as being part of this exceptional group of young people and being associated with a strong corporate brand like SAICA has opened up many doors and accessed many opportunities.
Mariam Cassim CA(SA)
Mariam Cassim, CEO of Vodacom Financial and Digital Services and a member of the Vodacom Group’s executive committee, says that her most significant achievement to date has been ‘having successfully formulated and implemented a financial services strategy for Vodacom, which resulted in a loss making operation being turned into a R1-billion profit business, making it a meaningful player in the industry.’
She believes the tried and tested way of doing things is not always the right way: ‘We need to constantly challenge ourselves by looking for innovative and disruptive ways of doing business to remain relevant and ensure sustainability.’
The largest and most positive impact being part of the Top 35 finalists had on Mariam was meeting and networking with the other finalists and developing a new appreciation for the innovative and non-traditional things other young CAs(SA) were doing.
Her next goal is launching the new Vodacom super-app into the South African market, which will take us one step closer to ensuring financial and digital inclusion for all.
When it comes to COVID-19, Mariam believes the new normal is here. ‘We need to embrace the benefits and advantages of the accelerated digital age that will transform the way we live.’
‘Through our leadership positions, we as CAs(SA) are custodians of corporate governance at the highest level. We need to ensure that we are holding ourselves, and others accountable by having a zero-tolerance approach to unethical practices,’ says Mariam about ethics and the profession.
Lyle Malander CA(SA)
Lyle Malander is director of the Malander Group. For him, winning SAICA’s Top 35-Under-35 competition in 2018 was a career highlight, as the profession is one which consists of so many talented individuals making a significant impact and to be recognised in the profession is an immense honour.
‘But what also makes me proud is working with and interacting with my teams at the Malander Group daily. Building a business is a challenge and recent world events have not made it any easier, but I am extremely grateful to work alongside individuals who share a common goal and vision and I am proud to have reached this based on a dream I had five years ago.’
The most important thing Lyle has learnt so far is that when starting the business, he underestimated the importance of people management. ‘The greatest lesson for me and something that I still continue to try and improve on is the ability to gain an understanding of the people within business and using that to determine the manner in which people should be managed.’
He believes that, at any stage of our lives, we have the ability to make a positive impact and build a legacy of making a difference. ‘I recently attended the One Young World summit and it was inspiring to see that there are so many young people in the world who are driven to enact positive change, no matter how big or small.’
Ashley-Juan Van der Hoogen CA(SA)
‘With the accolade received, I have realised not to sell myself short. Your value in life and business goals goes as far as your imagination. Our business has since grown into a more sustainable well-diversified company,’ explains Ashley-Juan van der Hoogen, founder and director at Ranzo Logistics, about being a Top 35 finalist.
Asley-Juan feels the most significant achievement in his life so far is being a professional in his career, being an entrepreneur, and building a sustainable business with a great team and the flexibility to support his family. The best advice he has ever received is that you should look after your business affairs like you look after your family. ‘In business, your integrity is tested all the time; the ability to stay true and firm to yourselves is utmost important,’ he says.
According to Ashley-Juan, South Africa can work its way back from the COVID-19 pandemic by using the ‘smart city’ concept as the driver. ‘Within the African landscape, the focus on creating a self-sustained economy is needed. Having a self-sustained economy can have a positive ripple effect on other dimensions within a smart city, such as health, education, policy and governance,’ he explains. ‘COVID-19 has certainly laid a platform to drive self-employment in the semi-skilled and skilled sector in the country. The business and funding infrastructure support is needed to drive this to be in place and to alleviate the unemployment rate in South Africa.’
Next goal on AJ’s list to achieve? ‘ Venture Capital, with the focus on Logistics and the ICT sector.
To provide expert advise and to become a sounding board for other entrepreneurs in South Africa.’
Shivani Ramdhani CA(SA)
As Head of Group Reporting in her current role, the most gratifying moment of Shivani Ramdhani’s career was being a part of the Top 35 CA’s with SAICA. ‘This platform has enabled me to inspire others and to be able to mentor the future young CAs(SA) in my training programme that I head up”. I am most proud when I see how many realities and lives I have changed by being a part of this SAICA network. Being a CA(SA) is not a destination; it a journey of life-long learning, growth and developing others along the way. My journey has been a tough terrain, but I believe I can give others the courage to know that if I can achieve it, you can also do the same, and even better than I ever could!’
