Over the past 15 years, Vincent Motholo has built a career marked by substantial development and success. As a qualified and experienced CA(SA) and registered auditor, Vincent is currently the chairperson of SAICA, having served on its audit and risk committee as an independent non-board member. He has also served on various other committees and co-authored a textbook and two question books.
For Vincent Motholo, it is important to champion an innovation-friendly culture with a parallel focus on talent development and the promotion of professional growth. As an inspiring visionary, he has a passion for learning and development and actively participates in the education of aspiring chartered accountants.
As a young boy, Vincent wanted to be many things. ‘I primarily wanted to become a teacher as I was excited about teaching, and I thought it’s what I wanted to do. And I suppose because my aunt was a teacher, and she’s the one who made sure that I started school at the age of five … I’m not sure how, but somehow she made it happen!’
His interest in teaching evolved over time. ‘I remember there was a time where teachers were losing jobs in the country and I had to relook and rethink my career,’ says Vincent.
His uncle suggested he become an accountant and as he was doing well at accounting in school, the decision was made. ‘They had a business, a tavern, where I worked and because there was dealing with money and all sorts of things, I got exposure.’ When it came to enrolling in university, having seen SAICA in magazines, he knew accounting was for him. ‘They had an eagle as emblem and I identified with it. I actually have a tattoo of an eagle inspired by that!’
When he looks back on his career, he is happy with the choices he made. ‘I wanted to become a teacher but became a chartered accountant. However, I’ve been very privileged. I was a senior lecturer at the University of South Africa, so my dream of becoming a teacher was realised by becoming a chartered accountant. I have lived both dreams, but accounting has opened a broader space.’
Vincent completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Pretoria. ‘It was very tough and demanding. The year that I liked least was the second year because it introduced new concepts such as auditing! I thought my focus would be on numbers and just doing financial accounting. I was very wrong!’ he laughs. He admits auditing was one of his least favourite subjects!
After he completed his degree, he applied for a bursary with the National School of Accounting, which was affiliated with the University of KwaZulu-Natal. ‘So, sitting here, thinking I am the chairman of SAICA and understanding the work that SAICA does, but also having een a beneficiary of the Thuthuka bursary fund, means I understand the challenges the students face.’
The main obstacle, for him, was funding. ‘Everything else was up to me. I had to be dedicated and disciplined. I worked very hard – that was in my control, whilst funding wasn’t as much, because you don’t know where you’d get it. I always worked hard and was able to stay focused on why I was at university and what I wanted to achieved and in the end, I was privileged to become a chartered accountant.’
For him, being the chairperson of SAICA is an honour and a privilege – something he does not take likely. ‘I’m immensely honoured by the board members who elected me to be the chairman. So, if you ask me now, would I have made the same decisions? Absolutely!’
When it comes to the current state of the profession, Vincent feels the problem goes beyond just auditors and audit firms. ‘There are conversations right now going on about whether South African auditors have enabled things like state capture. But when you think about SAICA holistically, we have over 50 000 members of whom, only about 4 000 are registered auditors. So many of them have done great work, but when we think about why the profession has suffered and has done wrong, it’s normally about the auditor. People wonder “where was the auditor?” But as SAICA, our members are not only auditors, they are also CEOs, they are in internal audit, they are risk officers and CFOs. They play a critical role in the entire financial reporting value chain, so we consider the entire value chain and not just auditors.’
He explains this is specifically the case for the entities that have collapsed, where members have gone rogue and have done things wrong. Addressing this is a key role at SAICA as the entire profession’s reputation is at stake. ‘If the reputation is at stake, we lose our relevance in terms of attracting new talent as well as public trust in our members’ ability to develop the economy.’
Even though SAICA has members worldwide, the South African economy, in particular, needs to grow. ‘How do we do that if there is no confidence in our profession?’ wonders Vincent. ‘We need to work together – ourselves as a SAICA board, with different stakeholders including regulators, our members, SAICA executives and staff in rebuilding the profession, because it is not going to rebuild itself.’
He feels rebuilding the profession’s reputation is just a small element of what needs to be done. ‘Most of our members do good work and we need to tell more of those stories.’
As the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to destroy lives and livelihoods, Vincent was able to see the bright side. ‘It made us realise we could work from anywhere in the world and be effective and efficient. That is a privilege I truly appreciate – being able to drop the kids at school and picking them up. The pandemic has enabled that. What we are missing, is being within our teams, collaboration on a physical level. But that does not need to be a hindrance – technology has increased at an exponential rate. However, we are not robots, so the human, social connection is missed.’
