Accounting and Financial Advisory raising sights
Accounting and Financial Advisory (AFA), an SMP based in Rosebank, is one of the major players in South African accountancy. Its directors, Sumendra Naidoo and Shaun Govender, place a premium on relationships and high-quality employees.
Sumendra Naidoo and Shaun Govender, the incumbent directors at Accounting and Financial Advisory (AFA), are a smart, hip pair. Hip yes, but not in that vain, fashion-forward sort of way
Today, as though oblivious to ceremony, the partners are decidedly easygoing, dressed down in almost nondescript golfers.
But these aren’t exactly your run-of-the-mill businessmen. So we are suitably put in our place when the partners emerge in standard issue golfers.
‘Sumendra and Shaun are very relaxed people,’ whispered the partners’ right-hand, Tafadzwa Makombe, on the eve of the interview, but yours truly had failed to take a hint.
Relaxed they are, but as far as Sumendra is concerned that’s where the comparison ends. ‘To some degree I suppose I’m a bit methodical because I take a little bit longer than usual to make a decision, going through all the scenarios,’ he chuckles. ‘And Shaun is the “let’s just go ahead and do it” guy. And I suppose together that makes a good team.’
Shaun nods in agreement: ‘We always bounce off of each other, really, but Sumendra invariably goes to town going over all the possible scenarios.’
THE GENESIS AND TEETHING PROBLEMS
In describing the genesis of the company, the pair often has to start at the very beginning. ‘We are quite fortunate to have two early days, the first being at Deloitte 35 years ago,’ Sumendra says. ‘When the business unit first started off the business, it was meant to assist audit clients to prepare for an audit. As more regulations were introduced, the business then pivoted to a base of non-audit clients.’
Shaun picks up the story: ‘In 2018, due to further regulatory changes from IRBA introducing mandatory audit firm rotation and restrictions on audit firms performing accounting work, the opportunity arose to carve out the business from Deloitte. The management buyout by the two directors saw the formation of AFA in its current form: a 100% black-owned and 57% female-owned organisation was launched, with an impressive list of prestigious clients.’
Naturally, the early days were fraught with teething troubles. Working in concert with the talent unit, currently headed by Tafadzwa Makombe CA(SA), the pair has made great strides in attracting and retaining quality talent.
What’s more, they’ve had to learn on the fly, getting a handle on a whole slew of things. Against the current economic climate that impacts the client’s ability to spend on consulting, they have had to continually reinvent themselves in technology and improve service lines to deliver to the market.
There’s no denying the landscape has changed over the years, not least in respect of the advancement in technology. Rounds of hard lockdowns in the past few years have not helped matters either. Sumendra admits that the practice was not immune to the recent changes.
‘The biggest change has been the effect of COVID-19 on the working environment,’ he says. ‘Previously clients required that we were physically in an office to deliver the service. We have proven that we are still able to provide quality service in a hybrid environment.
‘Automation has been a game changer, as we strive to find smarter technologies to deliver what has historically been a people service offering.’
ROOTED IN ETHICS AND OLD FASHION VALUES
While change is inevitable, the firm prides itself on non-negotiables, which include professional excellence and old fashion values. Among industry insiders, the firm has also gained a reputation as one of the best employers.
Ethics is the foundation of a solid, trustworthy organisation and we pride ourselves in holding the highest levels of compliance and ethics,’ Shaun says. ’Clients have commented on our employees and that is one of our greatest assets. Our recruitment processes seek to source like-minded resources, clients, and suppliers as the company’s reputation is of paramount importance in a service industry.’
Formerly a director with Deloitte South Africa, Sumendra has more than 25 years of financial and management accounting experience in both the public and private sectors. Shaun also served a stint as a director at Deloitte South Africa. He has over 15 years of industry experience in financial management consulting in both the public and private sectors.
With the pair at the helm, AFA has grown into a profoundly versatile financial management consulting firm, offering a plethora of services, including flexible resourcing, financial reporting, AFS automation, outsourcing, offshoring, payroll and human capital management, finance project management, and strategy consulting, among others.
STEALTH AND ADAPTABILITY YIELD RESULTS
Sumendra says it’s important to tweak the firm’s repertoire as and when market conditions change. ‘Like any business, the product offering evolves based on market demands,’ he says. ‘As an example, offshoring and outsourcing in the pre-COVID-19 era was a challenging discussion to have, as the thought process at the time was that you had to have onsite teams to deliver.
‘The remote working that COVID-19 introduced has proven that an offsite helps manage risks, reduces the real estate costs for clients, and provides an opportunity to source the best service from experts with the best technology and automation expertise without compromising quality.’
Locally, the company currently serves over 20% of the JSE companies. The expansion drive which has seen the company serving clients in nearly 30 countries across the world is however testament to the team’s negotiation and leadership skills.
Rightfully the firm has been accredited as a SAICA training office and has a team of graduates being mentored through the programme. It’s also managed to achieve and maintain Level 1 BBBEE for the past five years.
Perhaps on a high level, the firm has offered leadership to disabled unemployed graduates, assisting them to become work ready.
‘Being able to deliver on our commitment to the accounting industry has been a highlight. We have successfully delivered over 500 experienced finance resources into the economy, in roles ranging from accountants to financial managers and financial directors,’ Shaun says.
‘We are however hung up on the company’s fabled accelerated growth programme, which continues to empower young professionals. Our responsibility as an employer, beyond offering attractive professional opportunities, is to cultivate the singularity and complementarity of each of our employees,’ Sumendra says.
’The AFA Accelerated Growth Programme aims to equip our employees with diverse and valuable finance experience in a short period of time. Our employees have the unique opportunity to work in varied industries and differing roles over a three- to six-month period through our outsourcing philosophy.’