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Mondi Group’s Andrew King

Mondi is an international packaging and paper group, with production operations across 30 countries and revenues of €5.8 billion in 2012. The Group’s key operations are located in central Europe, Russia and South Africa, and as at the end of 2012, it employed 25,700 people.

Mondi Group has a dual listed company structure, with a primary listing on the JSE Limited and a premium listing on the London Stock Exchange. The financial director of this multinational corporation is Andrew King, who talks to ASA about his background and current role.

1. What is your current role?
I’m the Chief Financial Officer at Mondi Group, since October 2008.

2. What motivated you to choose the CA(SA) designation?
I saw it as the ideal qualification to open up as many opportunities as possible in the business world. I also realised early on that being an accountant was more lucrative than my first love, which was to be a sports commentator.

3. Give us a short summary of your career
I grew up in Johannesburg and attended St John’s College from grade 1 until Matric. I graduated with a B. Com GDA from the University of Cape Town and completed articles with Deloitte & Touche in Johannesburg in 1994. In 1995 I joined Minorco, the international arm of Anglo American, as a financial analyst, before heading up the group’s investment management activities. I transferred to the Anglo American plc corporate finance department in 1998 where I worked on a number of the group’s M&A activities.

I began my professional relationship with Mondi in 2002, then a division of Anglo American, and was appointed Mondi’s vice-president of business development, and subsequently corporate development director in 2004. I served as Mondi’s CFO from June 2005 to May 2006, before being appointed Group strategy and business development director ahead of Mondi’s de-merger from Anglo American plc and listing on the JSE and LSE in July 2007. Finally, I was appointed as CFO of the Mondi Group in 2008.

4. Are there any career highlights you would like to share?
Highlights were my involvement in the De Beers reorganisation in 2000 and the de-merger of Mondi from Anglo American plc, including its dual listing on the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges in 2007. I was also very involved in a number of the acquisitions that led to the rapid global expansion of the Mondi Group from 2000 to 2010. More recently, the de-merger and listing
on the JSE of Mondi Packaging, now called Mpact, from the Mondi Group in 2011, and Mondi’s acquisition of the Nordenia Group in 2012, were significant steps for the group. I’ve also enjoyed the challenge of migrating the Group’s balance sheet from one heavily reliant on bank debt at the time of the de-merger, to one which now benefits from a strong and diversified funding base.

5. How do you strike a work/life balance?
The pressures of extensive business travel can be challenging. Prioritising time with family is very important to me. It helps me maintain balance.

6. What is your vision for the CA(SA) profession?
I would like to see it remain one of the preeminent financial qualifications, with continued and enhanced international
recognition.

7. What in your opinion is the biggest challenge facing the profession?
Certainly the standard of education in the country, along with ensuring that the qualification remains respected around the
world in the future. I spent nearly 14 years in the UK, during which I came to appreciate how well regarded SA qualified CAs(SA) are in the workplace. Their very strong and rigorous technical and commercial training is highly respected. I think it would be
nothing short of a travesty if this enviable reputation was lost due to reducing the standards of the qualification.

8. What advice do you have for future CAs(SA) (youth and trainees)?
There’s no getting around the importance of consistent and hard work, combined with a broader commercial outlook
and understanding. The CA(SA) qualification provides many exciting opportunities. I would encourage prospective CAs(SA) to think creatively and keep their options open. Excellent written and verbal communication skills are also valuable assets.

9. What do you find the most challenging or stimulating about your role and as a CA(SA)?
My position offers a variety of challenges, including the development of diverse relationships with shareholders, banks, our Board, Exco colleagues, partners and internal teams. I find establishing connections with people to be stimulating, and it stretches me personally. We cannot work in a vacuum, therefore networking and collaboration are great skills to have in one’s arsenal.

10. What do you do in your free time?
I spend free time with my family and am also a sports junkie. I enjoy mountain biking and watching most sports.

11. What is in your opinion the biggest advantage of being a CA(SA)?
The qualification provides a great grounding and it can open up incredible opportunities in numerous areas. They are there for the taking for those who want them.

12. When asking colleagues how would they describe you?
As a person of integrity, I hope, who is dedicated, hardworking, trustworthy, reasonable, decisive and willing to share knowledge.

13. Have you had a mentor? If you have, please share a lesson you’ve learned from him/her?
My approach has been to be open to learning from various people throughout my career.

14. Do you mentor others? What do you teach them?
My philosophy is to try and support others to do their job well, and to provide constructive feedback that helps them be successful and grow. ❐

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