He explains the pandemic has also shown people that they still need relationships, to speak to one another to ensure mental health and well-being.
In August this year, Vincent added another impressive achievement to his already long list by being appointed as the new executive director of finance for the University of Cape Town (UCT). He took up the position on 1 October 2021. ‘Before that, I worked at SMG Grant Thornton, where I served as the director and an audit partner in the assurance division.’
According to Vincent, every move and decision about his career has been deliberate. ‘I enjoyed my time at SMG Grant Thornton. I am happy I had the opportunity to dance or sit it out and I chose to dance at the firm and I’ve given them the best of me. I love the firm. I didn’t leave the firm because there was anything wrong. I enjoyed working there, with the people I met and the mentors I had. But it was time for me to dream new dreams and this opportunity allows me to realise some dreams – those about governance, finance … I want to become a renowned expert in those fields and I believe taking this new position will enable me to achieve that,’ Vincent explains. For him, this opportunity is a culmination of his dreams, his aspirations and his love of education. ‘Everything just comes together!’ he smiles.
Becoming the chairman of SAICA was a very proud moment for Vincent. ‘I think it is the highest honour in our profession and to be able to attain that, at the age that I did, is a highlight of my career,’ he says.
Vincent has great plans for his role as SAICA’s chairman, including three strategic goals that he, together with the board, will be focusing on. ‘Two of those goals are a continuation from the previous board. The first one is about enhancing the reputation of the profession. That remains paramount to us, we need to address that. The second pillar is the transformation of the profession, not only transformation from black and white in terms of demographics, although that is still very important. It’s also about giving opportunities to young people to enter the profession and accelerate that.’
He says some of SAICA’s stakeholders are concerned about what the pandemic is doing in terms of losing key skills in South Africa. ‘Where we find ourselves not having great skills as is, we are also losing skills and we have a responsibility to address that shortage,’ he explains.
The third strategic goal is about SAICA’s social responsibility and its board giving back to the community. ‘I am excited about this one. We are establishing the Chairman’s fundraising event that will be aligned with SAICA’s strategy, where we will be identifying projects within SAICA that we will be fundraising for at an annual event.’
Vincent believes the role of CAs(SA) in the future will evolve. ‘We know about CA 2025 and what it requires in terms of the skill sets. Our people will need to be tech-savvy and will need to understand that environment. CAs are becoming a lot more solution-driven, not relying so much on memory because we can programme all of that right now. CAs will need to become strategic thinkers coming up with solutions to problems in saving the world and society, to the betterment of our country. That will enhance the reputation of the brand and the profession the world over.’
One of the key aspects with regards to this is education. ’Education is very important. I know what it has done for me. I am who I am because of my education.’ For him, it is important to give people who are interested in becoming CAs access to the information they need to make a meaningful contribution to the profession. ‘We need to do what we can to produce great leaders, to give people opportunities to dream again and have an impact in South Africa.’
When it comes to completing your accounting qualifications, Vincent would encourage those who can study full-time to embrace the opportunity. I understand in certain instances, people don’t have the opportunity or privilege to study full-time. However, for those who do, I encourage you to take it. If you don’t, if you have to study part-time, you have to be very disciplined and manage your time quite carefully, finding a balance between working and studying is a challenge. I’ve been privileged to study everything full-time in my career, and that enabled me to focus on one thing at a time.’
Vincent’s life motto is ‘Joy knows me by name’. This comes from a realisation that there is beauty in the world – as much beauty as there is misery. When you realise joy is part of everything, it makes it easier to be alive, to be a part of life. He is motivated by the idea that he can create a difference in the world and works daily towards his goal of making it a better place. For him, the ability to see other people achieve their goals and dreams motivates him to be an inspiration to others – because he did it, others can as well.
Vincent’s advice to trainees
Even though it was a long and difficult road, Vincent will never regret his choice to become a chartered accountant. ‘As you can see, being a CA has allowed me to have a diverse career and the ability to dream in different colours. Yes, it’s very challenging, but you have to know that nothing worthwhile comes easily, so just stick through it, work very hard to find great mentors who inspire and motivate you. It’s not an easy road to travel alone.’
- When preparing for exams, do not focus on previous statistics, as this can make you lose focus on what you need to achieve. Rather focus on your exams and work towards it.
- To ensure a successful career, address your challenges with all the resources you have.
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