Shivani learnt early in life that ‘I am my best blueprint, and therefore I should not try to be someone else’s carbon copy’. Although at times one can be tempted to conform, it is more purposeful to remain true to oneself. ‘Think big, make the most of your opportunities, and aim for excellence. There are no shortcuts to sustained success and therefore hard work, underpinned by excellence and integrity, is a non-negotiable in my life.’
Making a difference in this world in a meaningful and recognisable manner is next on Shivani’s list. ‘Climate change is very real, and it is affecting us too. I believe it is my duty as a citizen of planet Earth to highlight the solutions and create awareness, demonstrating that climate change is also a chance to start things afresh, re-think and re-build our societies on a more solid and sustainable base.’
Frans Geldenhuys CA(SA)
Frans Geldenhuys is one of the founding members of Bidvest ALICE (an assurance platform to enable the digitalisation of the governance of businesses). Although there are quite a few career highlights that Frans is proud of, the most significant include winning the Top 35 Out-of-the-ordinary category with colleague Louise Chunnett, running the Bidvest Group’s IT audit on ALICE on a daily basis, signing up their first external customers on ALICE, and launching ALICE on the Microsoft AppSource store.
The best advice that Frans has ever received is that the only constant when starting something new and innovative is change. ‘You need to accept that a lot will change; it will change quickly and you need to adjust your mindset to deal with that on a daily basis while being prepared to get your hands dirty and perform multiple roles in a small team.’ Another life lesson that Frans had to learn very quickly is that you can’t assume you know what the customer wants or needs. ‘The customer’s challenges and expectations are often very different, and we needed to ensure ALICE is flexible enough to deal with all of these challenges and expectations.’
Frans would not change anything in his life so far. ‘My actions when I was 18 years old set me on the path to achieve what I have today. Even though it may have taken me longer owing to an extended study period, that extended period provided me with experiences and skills that have benefited me through my career.’
Louise Chunnett CA(SA)
As one of the founding members and part of the Bidvest ALICE team, Louise Chunnett lives by the principle of ‘fail fast’. ‘You just need to keep trying different things the whole time until something works. We have probably tried over one hundred things that didn’t work, but then there are a handful that have worked and that has made it all possible,’ she explains.
This principle played a key role in one of Louise’s most recent career highlights of having their product showcased and offered for purchasing on Microsoft AppSource, a global Microsoft marketplace. Her next professional goal is to establish an international sales presence for Bidvest ALICE.
Another career highlight was winning the Top 35 Out-of-the-ordinary category with colleague Frans Geldenhuys. ’Through the Top 35 alumni I was invited to join the FinBiz2030 team and this has been one of the most inspiring and motivating projects that I’ve worked on. I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate with my fellow Top 35 finalists and winners.’
‘I believe that morals and ethics are human traits that flourishes when our society has a healthy definition of success. If we praise those who speak out against corruption, if we reward those who prevent crime and if we do not stand for greed in our own environment, we will be driving a culture that supports the right kind of success.’
Robert Zwane CA(SA)
Robert Zwane firmly believes in ‘islands of excellence’. ‘The “island of excellence” concept simply says that it doesn’t matter where you work, what king of behaviours are there or whether people do what they are supposed to do or not … what is important is to ensure that your area of responsibilities represents excellence, even if it is just an island of excellence. If that island shines, others can start learning from you. Therefore, you strive to better yourself and to ensure quality in everything you do.’
As senior executive of national projects at SAICA, this is something Robert strives for. The achievement he is proudest of is completing his master’s degree and the recognition of his contribution in education through the Top 35 award for education in 2017.
‘My journey was long and challenging, but it has taught me that nothing is impossible. The very same journey that at times made me want to quit has taught me that with hard work, you can achieve what you want to see or become.’
For Robert, the greatest achievement is having an impact on others. ‘My goal is to ensure that I have an impact on the professional lives of young people, in developing them and in ensuring that they see self-development in a different way. My goal is ensuring that all young professionals are actively involved in the promotion of the Sustainable Development Goals and, most importantly, we get involved in initiatives that impact others.’
