Nhlamulo Khoza (29) shares his journey as a Thuthuka beneficiary and how he transitioned from trainee CA(SA) to member of a divisional executive team within Nedbank.
If one profession that could be equated to a fast car, the chartered accountancy profession would be it. This is because it enables individuals to grow at a pace similar to a V8 car sprinting from zero to 100 km/h in a matter of seconds. One individual whose career has progressed at a considerable pace is Nhlamulo Khoza (29), a young CA(SA) who is a beneficiary of SAICA’s Thuthuka Bursary Fund. He was recently appointed Executive Head: Finance and Operations at Nedbank’s Group Risk division.
Born and bred in Thulamahashe, Bushbuckridge, a township between the south-eastern part of Limpopo and north-eastern part of Mpumalanga, Khoza went to High School Merensky in Tzaneen, where he matriculated in 2009. It was there where he learnt about SAICA’s Thuthuka Bursary Fund. ‘A representative from the Department of Education came through and presented about Thuthuka in our accounting class. He left application forms with our accounting teacher. I was interested in pursuing the course, particularly due to the funding that would be made available, as my parents wouldn’t have been able to fund my university studies. I completed the application form, submitted it to SAICA, and a few weeks later, I received an approval letter from Thuthuka,’ says the humble CA(SA).
He then studied at the University of Pretoria, starting in 2010 and obtained a BCom Accounting Sciences degree in 2012 followed by an honours/CTA degree in 2013. He then started his articles at Nedbank, which is also one of the financial services sponsors of the Thuthuka bursary programme. ‘I joined the training programme in 2014 and qualified as a CA(SA) in 2016. I then signed on permanently at Nedbank in the Group Risk division – a business unit that is responsible for risk management in accordance with Nedbank’s strategic risk framework and maintaining the risk strategy/plan across the group. I have been there since,’ Khoza says.
Within six years, he transitioned from a trainee to Head of Finance and Operations and now Executive Head of Finance and Operations. But how did he excel in corporate world so quickly? ‘The biggest enabler was my manager Dhiren Haripersad, a CA(SA) with over 15 years’ experience in the financial services industry. He is passionate about developing young professionals; he recognised my talent as well as the positive contribution I could make to the business,’ Khoza explains.
‘Nedbank’s CA training programme is arranged in a way that empowers trainees to take control of their professional development. Trainees in Nedbank are able to choose where they want to work according to their preference. I chose to work in Balance Sheet Management, a small-medium external audit firm, Corporate & Investment Banking as an equity research analyst, and finally Group Risk, where I signed on permanently,’ he explains. ‘A part of it can be attributed to fortune as well. The area I worked in was undergoing changes which created an opportunity for me to further my professional career,’ Khoza adds.
He says this progression speaks to the exposure he managed to get from various executives within the bank. ‘I was exposed to a high level of executive management, which I regularly engaged with them early on. That placed me in good stead to develop and obtain experience of operating at a high level. I had experience working closely with the chief risk officer, Trevor Adams (a managing executive who sits on the group executive committee), whom I now report to,’ says Khoza.
Khoza also shares how he overcame challenges in his training phase. He explains how tough it was shifting from being a student and going straight into the corporate world. ‘I had to transition from relying on theoretical concepts learnt in school, to developing technical business skills – switching from a theory-based mindset versus technical application. The teams I worked in were quite experienced in working with trainees and had matured support structures which enabled trainees’ transition,’ says Khoza.
He says the good thing about the Thuthuka programme is that it creates a tailored experience for students, which is different from the typical university experience. ‘Our programme offered us opportunities which we could benefit from. This included regular tutorial classes with lecturers and industry experts, and so I made sure to attend all the tutorials and utilise all the study materials provided by Thuthuka. I took full advantage of those opportunities,’ Khoza says.
Asked what advice he would give to other aspirant CAs(SA), Khoza says: ‘Students should develop their professional self-identity early on when transitioning from university to the corporate world. Students are susceptible to being swayed on which career paths to pursue by their universities, without properly applying their minds to what interests them.’ He adds that students must do their research before committing to a training programme. ‘Once you commit, you are locked in for the next three years, unless you take a six-month penalty.
Where you do your articles sets you up for your next step and what you will do with your career thereafter. Therefore, choose wisely.’
Asked about his career aspirations, he says: ‘What I know is that I would still want to be in financial services. It is an exciting space. It offers a lot of opportunities if you know where to look for them. My path in financial services is not common, risk management is not the first career path many people associate with banking, however I feel that there are opportunities to be taken advantage of, especially when taking into consideration where the industry is moving towards: that is, digitisation and automation of banking operations. The banking landscape will look significantly different in the next three to four years,’ Khoza says confidently.
He concludes: ‘What I’ve learnt in this role is that emphasis shifts from placing reliance on your technical skills, towards influencing others to achieve a common goal as you progress to leadership roles within the organisation.’