Last, but definitely not least!
These nineteen young professionals have not only successfully pursued their dreams to become CAs(SA), but they have all excelled and moved swiftly through the ranks. They now either hold prestigious positions or, being entrepreneurs at heart, have boldly ventured out taking risks to open their very own practices or companies.
Most inspiring of all is at the core of each of these Top 35-under-35s’ vision for their future is a vision of being more than just themselves. Already making a difference in the lives of those around them, they continue to aspire to make the world a better place.
The formal judging process has taken place and all the finalists have been invited to attend a grand cocktail evening where the winner will be proudly announced.
Private Equity Transactor at RMB Private / RMB Ventures
In the December holidays after Mbongeni’s matric year, his brother helped him to get a job as a cashier, packer and ‘shelf manager’ at a Clicks store. He earned R5 an hour, but for some reason or other the temporary staff were limited to working a maximum of five hours a day. His transport to work and back cost him R22,50, leaving him with a meagre R2,50 for his hard day of labour.
‘That was my first lesson in real-life economics. My mate, who worked with me and is also a CA now, and I still laugh about it.’
Mbongeni grew up in Soweto and from an early age faced challenges such as a lack of facilities, long distances to schools with inadequate infrastructure, and an unstable teaching environment.
‘I would say I overcame these through determination and discipline (a strong parent with a “firm hand” played a major role as well). I had an end goal in mind and constantly reminded myself of it.’
Some of Mbongeni’s milestones: ‘Being awarded a Golden Key certificate in 2002 in my second year of varsity. Working in foreign territory, as there are great life lessons to be learnt – I encourage everyone to do it. Joining a private equity firm straight out of articles, which is extremely rare.’
Today Mbongeni is a private equity transactor at RMB Ventures, which he labels as a major milestone in his career. He is also one of the founding members of the Tirisano Foundation, an institution he and a group of other young professionals founded in 2011. The foundation has been working with Grade 8 to 12 pupils in Soweto for over three years now with a focus on increasing the number of professionals and entrepreneurs emanating from Soweto. Proudly, Tirisano has seen its first group of matriculants enter tertiary education this year.
In-between serving on boards of RMB’s portfolio companies, Mbongeni also serves as an executive member of Tirisano responsible for partnerships and fundraising.
His dream: ‘I would like to see, at a minimum, one postgraduate per Soweto household by 2035. And I would like to play my part in that.’
MULALO MARTIN MUDAU
Managing Director at Harvest Chartered Accountants
Martin credits his accounting teacher, the late Mr Sabatha, as the person who first introduced his class to the CA(SA) profession in Grade 8. Coincidentally, in the same high school class sat his close friend Justice Muhanelwa, who also qualified as a CA(SA), and is now his business partner at Harvest CA.
‘As a young boy from a disadvantaged background, my options seemed limited until that day. That was the start of many late nights spent working towards that dream.’
Martin started his first year at Wits University at the age of 16. Although it was a difficult time financially for his family, he was fortunate to receive a study bursary from KPMG in his third year. After qualifying as a CA(SA), Martin moved to the Corporate Finance division where he stayed for 18 months before moving to Unisa to take up a position as senior lecturer in auditing. The position offered flexible hours with a fixed income.
‘Having just married and with a little one on the way, I felt this would be the perfect environment to pursue my entrepreneurial ambitions with the financial stability it provided.’ One of Martin’s breakthrough moments was being appointed in joint partnership with KPMG to provide project advisory services to the City of Tshwane on its BRT business plan.
‘This was during my tenure at Unisa and I had just established Malamba Enterprise Development Services, later rebranded to Harvest Chartered Accountants. It was our first project, which gave us a significant advantage towards achieving financial growth and stability.’
Since then, the company has grown to achieve sustainability and create employment across five branches in Limpopo, North West and Gauteng. Harvest Chartered Accountants currently employs 42 permanent and 24 contract employees. The Harvest Group in total employs over 80 staff members.
Martin serves on two USAASA (Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa) board committees. He is one of the new trustees and donors that resuscitated a school in the informal settlement of Ramaphosa, which had been shut down after allegations of fraud.