Clifford Mack CA(SA)
In 2020, Clifford Mack, head of strategic projects at Nedbank Insurance, received the Nedbank Top Achiever award. This award goes to ‘Nedbankers’ who are acknowledged and celebrated for their contribution, hard work and going beyond the call of duty to make that special difference.
During his time as an Executive Assistant to the Group Managing Executive of Nedbank Wealth, Clifford learnt that success and dreams are achieved by consistently giving your best, combined with the ability to continue to learn and unlearn in an ever-changing world.
However, if he could give his 18 year old version of himself advice, it would have been to start travelling earlier. ‘From travelling, I have learnt so much about other cultures and histories which has broadened my perspective about life.’
Being a Top 35 finalist had a very big impact on Clifford. ‘I looked around the room with the rest of the contestants, and I pinched myself! Each finalist had a unique story to share. As each finalist’s story and profile were shared, I realised my story could inspire someone to be the best version of themselves. Business wise, we celebrated in a company I co-founded with my friend, who had won the competition the previous year. Pitches to retail giants and bank financing have been much easier after being part of the Top 35.’
In 2021, Clifford is looking forward to launching a challenger cosmetic brand, which is a start-up he has been working on with a small team for a little over a year now. ‘I can’t say more at this stage, but watch this space!’
James Wilkinson CA(SA)
James Wilkinson is Head of Business Optimisation at TFG and his proudest moment as a CA(SA) was undoubtedly winning the SAICA Top 35-Under-35 Competition in 2017. ‘The most significant impact was a personal one. It showed me the importance of striving to be the best version that you can of yourself, and to show up with energy.’
As a student, James was an Anglo American scholar and was invited to lunch with Clem Sunter from time to time with the other scholarship holders. ‘He is a brilliant man and I remember him asking us what we wanted to do when we had finished studying. I had the misfortune of being first to have to answer and had no idea what to say except that I would keep my options open. His reply has always stuck with me, and it was to rather “keep open to your options”. That inversion of perspective, encouragement of open-mindedness, quick thinking, and consideration of multiple scenarios isn’t just good advice, it’s what I try and live by.’
On how South Africa can work its way back from the COVID-19 pandemic, the big take-out for James is that we are now at the point where the economically inactive (20,6 million) outweigh the labour force (18,4 million). ‘It’s obvious that we have to make it easier for small businesses to do business. But I’m also a subscriber to the thinking that education is the big enabler of employment.’
Lyndsay Maseko CA(SA)
‘My transition from academia to corporate helped dispel the myth of those who teach can’t do,’ says Lyndsay Maseko, CFO at Ntsimbintle Mining.
One thing he learnt during his years in academia is that there is more to education than the attainment of a qualification. ‘One should study to convert theory to knowledge. The acquired knowledge should empower you to become wise. Knowledge will give you the qualification. Wisdom innovates! Understand that learning is a never-ending process which is contextual and fluid.’
Lyndsay’s motto in life is ‘don’t be a postbox – add value!’ and the next goal on his list is to be COO of a top-tier mining company in South Africa.
According to him, being a Top 35 finalist and category winner enhanced his credibility and reputation within the corporate sector.
‘Our profession is revered in society and what is expected from us goes way beyond what we are trained for. As business leaders the expectation is that we are the embodiment of moral fibre and ethical behaviour. Morality and ethics intersect at integrity and leadership without integrity is like a house without a foundation.’
He feels South Africa’s way out of the pandemic is to prioritise the agriculture, tourism and mining sectors as mainstay sectors to lead post-COVID-19 recovery, as they contribute meaningfully to both the GDP and job creation. ‘This was evident by the fact that two of these sectors were considered essential services during the national lockdown. The mining sector also attracts valuable direct foreign investment into the country.’
Shiluba Mawela CA(SA)
As project manager of the national taskforce for impact investing and managing partner at Tshiamo Impact Partners, the highlight of Shiluba Mawela’s career was to serve as the senior project manager on a national ‘Thuma-Mina’ campaign supported by government through the office of the Presidency – work that resulted in a change in legislation to support youth job creation and joining the FirstRand Foundation Board.
Shiluba left a corporate finance and strategy role at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange to “pursue my passion for impact investing. I founded Tshiamo Impact Partners, which is currently focused on building our flagship Agriculture Investment Fund purposed to invest and develop businesses across the agricultural value chain. Tshiamo Impact Partners also supports other opportunistic impact investment projects.’’
