They all took on the big role of shaping the SAICA of today and formulating the goals for tomorrow. SAICA’s past chief executive officers are experienced leaders with edifying views about the profession and the Institute. Accountancy SA looks at some of the memories and wisdom of some of our past CEOs – insights that have been guiding the profession over the decades and influence the directions towards tomorrow.
Kenneth (Ken) Mockler became the first chief executive of SAICA when it was formed in 1980 and remained in the position until 2000, thus taking on the major role of steering the organisation through its earliest years and initiating many important initiatives. Today Ken is retired. After leaving SAICA, he served on a number of committees of statutory and non-profit organisations, providing financial and governance consultancy services.
He says that the key issues while in his role as CEO of SAICA were ‘overcoming provincial resistance to SAICA, particularly from KwaZulu-Natal’.Furthermore, there was also the ‘introduction of allowing advertising against strong opposition and the introduction of practice reviews – also against strong opposition’. The young organisation had many challenges: among others, the CEO had to maintain international involvement and the energy he put into this culminated in his election to the board of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC).
Mockler also mentions another one of his main challenges as ‘increasing the number of black members. When I started there was one.’ Today, he says, the biggest challenge is ‘to change the negative perception caused by the poor and sometimes dishonest work done by members in recent years. If this can be done, the CA(SA) can regain its premier position.’
His wishes for SAICA today and tomorrow include to ‘do whatever is needed to ensure ethical behaviour and improve the effectiveness, transparency and speed of the disciplinary process. This was weak when I was CEO and it has not significantly improved since,’ he laments.
He believes the COVID-19 pandemic and other current events will have an effect on the profession and accelerate some developments: ‘The profession will become more digitalised. For example, audit firms will be able to use staff in remote countries to help do audits at peak times using staff having a slacker time.’
Mockler suggests that the profession will remain relevant if they keep up to date with the latest technology – and chartered accountants should ensure they know what is happening in the rest of the world.
Ignatius Sehoole served as CEO of SAICA from 2000 to 2009. Since May 2019 he has been the CEO at KPMG and ‘focusing on positioning it as the most trusted and trustworthy professional services firm’.
Sehoole singles out ‘the establishment of the Thuthuka programme specifically and the involvement of SAICA in nation-building activities in general’ as a highlight of his term of office. He also mentions ‘the role that we played as SAICA in positioning the profession as Number One in the world in terms of financial reporting as rated by the World Economic Forum (WEF)’.
In a tribute to Sehoole, the then chairperson of SAICA, Hester Hickey, praised the fact that he ‘has transformed the organisation’s focus into one that is striving to be member-centric, ensuring that all constituencies are included in its service offerings’. Specifically, there was his passion for transformation, with Thuthuka as a particular passion and the fact that
‘he recognised before many others that SAICA needed also to focus on members in business and the small firms’.
Sehoole maintains that today ‘the biggest challenge is for the profession is to regain the public trust; to be revered as the profession with the strongest possible integrity which always serves public interest no matter what’.
He believes that leaders, especially in business, should serve public interest unreservedly to be able to stay relevant, and adds that COVID-19 ‘will accelerate the transformation of the profession into more use of technology that is artificial intelligence (AI) driven. Sooner rather than later, the profession will use mainly its analytic and professional judgement skills – more than the technical skills.’
Sehoole agrees with others on the issue of standards and ethics, and one of his wishes for the Institute is that that ‘SAICA would position itself in a way that will enable them to speedily and ruthlessly deal with errant members’.
Matsobane Matlwa was SAICA’s CEO from 2009 until 2014. Today he runs his own consulting company focusing on strategy facilitation and is a non-executive director of companies while also serving on various audit and risk committees.
Matlwa remembers that ‘during my time as CEO I found that international SAICA members were very active in their institutions. They were always challenging the relevance of SAICA membership to their professional lives. With the transformation of SAICA, international members were eager to see that their interests were taken into account. In the many interactions I had with them, the issue of maintaining the value of the qualification of CA(SA) was often raised.’
He adds that ‘another of significance was the support I received from the management team. They were very committed to the values of the institution and driven by a common purpose. This made my role much easier.’
The issue of values is significant: ‘During my time as SAICA CEO, chartered accountants were trusted because the CA(SA) brand was very strong. Currently, the profession is faced with a lot of credibility issues that were caused by a small number of members who failed to act in line with our profession values. We, as the profession, will need to do a lot to regain the trust of all stakeholders.’
Referring to the key focus of leadership, Matlwa says: ‘One must be careful not to treat leaders with the CA(SA) qualification differently from others. All leaders, including CAs, must remember that their existence and relevance is driven largely by how much value they are adding to other people’s lives – be it at home, at work, at church or anywhere else. I believe that all leaders must stay up to date in their respective fields and always be ready to embrace change in whatever form it comes.’
In terms of COVID-19, he remarks it is ‘affecting everybody in one way or the other. The profession is not immune to the current pandemic experienced by the country and the world at large. The profession is part of the whole and because of that, members are experiencing the hardships like any other stakeholder. We will all have to adapt to the new normal and I notice that SAICA is aligning to the new normal by taking advantage of technology with the use of online webinars and the like.’
He hopes that ‘SAICA continues doing what they are doing because they are doing the right things. SAICA is an important part of the profession and should always remember that it carries the hopes and dreams of many people. Good luck for the future!’
Terence Mncedisi Nombembe CA(SA), immediate past CEO of SAICA, was Auditor-General of South Africa from 2006 to 2013. His five-year term at the helm of SAICA’s management came to an end on 31 January 2019 when the current CEO, Mr Freeman Nomvalo, took over the role.
Nombembe’s service to the country and leadership – qualities highly valued by SAICA – have been highlighted by the fact that, from March 2018, he has again been serving the country on secondment to the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
One of the most testing periods for Nombembe as a leader came in 2017. Following ongoing media reports of purported unethical behaviour by chartered accountants, he spoke on behalf of SAICA: ‘The chartered accountancy profession is absolutely committed to upholding the ethical standards expected of members as set out in the SAICA Code of Professional Conduct.’ Nombembe also confirmed that safeguarding the integrity of the CA(SA) designation was essential to ensure investor confidence in the capital markets of South Africa and hence the economy.
The maintenance of ethical standards and compliance with the SAICA Code of Professional Conduct, backed up by a credible and fair disciplinary process, remains a non-negotiable for SAICA.
Nombembe also maintained that, as an organisation for its members, SAICA had to contribute to ensuring the success of South Africa as an attractive investment destination, as well as contributing to nation-building. ‘We do so by ensuring world-class accounting, auditing and tax standards are maintained, as well as by contributing to nation-building through our proactive initiatives to improve the governance of organisations we are requested to assist.’
In terms of leadership, Terence Nombembe has often stressed the key strategic focus of SAICA to collaborate, both internally and externally, for the benefit of its members and the profession. Among others, in 2017 the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants and SAICA announced an agreement to further advance the accounting profession in South Africa by broadening access to their professional qualifications and resources.
Through the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), the association offers an expedited pathway to the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation for SAICA members who meet experience and exam requirements.
‘We need to work together with our stakeholders, such as CIMA, to ensure we offer the best to our members. That is how we will live up to the task of enhancing the value to our profession, as set out in SAICA’s vision 2020,’ Nombembe commented.