CFO and Director of TaxTim
When Marc was a youngster, his uncle, also a CA(SA), used to talk to him about articles explaining – and also complaining – that they were the most boring time of his career but also the time when he learnt the most.
To Marc, too, those three years of articles proved to be some of the best work experience in the financial industry: ‘I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time on brokerage clients and private equity, which I really enjoyed. Having always wanted to specialise in tax and with my extra qualifications, I was called upon to perform tax work on several of my clients’ audits while only being a second-year clerk.’ In his third year of articles, he moved into the tax department for a short stint, confirming the specialisation he wanted to be in.
In mid-2011 Marc and a friend (now his business partner) entered a competition to be part of a start-up incubator being established in Cape Town by Google. Their idea was to develop an online digital tax assistant. They were selected as one of three among the 650 applications, leading them to successfully establish their company TaxTim, the world’s first consumer digital tax assistant.
Since 2011, they have helped over 1,5 million South African taxpayers have their tax questions answered and understand, complete or ultimately file their tax returns.
‘Everything we learnt and were exposed to as a CA(SA) are tools and fantastic building blocks for an entrepreneur to have, but nothing could have prepared me for this journey. The thrill of seeing your idea turn into something that works and is successful is fantastic, but what’s more, is seeing that it actually helps people daily with something that is difficult for them, which I think is the greatest achievement.’
Marc lost his mother (which Marc says was his greatest loss) at a pivotal time in his career and when the stresses of being an entrepreneur were at its height. Sadly both his sister and then his father also passed away. ‘When you lose a loved one you are faced with a choice – either to sink into despair or to swim forward. I’ve always chosen to swim …’
Marketing Director at Home of Living Brands (Pty) Ltd
Marion Kearns says the furthest thing from her mind when she was a kid was spreadsheets and decision-making. ‘I spent a lot of time in the bush with my family when I was growing up and of course, all I wanted to be was a game ranger. I’m still passionate about the bush but wrangling negotiations, budgets and deadlines is more up my alley.’
To date, Marion’s greatest highlight has been her appointment as a director of Home of Living Brands, a group specialising in the sales and marketing of branded household durables. She lays claim to being the youngest director in the history of the company, as well as the first female director.
After returning from working in Bermuda and London for four years in the investment management field, she decided to broaden her horizons. Home of Living Brands lived up to her expectations. ‘I worked as group accountant for just under two years, and when the chance to move into the marketing department arose, I jumped at it.’
Within six months Marion was promoted to marketing executive and a year after that appointed as marketing director. In July 2013, the company was acquired by Bidvest. She has since learnt many invaluable lessons through being exposed to top management through board meetings.
One of her greatest lessons: ‘Not to get lost in the details and to keep the big picture in mind, because I have the ability to paint the big picture! That, and there is not much that can’t be solved by sitting down and talking it through with someone you respect over a cup of tea (or a bottle of wine).’
In her current role, Marion is actively involved in the allocation and justification of the company’s CSI spend. She also supports several charities financially, including the Starfish Greathearts Foundation.
‘In the environment in which I work, the sky is the limit, and I’d like to keep challenging myself and setting new goals.’
PIETER (COBUS) GROVÉ
CFO at DigiCore Holdings Limited
At the age of 31 Cobus Grové was appointed as CFO of DigiCore Holdings Limited, which is listed on the main board of the JSE and has an international footprint in more than 55 countries. Since joining the company, Cobus has been part of the team that has seen the company’s share price increase with 225%. In May 2015, Cobus was nominated as CFO of the year for the best turnaround strategy implemented for the year, young CFO of the year, and compliance CFO of the year. He won the category of compliance CFO of the year with Mervin King handing him his award.
Cobus completed his training contract at Deloitte and remained with the firm for a year as manager specialising in the application of IFRS. He was also seconded to SAICA where he managed the implementation of the Statement of GAAP for SMEs and doing training courses on behalf of SAICA.
He then moved to Innovation Group (a subsidiary of a UK-listed entity) where he was appointed as the Executive: Finance Department. During this period, Cobus was also appointed to the Accounting Practices Committee of SAICA for three years and continued lecturing the accounting honours programme of NSOA. He decided to move to the University of Johannesburg (UJ) as a senior lecturer in accounting on the accounting honours programme.