She is currently capital raising for the Agricultural Value Chain Fund that aims to drive job creation, increase food security and provide ecosystem resilience. ‘The fund is a collaboration between Tshiamo Impact Partners along with Refilwe Belebesi (of Grip Capital) and Henri Minnaar (an experienced Agri & Trade economist).’
The best advice she has ever been given was to put your trust in God, be fearless and go forth in confidence. ‘Ethics is imperative in all aspects of society − principles of honesty, integrity, and morals define the substance and ultimately the legacy of a people.’
Shiluba believes there needs to be a deliberate effort to think differently and more resiliently in all industries. ‘Going forward, efforts and solutions will need to be human-focused to increase access and sustained economic participation of people, as this directly increases living standards and the quality of life within society.’
Gideon Botha CA(SA)
Being a category winner in the 2019 Top 35 and obtaining both his CA(SA) designation and his PhD earlier this year are some of the most significant achievements for Gideon Botha, senior financial manager at Nedbank Home Loan Division.
‘It taught me to link my success to a higher purpose to make a difference in the world and it pushed me to try even harder in my aim to serve the organisation and those who follow me intrinsically and to the absolute best of my ability,’ he says.
‘A further highlight is being on a daily journey to discovering my authentic self. The best advice I received was not to focus on carpe diem (seize the day) but rather to focus on carpe mañana (seize tomorrow).’
His next goals are to complete his master’s and PhD in future studies, as well as his BSc in economics. ‘But, more importantly, my goal is to develop holistically to be the best possible husband to my wife, the best father to my children, and the best authentic leader for those who follow me to their greatness.’
Gideon believes the fundamental requirement for a better and stable post-COVID-19 South Africa is ethical and authentic leadership.
‘Ethics are non-negotiable, and self-centred leadership is no longer an option. Leadership in the profession needs to change to encompass a broader purpose, away from profit at all cost to one that incorporates a higher purpose for the betterment of global society.’
Xoliswa Hlongwane CA(SA)
As owner of her own clothing manufacturing business, XO Collection (Pty) Ltd, Xoliswa Hlongwane learnt that your greatest achievements come from facing your own fears. Her career highlight is making the shift from fulltime employment to running her own company and remaining open amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, if she could do it all over again, she would start saving money earlier in her career so that she would have more to invest in her entrepreneurial journey.
When asked how South Africa can work its way back from the pandemic, Xoliswa says: ‘South Africa has to focus on growing the local market to be able to meet local demand (as well as respond to global demand). Investment in SMMEs is critical. The funding frameworks used by commercial and government lenders must be reviewed and updated to be practical and relevant to the targeted groups and the context in which they operate. The premise upon which businesses were built and grown 20 years ago has changed drastically. The funding frameworks need to adapt to reflect that shift.’
Being a Top 35 finalist has raised Xoliswa’s profile as a professional, expanded her network and elevated her career. ‘It has given me a lot of confidence having seen the calibre of CAs we have in the country and the profiles of the CAs that entered the Top 35 competition.’ She was humbled and inspired to be among the Top 35.
Gareth Olivier CA(SA)
If Gareth Olivier could have a do-over, he would talk to and engage with more people on diverse topics, especially as a young adult. ‘I now know, but am still learning daily, that no one has it all figured out and that talking widely is a primary way that we explore and develop our thinking and broaden our horizons and opportunities.’
Gareth is currently head of the Milpark Education / CA Connect online CTA and Bridging course.
He is proud, together with his pioneering team, of having conceptualised and had accredited this ground-breaking programme that is the only SAICA-accredited online CTA in South Africa.
His next goal is systematic educational reform for future CAs by bringing the best elements of contact and distance education together into a single, uniquely tailored online educational journey for anyone who is not necessarily a top achiever but is adaptable, passionate and gritty.
‘I see COVID-19 as a catalyst and an indicator of the future in that we’ll be increasingly less able to predict how the world will move forward. In every aspect of our lives, we need to partner with teams and build support systems that enable us to be responsive to changes and equip us to proceed boldly,’ says Gareth.
When it comes to ethics and the profession, Gareth is clear. ‘Personal ethics plays a significant role but, as in any profession, there will always be individuals whose personal ethics are disappointing. We should rather define our profession by who we are, not who we are not.
We should strive not to overreact to the inevitable “bad seeds” but rather model frameworks for responsible leadership and augment them with authentic conversations.’
Chris van Zyl CA(SA)
Chris van Zyl, founder and managing director of Walworth Consulting, is not only a professional rugby player for the Stormers but also winner of the Top 35-Under-35 Lead category in 2018.
According to Chris, being part of the Top 35 gives one the platform to meet and connect with a network of SAICA’s industry leaders. ‘On a personal level, I was fortunate to gain a mentor who continues to have a major impact on my career.’
The greatest lesson Chris has ever learnt was that the continued sacrifice that one has to make in order to achieve success is always well worth it. ‘In fact, the greater the sacrifice, the greater the satisfaction. Find comfort in making these sacrifices with the knowledge that it is always going to be worth it.’
His next goal is to take Walworth Consulting to the next level. He wants it to be the industry leader in SMME business support services within South Africa and other relevant foreign markets.
‘As South Africans, we need to take conscious steps to support SMME business within our borders. The SMME is key to providing jobs and we have seen in the aftermath of COVID-19 that the unemployment rate has been severely affected. By supporting local businesses, we can create meaningful, sustainable employment opportunities,’ says Chris.
For him, ethics forms the most important foundation on which we all act as professionals. ‘In order for us to remain the most credible profession we need to ensure that we act accordingly at all times.’
Brett Perlstein CA(SA)
‘I have no regrets about the twists and turns my career has taken in my career, but if I could go back, I would definitely have learned how to code,’ says CEO and founder of SearchKings™ Africa, Brett Perlstein.
Brett received some of the most enlightening career advice from his now 95-year-old grandmother who told him to never stop learning.
‘This is something I integrate in both my personal and professional life, staying curious and actively learning something new all the time.’
Brett is no stranger to taking changes and continues learning. ‘The most significant achievement of my career to date, and possibly the most difficult, would have to be ditching my suit and ties and starting my own company. Starting your own business is terrifying and risky, but when I look at the clients we at SearchKings™ have helped unlock business potential online and the many new careers we have enabled, I could not be prouder.’
For him, strong ethics drives strong business. ‘Building a strong business reputation based on governance and ethics should ultimately be North Star thinking for all CAs(SA).’
Being a Top 35 finalist has given him the opportunity to meet, engage and collaborate with some of the most forward thinking and dynamic CAs the country has to offer. ‘Not only will this experience leave you inspired by the calibre of people you will meet but also accelerate the growth of your network and personal brand.’
Taki Nkhumeleni CA(SA)
Taki Nkhumeleni is currently interim CEO and finance director at Air Liquide Southern Africa.
‘Being entrusted with leading the organisation as interim CEO since the COVID-19 lockdown in April this year has been remarkable: working with internal and external stakeholders to ensure safety, cash flow management, and most importantly, delivery of crucial gases to fulfil the needs of our hospitals, patients, and industrial customers,’ she explains. ‘We have to continue to uphold and protect the ethical standards of our profession even when no one is watching.’
According to Taki, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a change in ways of working and people need to be deliberate in terms of exploring the critical competencies. Employees will need to collaborate digitally and build a resilient organisation that is able to respond quickly with change to deliver a better customer experience.
‘I have learned from those who have come before me that consistency is key. Be consistent in running your own race at your own pace and recognise that every mile that you conquer is your personal best. I am in constant pursuit of excellence, virtue and a cause greater than myself, and this really keeps me going, no matter the challenges I face.’
Taki feels the honour of being part of the Top 35-Under-35s in 2015 has contributed to more career opportunities and social capital value.
Evita Nyandoro CA(SA)
Evita Nyandoro currently serves as the Emerging markets reporting head at Citi and as Inspections committee chair at IRBA and has served as NED at listed and unlisted boards.
The biggest impact being part of the Top 35 had on Evita’s career has been greater exposure to corporates in South Africa and globally. ‘It gave me opportunities to engage with individuals at the highest levels in commerce, academia and other industries and opened my eyes to endless opportunities.’
Being trusted by different corporates to lead many teams across countries is something she is grateful for. ‘There are so many instances where some would have said that as a woman, I would not be able to achieve what I have, but luckily I gained a lot of trust to deliver along the way.’