Cobus was then appointed as an associate director at EY specialising in the interpretation and application of IFRS for two years. DigiCore Holdings Limited, a company listed on the main board of the JSE, then approached Cobus to become the group CFO / financial director where he is responsible for the finance function of the group.
Cobus is a standing member of SAICA’s Accounting Practices Committee (APC), the JSE Financial Reporting Investigation Panel (FRIP), and the SAICA ad hoc committee of corporate law.
His ultimate way of relaxing after a stressful day is taking his children to the park and letting them impress him on the jungle gym.
PIETER VAN NIEKERK
Group Deputy CFO at Ascendis Health Group Limited
Pieter van Niekerk completed his school career in Bloemfontein with an average A symbol. His parents, Ben and Rosemary, taught him that there is either a right or a wrong way, but no grey area. He set out ambitiously pursuing a career with this kind of integrity and moral code.
Pieter received his degree cum laude at the University of the Free State becoming a Golden Key Honours Society member. He started his articles at PwC Bloemfontein in 2008 and was later seconded to the USA with the opportunity of seeing 22 states and 54 cities and towns, plus experiencing a listing on the New York stock exchange.
‘New York is one of my favourite cities in the world, and I still remember standing in Times Square planning the next five years of my life. Some of my most challenging projects were debt refinances, which were done in the USA after the global economic problems following 2010. It was a fascinating time in the world economy and I learned a lot of lessons both on a professional and personal level.’
Over the course of his career, Pieter has managed teams with over 100 members in multiple countries and locations to complete projects and assignments successfully. He has also been involved in multiple listings on various stock exchanges.
At PwC Pieter won two experience awards and left in 2012 on managerial level to join Ascendis. ‘What I enjoyed most about completing my articles in a Big 4 firm in a smaller town, is that you get exposed to various industries and different sizes of entities, which broadens one’s horizons and adds a huge amount of experience to one’s life.’
At the age of 29 Pieter was promoted to Deputy CFO of Ascendis. Holding the kuduzela the day Ascendis listed on the JSE was one of the highlights of his career. The listing was also one of the most challenging projects he’s been involved in.
‘The share price grew by more than 40% since listing and we are heading towards completing our second year of listing.’
Financial Controller: Commercial at Simba/PepsiCo
It was in a Cosmopolitan magazine his sister had bought where Aubrey first read about the profession. ‘It had profiled some CAs(SA) in different industries, including an asset manager who was earning R800K. I divided that amount by 12 and thought the CA profession was heaven on earth!’
Blessed with amazing opportunities throughout his life, he says did not follow the usual route to being a CA(SA): ‘For one, I took a sabbatical during my undergraduate years, and worked as National Vice-President for Finance at AIESEC South Africa. Through my work there I had an opportunity, after graduating, to move to Canada as a valuations assistant at KPMG, being exposed to the exciting world of mergers and acquisitions.’
As part of his articles at SABMiller, he was seconded to Internal Audit. One of the financial managers that he audited was impressed with his performance and Aubrey soon found himself permanently placed as a financial planner in the ABI division of SAB, charged with the primary role of establishing a strong internal control environment. After qualifying as a CA(SA), he was given an additional role as the financial accountant.
More recently, Aubrey filled the role of Financial Controller: Commercial at PepsiCo/Simba for five years with two departments reporting to it and a total staff complement of about 30.
In his PepsiCo role, he also had direct access to the executive management team, including regular presentations to the CEO. This role proved to be both challenging and fulfilling. He was then given the opportunity to head the Internal Control division within PepsiCo to be strategically exposed to more areas of the business while expanding his influence to the wider leadership team, inside and outside South Africa.
Aubrey has been involved in education interventions to supplement public education at township schools and to expose learners to the world of work while motivating them to dream big. As co-founder of The Hub, Aubrey has been part of creating and launching a space in the Johannesburg CBD where social entrepreneurship can strive and grow, particularly for marginalised communities.
Senior Financial Manager at Barloworld Motor Retail
Pamella Marlowe says that as a young black woman in the CA(SA) profession, she has had to work extra hard to get where she is today, especially believing in her capabilities and not being intimidated. Recently convincing a panel of esteemed judges that, irrespective of her height, she is a role model has seen her to being selected out of 100 semi-finalists as one of the 25 Mrs South Africa finalists for 2015.
After articles, she joined the international tax department at PwC, which inspired her to register for the HDipTax qualification. She then joined McCarthy as a divisional financial manager and at the age of 29 years she was promoted to franchise financial director with the distinction of being the first black person as well as the youngest to fill this position. She has been featured in the Destiny magazine Power of 40 feature in 2011, which recognises 40 women under the age of 40 to look out for in their respective industries.
Pamella’s most recent career highlight is being made CFO of RO Metrics Trading (Pty) Ltd, a subsidiary of Barloworld South Africa, while still filling her role as senior financial manager at Barloworld Motor Retail Head Office.
Her advice: ‘Job hopping is not great for your career. Learn as much as you can in your company or job and reassess after three years to determine if you are ready for a move or another challenge.’
She is – and always has been – passionate about giving back to the community. She was a tutor at university and today she mentors young girls. She is also associated with Ependy Angels, an organisation that raises awareness of childhood cancers and also offers support.
‘I also have my own initiatives, which include doing a Youth Day drive in Alexandra where I got food and clothes donated for a home in Alex.’
‘Winning Mrs South Africa 2015 would be a dream come true.’
RYAN LEE SMITH
Partner and Director at Nolands Jhb Inc
Ryan sums up his greatest achievement as not one but three major achievements culminating in one month, February 2012. In that month he became the proud father of his first-born child, qualified as a CA(SA), and at the age of 28 was appointed a partner to Nolands.
In 2007 he joined Nolands, not realising this would become his future. In 2011/12, after being consistently successful in his studies while also working, he was offered and accepted a partnership in the firm. ‘I could see the passion in the Nolands family for the brand, the growth potential in the group and the great entrepreneurial spirit that flows through the organisation – Not Your Ordinary Auditors.’ What he enjoys most is the opportunity to assist clients in finding solutions for their needs – a Nolands credo – and the opportunity of guiding and developing the future economic leaders and CAs(SA) in the firm.
At the age of 23, along with three (now) fellow CA(SA)s, the Loaded Corporation was created. They own a number of townhouses in Johannesburg and are looking to enter the commercial space. They also have plans to enter the venture capital market, as ‘we want to start investing in start-ups and new ideas’.
In 2008 Ryan assisted his wife to open her crèche, Gummi Gardens Daycare. This year they made a move to expand and were successful with the acquisition of a second crèche.
As a result of his father being retrenched, Ryan has also launched a landscaping business, Simpli-Pro Landscapes. ‘I started this by purchasing an existing operation. The company has found good traction, and we will be looking to acquire and latch on another smaller company early next year.’
Ryan and his wife’s gratification comes from being able to currently provide 90 direct jobs.
Ryan describes himself as being driven, disciplined, focused and passionate. ‘Although this doesn’t sound like it goes hand in hand with these, I also have to be having fun at all times. Work hard – play harder.’
Partner at Nkonki
Being the first female in her family to go to university, Sangeeta registered as a CA(SA) at the age of 24. She chose the Auditor-General for her articles knowing that she will be auditing the public sector. Sangeeta soon realised that auditing in the public sector is the most fulfilling job with the opportunity to promote transparency and accountability through her profession.
In 2010, at the age of 29, Sangeeta was approached by Nkonki to build the firm’s staff capacity around the public sector as a lead audit partner. She not only passed on the knowledge of auditing the public sector but also ensured that she sparked the passion for making a difference through auditing in the public sector in those she trained and coached. She is currently in this role as audit partner and chairs the recruitment committee at Nkonki. She also fulfilled the role of board member and chaired the audit committee of a JSE AltX-listed company.
With her involvement in the public sector, Sangeeta identified the need for more guidance in aligning legislative responsibilities against individual actions. With this in mind Sangeeta championed and sponsored the first paper released by the Public Sector Audit Committee Forum: ‘I ensured that we bedded down the key challenges of those audit committee members for whom the forum was created for. I am still actively involved in this forum.’