‘Lift as you rise, always teach someone else what you know that is where your value lies and make a real difference’ are words Evita lives by.
Her next goal is to continue to strive for excellence and ethical leadership in corporate Africa and to showcase the talent on the continent, especially female talent, in the entities she is engaged in.
When it comes to South Africa’s future, Evita says: ‘In the financial services sector there is a need to focus on automation, coupled with upskilling of the current workforce on how to utilise enhanced digital tools. I believe South Africa can be a leader in Africa in providing such services to the wider continent.’
Hiten Keshave CA(SA)
As entrepreneur and mentor, Hiten Keshave’s proudest career moment was starting his mentorship campaign, The Unconventional CA, to help impact entrepreneurs, young individuals and the less privileged with access to mentors and sounding boards.
His life motto is, ‘Always be willing to listen, whether you on the receiving end or the giving end. You never know what you can take away from it!’ He also believes life is too short to cry over spilt milk. ‘No regrets. So, the lessons learnt from my past have only allowed me to grow and be who I am today.’
Hiten is currently working on expanding the launch of his mentorship campaign and planning to launch his new start-up business − an online marketing and e-commerce platform − to help small businesses promote their business, products and services to customers and allow customers to transact and support local small business.
According to Hiten, South Africa must start to focus a lot more effort on supporting entrepreneurs. ‘Creating a stable foundation where when faced with these “unusual” times, our economy can still thrive and survive!’
He feels ethics is fundamental to self-development and the CA profession, particularly when engaging with people and other businesses. ‘Knowing where to draw the boundary line is crucial.’
Tebogo Movundlela CA(SA)
Tebogo Movundlela is the CEO of Kathu Solar Park (CSP). ‘I am proud of the legacy I left at Aurora Wind Power during my time as CFO then CEO. The project saw good increases in returns from the initial investment case, an excellent health and safety record including no lost time injuries, a strong licence to operate with sustainable and impactful community development programmes, and a stable investment overall.’
For Tebogo, it is okay not to have all the answers all the time. ‘This is difficult when people naturally look to you for answers. I have found that I am more comfortable when I allow myself to be vulnerable and lean on my team for possible solutions. Leveraging on diversity of thought also results in the best outcome.’
Her answer to the current crisis in South Africa is to support a large infrastructure programme that includes ramping up diverse energy sources. ‘Naturally, if executed well and with the correct governance and oversight, in addition to jobs I would hope to see the participation of the skilled homegrown businesses that are willing and able to participate meaningfully in such an extensive value chain.’
As for her own future goals, Tebogo explains: ‘We are going through a tricky transitionary, ramp-up period post construction that is not only difficult from an engineering perspective but, more importantly, requires pulling together various stakeholders to align and cooperate towards a common goal. It is a challenging time for all role players, and I wish us success.’
Andrew McKay CA(SA)
It has been five years since Andrew McKay has taken the plunge and quitted his corporate job to become a financial manager, interior designer and product developer. ‘My most significant achievement is that the bank has not taken my house yet! But it has been small wins along the way − building up a steady client base for my SME consulting business to ensure steady cash flow, being tasked with larger and larger interior design jobs, and of course launching my own range of fine porcelain tableware. It was a “pinch me” moment when I saw my brand on the bottom of a plate.’
Andrew currently has one range of crockery in circulation under his brand ‘Andrew Hector’. ‘I would like to get that to four.’
For him, having been part of the Top 35 is a great title to add to the bottom of your mailer. ‘It’s is a badge of honour and gives you instant credibility. Also, SAICA got to know me and as a result I got to assist with the revamp of their Cape Town offices − WIN!’
His advice to others is to be careful who you step on on your way to the top. ‘My business has been completely built through word of mouth and business connections. There is no better advert for anybody than a referral from someone who has used your services. Treat all your clients the same − from the smallest to the largest. I have had many instances where a small client turned into a big job.’
Kuben Pillay CA(SA)
‘Being a finalist in the SAICA Top 35 is definitely a proud highlight for me. I would say that my biggest highlight so far is helping steer TB HIV Care from a R150-million per annum organisation to be a power player in the health sector as a R700-million per annum organisation in four years,’ says Kuben Pillay, CFO of TB HIV Care NPC and director of Strategic Health Solutions (Pty) Ltd. Strategic Health Solutions, which Kuben has been leading, is a wholly owned subsidiary of TB HIV Care and has been created to be the sustainable income development arm for the NPC.