Not stopping there, Sangeeta has utilised many platforms to present insights in the governance space such as presenting at the Annual Audit Committee Conference her tips gathered from experts in the industry relating to achieving effective governance.
Her current venture is championing the Public Sector Audit Committee Conference in September. ‘I intend on utilising this conference to ensure that public sector audit committees gain clear roadmaps to tackling the challenges faced by them through their oversight.’
‘What I believe would make South Africa a better country is by ensuring all get educated. Educating not only the children but everyone, will give them the knowledge of understanding impact and cause. It will transform their lives, and transform South Africa.’
Business Performance Specialist at Barclays ABSA
A highlight for Rayhaan during his training contract at Deloitte Durban was a secondment to Corporate Finance where he assisted a ‘crown jewel client’ in preparation for a secondary listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
In January of 2009, Rayhaan accepted an offer from KPMG in Abu Dhabi, which is a leading advisor to the UAE government as well as financial institutions in the Middle East. Key assignments included professional services to the world’s second largest sovereign wealth fund, a newly established bank (which he would later join), advisory to private equities, and debt restructuring for Dubai government entities. In 2011 Rayhaan assumed a position in business development in the CEO’s office at Al Hilal Bank, a newly established Islamic bank owned by the government of Abu Dhabi.
‘In this space, I jointly set up and led the department, formulated the bank’s five-year strategic plan, prepared the annual business plans, and performed feasibility studies of international expansion and acquisitions. Corporate developmental initiatives included development of bank-wide policies and participation in project steering committees.’
His next role was to establish and lead the Balance Sheet Management Department, which reported into the Assets and Liability Committee. ‘In this area, Rayhaan implemented an end-to-end funds transfer pricing mechanism that included curve construction, behavioural analysis, drafting policies as well as full systems implementation.’
Other assignments included secondments to the Investment Banking Department on buy-side advisory transactions in Kazakhstan in the oil and gas sector, agriculture and commodities, and the bank’s sukuk issuances listed abroad. In a short space of time, Al Hilal Bank was ranked among the Top 10 among 52 UAE banks and Top 3 among eight Islamic banks.
Rayhaan recently returned to South Africa, where he has a role at Barclays in Business Performance and Analytics. In this space, Rayhaan redesigned the Exco performance reports, which have been well received and are now being rolled out across the group.
Rayhaan has shared some exciting plans for the future and has promised that Accountancy SA will be the first to share those with you.
Co-founder of EpicCo
Fully aware of the commitment required to achieve a CA(SA) qualification, Ryan was prepared to do whatever it took to achieve it. During his second year at Tukkies, his commitment was put to the test when he was unable to continue with his studies due to financial constraints.
Putting his studies on hold for a while was a tough decision.
‘In 2003 I went to the UK on a one-year working visa, working odd jobs (potato picker, security guard, and barman) to make enough money to buy a City Golf on my return to South Africa.’
With his new car, he set out on a quest to complete his studies and articles simultaneously, making up for lost time. With only the first year of his degree under the belt, he knew that finding a firm that would give him an opportunity would be tough. He eventually found a small firm in Johannesburg and within four years he had managed to complete his degree through Unisa, pass his CTA exam, and complete his articles.
Soon after that a close varsity friend and Ryan decided to start their own accounting and advisory firm. ‘His father owned a few Pick n Pay stores, and we thought we could start by providing our services to his stores and grow the business from there.
‘Our business would involve providing services to SMEs, which was what I had been exposed to for the past four years, and so, yes was my answer!’
In 2009, EpicCo was born and shortly after that Ryan passed his board exams.
‘Six years later, we are servicing brands such as Pick n Pay, Foodlover’s Market, Engen, Liquor City, Total, BP, Chesa Nyama, and more.
We have a staff complement of 40, we have a satellite office in Gaborone, Botswana, a new office in Cape Town, and we recently started our recruitment division, EpicRecruit.’
Another highlight will be the launch of their recently developed smartphone tax app EpicTax: ‘We hope that this interface improves the working class’s interaction with tax practitioners and smooths the tax return filing process.’
Financial Executive at Aveng Infraset
Thobeka’s mother has been her inspiration to succeed. She says that from humble beginnings, her mother has excelled academically and professionally in her space as a scientist. She taught her to push frontiers, never to succumb to defeat – and most of all, to be proud to be Thobeka. Thobeka started her career with Sasol Chemical Industries In Sasolburg in 2004.
‘My association with Sasol started in 1999 when I was awarded a full bursary for my BCom undergraduate studies. I always tell people Sasol was the best training ground for my articles. Its vast variety of operations and commitment to the TOPP [Training Outside Public Practice] programme shaped me to be who I am today.’
In 2008, she moved to Coca-Cola South Africa. ‘This is truly a global organisation. During my time with the company I travelled to Istanbul, Atlanta in the USA, and Ghana. This truly gave me an international experience.’
Nominated in 2010 to represent South Africa in the Eurasia Africa Group Women Leadership Programme, she had an opportunity to build relations with women from Egypt to Russia. She worked with Rashied Bardien, TOPP programme sponsor, to grow the TOPP programme in the company. She was also identified and appointed financial services manager to the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, a corporate social investment non-profit organisation with a multi-million-rand annual grant budget. ‘Our continent is the next growth story. Therefore barriers such as access to clean water and malaria prevention initiatives supported by the foundation resonated with me. This was a secondary hat I took with passion and commitment to help positively shape our continent.’
At the end of 2011, Thobeka moved to Aveng Manufacturing, based at the head office, where she is responsible for operating group reporting and financial management. In November 2013 she was appointed as the financial executive at Aveng Infraset. This is the biggest business unit (in excess of R1 billion) within Aveng Manufacturing. In this role, Thobeka leads a team of 34 people and has to hold the financial reins of a challenging business with 12 factories throughout Southern Africa. She has been driving transformation in the business by employing people from previously disadvantaged backgrounds and mentoring the finance graduate interns.
Co-founder and CEO of Lulalend
Post-articles, Trevor decided to leave auditing and enter the glossy world of investment banking. He spent the next five years alternating between Rand Merchant Bank in Sandton and Goldman Sachs in London.
Trevor says his investment banking experience was invaluable, but he always wanted to build his own businesses. In 2010 his brother and business partner started what became Groupon SA with Trevor helping out on certain financial aspects.
‘I witnessed first-hand the phenomenal growth that they achieved. At this point I realised that the online space was where I needed to be and this inspired me to leave investment banking at the end of 2011 and get busy with my first start-up, 5ounces.’ Being told that as an entrepreneur he shouldn’t expect a salary for the first few months, he went on without any income for almost 18 months, investing a large amount of his personal capital into the business.
‘It was difficult never being certain that there was light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a huge adjustment to go from a solid investment banking salary to struggling to pay my rent, all the time being niggled by the thought that I could simply give up and go back into banking and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.’
Trevor overcame this challenge through his spiritual faith and support from his family and wife, Rae, with the company becoming one of South Africa’s fastest growing e-commerce businesses.
‘We were acquired by Naspers – one of my biggest career achievements to date. I spent another year running 5ounces, assisting with integration into the Naspers group, where the online business continued to flourish.’
Trevor then began searching for his next opportunity. He wanted to build a company that merged his experience in financial services together with his newly found knowledge of the digital world and solve a very real problem – the SME financing shortfall on the continent. This resulted in the birth of Lulalend, Africa’s first online automated provider of business funding. ‘We had a very successful launch and raised investment from both local and international venture capitalists – another career highlight for me because although it may sound sexy, this involved much prayer, sweat and tears!’
Senior Lecturer and Departmental Community Engagement Coordinator at UJ
Stephanie Venter describes herself as someone who would rather wear flowers in her hair than pearls around her neck. She is also a great fan of adventures.
‘In 2011 I put my career on hold for six months to travel Botswana, Namibia and Zambia with my best friend (who happens to be my husband). A small tent, tinned food, a car with a lot of personality, and the most beautiful African sunsets you could imagine. Best decision we ever made.’