‘During TB HIV Care’s expansion, I have guided the organisation in navigating structural and operational changes, implemented various systems and drove the achievement of a Level 2 broad-based black economic empowerment status from a non-compliant status within a six-month period. The organisation has also grown from 900 employees to 3 000 employees in this period. All this has culminated in testing over a million people in our last financial year. These are one million people that now know their HIV status and are able to practise safe prevention behaviour and receive treatment to create healthier communities. These achievements are indicators of the impact that I am making in my supportive role and they are a highlight for me.’
He is determined to bring about better health outcomes at a national and international level through sustainable, insightful and impactful solutions.
Kuben lives to be bold, brave and ambitious, break down barriers and build the capacity of those around him.
Likeleli Monyamane CA(SA)
As head of strategy, projects and innovation at Alliance Insurance Company and founder of Inspire Innovation Business Consultants, Likeleli Monyamane is very proud of her initiative, the Inspire Mentorship Programme, through which they co-developed a skills development and mentorship programme with the Lesotho Institute of Accountants. ‘Through this programme we have reached more than 50 professionals who participate in an intensive development programme as mentors and mentees and reach a community of more than a thousand followers through our social media platforms.’
Likeleli knows she was born to fulfil a purpose and not merely exist. Her next goal is to transform the professional development landscape of Lesotho by expanding their programme to other key professions, including teaching and the public sector as well as developing tailor-made mentorship programmes for organisations in Lesotho.
She believes Lesotho should use the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to embrace digital transformation in order to make education and learning more accessible at all levels of society.
When it comes to ethics and the profession, Likeleli believes that most CAs(SA) are ethical. ‘Sadly, however, it is the bad apples who make the headlines, so we have to take every opportunity to be positive advocates for the profession.’
Vincent Berends CA(SA)
Vincent Berends currently serves as the managing director of Optima Business Group (www.optimabusiness.co.za). He is a registered tax practitioner and a Xero certified advisor, but he is mainly regarded as a business and tax strategist.
Vincent is proud to have worked with attorneys on complex business and tax matters and being part of a team that not only takes on cases against high-profile parties but also winning them.
His heart desire is to have more free time to spend with loved ones and to become more actively involved in outreach projects. ‘Currently I am struggling to find the balance between consulting and what really matters in life,’ Vincent admits.
When it comes to the way forward for South Africa, he believes it is important to create opportunities, not jobs. ‘Opportunities bring out the entrepreneur in people. Entrepreneurs are problem-solvers and innovators –employees need not be business owners. Entrepreneurs are the true driving force of any economy, not so-called incubation or job-creation programmes that merely lead to employees being placed in a “job’ where they do not have their heart and soul into what it is they are doing.’
For Vincent, ethics should be the heart of every decision you make – not just as a professional but as a fellow human being. Every decision in life has its consequences. He firmly believes that how you change is how you succeed.
Lauren Berrington CA(SA)
Lauren Berrington, the Bidvest Group’s chief audit executive, believes it is important to value people while building the BOT. Her proudest career highlight was the commercialisation of ALICE, Bidvest’s digital auditor (See www.bidvestalice.com for more information on ALICE.)
According to Lauren, she wishes she had been a little less nerdy at university and enjoyed the carefree student life more.
Lauren’s next goal is the further expansion of ALICE across the US and Europe.
She feels that South Africa can work its way back from the COVID-19 pandemic by getting back to work in a manner that is deemed fit for purpose for company and individual alike while taking the necessary safety precautions.
When it comes to ethics and the profession, Lauren says that ‘ethical behaviour should be ingrained into our DNA – it is at the core of our very existence’.
Welma du Preez CA(SA)
Being an inspiration to young CAs(SA) and to be a positive influence in the lives of other young leaders is what Welma du Preez, director of Burger and Buurman Inc, is proudest of in her life so far. ‘Success is not a destination, it’s a journey to be enjoyed one day at a time,’ she says. She wishes she had started investing in leadership development from a younger age.
Welma is planning on establishing a satellite branch in Stellenbosch in 2021 and will be certified as a John Maxwell coach, speaker, and trainer. This certification will equip her to add more value to the development of others.
She believes crisis calls for leadership. ‘Real leaders aren’t always the ones that have been put in charge. Authentic leaders must show up for our country and direct the way forward. Whether a great politician, a school headmaster, CEO of a listed company, the small business owner, teachers, or parents − leaders are everywhere and our country needs every single one of them to live and lead by admirable values.’
For her, ethics is a life skill, a core value that a person lives by. ‘It shouldn’t be thought of as something we do only in certain situations.
Valuing ethical behaviour should start at a young age. It should be ingrained in every child’s thinking, response and behaviour. Ethics starts at home and must be further developed in schools.’
Being part of the Top 35 was an ‘incredible honour’ for Welma. ‘It still encourages me to believe in myself and to face challenges with confidence.’
Louise le Roux CA(SA)
As regional finance controller for Africa and the Middle East at Weir Minerals, Louise le Roux feels that the last year was probably the biggest in her career so far. ‘I successfully project managed and co-ordinated an M&A transaction carving out four legal entities, ensuring that the companies are registered for all required taxes, memberships and so forth, as well as allocating and transferring employees, operations, properties, customers, and suppliers to the right new legal entity.’ She also had to ensure that 1 200 people knew why they were moving and how the operation will work. Louise had to report directly to the local MD and to head office in Scotland.
Throughout her life, Louise had to be patient. ‘Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you don’t achieve everything in the time, you initially set out to complete your goals, persevere and complete them.’
If she could do anything differently, she would have tried to reflect more frequently. ‘I would have celebrated the small wins and successes throughout my career as every small step got me to where I am now. I do not believe that I appreciated the amazing achievements I had up to now.’
Louise believes South Africans now need to unite and understand that no one will be successful on their own but only together. ‘Therefore we need to keep our leaders accountable and together tackle the challenge we face on corruption and wasting money and resources.’
Mpho Mookapele CA(SA)
For Mpho Mookapele, winning the Top 35 in 2019 and being appointed CEO of the Energy and Water Sector Education and Training Authority in 2020 stand out as career highlights. ‘Winning the Top 35-Under-35 validated my career choice. The award came at a time of great challenges that come with serving in the public sector as a CFO and the award was a personal reward for my commitment to serve and reward for the sacrifices and risks I have taken.’
She believes that with hard work, commitment and passion, there are no heights that she cannot reach. ‘I have as much right to sit at the table as everyone else.’
If Mpho could be 18 again, she would dream beyond the sky and chase her dream without looking for others to validate her dream. ‘I would take advantage of all opportunities that would lead to me realising my dream.’
Her next goal is to study further, with a focus on strategy and political economics.
‘COVID-19 has highlighted some of the greatest social challenges that existed pre-COVID. The South African government, partnering with the private sector, should focus on access to basic services for everyone. We should use this opportunity to dismantle existing structures that were not fully yielding the social landscape we want. The economy of a country will not be stable and South Africa will not thrive where there is no dignity for South Africans. So, let’s fix the basics: access to water, energy and decent sanitation!’ says Mpho.
Unathi Mkiva CA(SA)
Unathi Mkiva, audit partner at MKIVA and group CEO at Vintage Capital, says that qualifying as a CA(SA) and getting nominated for SAICA’s Top 35 in 2019 are his most significant career achievements.
The advice he got from his mother when he was in high school stays with him to this day. ‘Your actions always supersede your reputation, therefore always remember that your current actions will always outweigh your reputation. One must be mindful of one’s actions. This advice has helped me live the ‘Integrity CA principle throughout my professional career.’
If he could start all over again, Unathi would start businesses while he had enough time on his hands, take more risks, and spend more time with family. ‘My personal goal is to complete a doctorate in the next five years. My business goals are to expand our operations at MKIVA to new target markets and customer segments.’
According to Unathi, COVID-19 has impacted a lot of businesses and the economy negatively. ‘On the flip side, some businesses have seen a significant upside. Such examples are companies in the ICT (information, communication, and technology) sector. Many of these are on an upward trajectory. The economy at large will take a while to recover from the impact of COVID-19 and economic experts anticipate its impact will be felt until 2025. It is the best time for the South Africa government right now to speed up economic reforms. This is an opportunity to reset the South African economic structure.’