Stephanie kicked off her career as an academic article clerk in the Department of Accountancy at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). She continued her articles at Deloitte, which she says had an amazing learning environment, specifically the Entrepreneurial Services division. Here she was awarded the Deloitte National Top Achiever for Overall Contribution to Society and the Environment category winner for the year ended November 2010.
After a two-year season as a management accountant at the Aurum Institute, she returned again to UJ as a lecturer. Here she founded and facilitated a host of noteworthy initiatives, one being the launch of the #UJGr8Deb8.
‘At UJ I was lucky to launch the #UJGr8Deb8m, which equips students to be leaders in the workplace. Groups are upskilled to the point of open, unregulated and professional debate on relevant ethical dilemmas.’
In 2013, Stephanie was chosen for the first of what would be two life-changing terms with the Kliptown Youth Programme, which forms part of the Vodacom Change the World programme. ‘Our mandate was to start a career centre that would empower students to be the architects of their own exit strategy out of poverty.’
Her dreams for the future: ‘As long as there is breath in my lungs, I will have dreams and goals to achieve. My goal is to see more individuals switched on to the possibility of connecting with needs and causes. Service is probably the single most important ingredient to job and life satisfaction. I also hope to see a visible change in the quality of South African education soon.’
She believes strongly in the principle: ‘If serving is below you, leadership is beyond you.’
Projects Executive of Shell South Africa
Already at the age of five Taki Nkhumeleni set up her own little business selling chips and sweets. A love for business and a great desire to help people, she says, is perhaps the reason she has such an incredible passion for economic development.
‘Most people tend to think that all accountants want to be CFOs as their end goal. The last time I did traditional accounting work was for two years after my articles. After that, I chose to go for business strategy projects, mergers and acquisitions, and designing business and operating models.’
Having completed her articles at SABMiller helped pave the way to step out of the so-called ‘traditional’ CA(SA) route and expand her horizons into unique corporate challenges.
‘My passion for the developments in our continent steered me towards a career involving other African countries and as such, I positioned myself to get exposed to the rest of the continent through FirstRand Africa and Deloitte Africa Consulting.’
At FirstRand, Taki gained valuable experience in executing strategic projects to support the bank’s expansion projects. Her highlight was being a project manager for the Nigeria expansion project to diversify the group and access new markets. This gave her unique opportunities to work with accomplished leaders like the CEO of FirstRand Limited, Sizwe Nxasana, and his leadership team. After FirstRand, Taki moved to Deloitte as manager at Deloitte Africa Consulting, which operates 34 offices in the continent servicing 51 African states. Her focus was to drive the Africa strategy in the 51 states and thought leadership eminence.
Taki joined Shell SA in 2013 as projects executive with a role that includes strategy, mergers and acquisitions, operations support, and B-BBEE transformation. She is involved in the private sector reform by creating opportunities and supporting SMEs through Shell’s Enterprise Development Fund Board of Governors. She also served on the board of Blendcor (Pty) Ltd, a lubricants JV between Shell and BP.
Taki believes that we need to harness the power of the youth (65% of the population) through education and skills development that provides sustainable and quality jobs to eradicate poverty.
‘Be yourself. Success and excellence require 100% participation, 100% commitment, and consistency.’
Group Financial Director at Studio 88
As a kid, Wiets loved numbers and was always counting anything he could. He had different little businesses throughout his childhood.
‘I traded toy cars when I was very young, sold consumables in primary school and by the time I finished high school I had a micro-lending business. I enjoyed working with money and knew what I wanted to do from a very early age.’
Wiets completed his articles outside public practice at FirstRand. ‘They have a wonderful programme, so by the time I finished my articles I had real practical experience. At FirstRand TOPP you get rotated in various roles in different business units and after my articles I was offered a role in one of my rotations, Treasury (it was rebranded FICC and later Global Markets).
Being in Treasury – which Wiets calls the bank’s engine room – proved to be very insightful. Thriving in this exciting environment, he received regular promotions and ended up as finance head of the RMB commodities division.
‘At that stage I started to feel I needed to make a bigger impact in a smaller organisation. One of my mentors introduced me to the chairman of Studio 88, who was looking for a dynamic young CA(SA) to build the finance function in his business.’
At Studio 88, South Africa’s largest branded clothing retailer in men’s clothes, Wiets has gone on to build a world-class finance function that had been non-existent when he started four years ago. It operates more than 300 outlets and Wiets has helped set up subsidiaries in five African countries. He has also successfully facilitated, negotiated and implemented a private equity transaction between Studio 88 and Rand Merchant Bank, including a management buy-in.
‘The company had never had a CFO and I had to prove why it was not only a necessity but an asset. I had to slowly chip away at misconceptions and introduce value-adding processes without compromising the ethos of the business.’
His ultimate goal has always been to be the FD of a listed or large entity and his aim is to continue building Studio 88 into large retail group.
Director of Boshoff & Moore
After articles, Wuanita joined a wine-producing and -exporting company, Overhex Wines International, as their financial manager. In late 2007 she decided to return to her first love, auditing, and joined BGR Jacobs and Partners as an audit manager.
In 2011 her career took a surprising turn after she was diagnosed with seropositive rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease that targets primarily the joints and even other parts of the body. Although not curable, RA is treatable, and early detection is vital in preventing joint damage.
‘Luckily the disease, which has left many RA sufferers unable to work after 15 years, was detected in the early stages and with the help of great doctors I had the opportunity to view it as a wake-up call rather than a life sentence. I am passionate about creating RA awareness, and I have even been healthy enough to run half-marathons!’
Wuanita realised she needed to move forward and achieve her career goals with more urgency, and resigned as an audit manager at BGR Jacobs & Partners. She joined Etienne Boshoff as a partner, where she successfully helped establish Boshoff & Moore Incorporated. They have since doubled their team to employ 18 dedicated staff members.
‘Our client base has steadily grown with 15% per annum, and we maintained a stable increase of billable hours of between 16% and 18% per year.
‘We believe this success in growth is due to the reliable services we offer at a reasonable price, creating value for our clients.’
Boshoff & Moore is the registered auditor of over 35 charities. ‘Our role entails conducting yearly audits at reduced rates as well as supporting them with free consultations and advice. I am personally involved with all the NPO and PBO audits and truly believe by doing so we are uplifting our community in areas where funding and expertise are usually lacking, but much needed.’
Wuanita is the only registered female director among all auditing firms in the northern Boland. She attributes her success to having faith, hard work, and the support of her husband, colleagues, and domestic help.
Senior Lecturer in Accountancy at the University of Johannesburg
Zafeer’ s journey to leadership gained momentum after he graduated from Lenasia Secondary School as the district’s top performing learner in addition to being granted the school’s Dux Award for outstanding academic, leadership and volunteer work. At the University of Johannesburg (UJ) he became fascinated by the world of business and particularly, with stories of how small ventures that started out in garages or as humble family-owned stores later evolved into multinational behemoths of incredible size and influence. During his undergraduate years, he received a number of awards in the fields of auditing, economics, law and information systems. He completed his undergraduate degree cum laude with a cumulative aggregate of 91%. He then joined the Certificate in the Theory of Accounting (CTA) programme and completed his honours degree among the Top 10 in his class.
Zafeer worked as a journalist for the university’s newspaper. He also served in a number of leadership roles in the university through which he received excellence awards by leading corporations within the business sector. His professional career started as an academic trainee at UJ where he served and lectured on the advanced accounting programme for honours students pursuing the CA(SA) designation. Upon completing his traineeship at PwC, he qualified as a CA(SA) and at the age of 24 was appointed as a senior lecturer in UJ’s Department of Accountancy.
Upon completing his master’s degree in international accounting Zafeer began working on the department’s newly established accounting studies programme – a compulsory, research-based course for undergraduate students pursuing the CA(SA) designation. The course represents the first leadership programme of its kind in South Africa and is aimed at instilling in future CAs(SA) the skills and insights needed for dynamism, meaningful communication, and effective leadership in the context of executive level management and control. Zafeer was recognised through the Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Award at UJ for his work on the programme.
As a thought leader in the spheres of accounting theory, institutional accounting practice, integrated reporting and classroom pedagogy, Zafeer has published and presented his works at a host of conferences both locally and abroad.