Lawyer Ansie Ramalho has been a crucial contributor to the accounting profession for the past 30 years. As chair of the King Committee, she is one of the country’s leading experts in corporate governance and is also a vastly experienced non-executive director. Ansie has made decisions for companies with billions invested into the capital markets and her expertise has guided the South African economy − all this while being a wife and mother. She currently serves as a professional non-executive director and is a consultant to the International Finance Corporation, a subsidiary of the World Bank.
Passionate about making the world a better place
Ansie firmly believes that corporate governance can and should be harnessed for the benefit of the economy, society and the natural environment.
‘I am passionate about the potential that everyone has to make the world a better place. It is not only about the big things but especially so in the many actions we take and the decisions we make in our everyday lives.’
The King Committee issues the guiding standards whereby organisations are directed and controlled, explains Ansie. ‘It recommends the practices, processes and structures that should be employed in that effort. My job as chair, then, is to lead the committee in putting forward effective guiding standards.’
The other aspect of chairing the King Committee has to do with its legitimacy. ‘It is not always well understood that the King Committee is a private, unincorporated body without legal power or formal governmental backing. Its licence to issue guiding standards is derived from its credibility in the eyes of its stakeholders, including regulators such as the JSE and IRBA and government entities like the Office of the Auditor-General and National Treasury.’
Anyone can make a difference
As chair, Ansie needs to ensure that these stakeholders are engaged, their input solicited and that relationships are built to strengthen the legitimacy and credibility of the King Committee.
‘Governance can be harnessed for the benefit of the environment and society. One of the key tenets of King IV is that organisations should be governed in a way that creates value for their stakeholders,’ she explains.
‘It places great emphasis on the effect that organisations have on society and the environment. It is for this reason that I maintain that corporate governance is a change agent and can be harnessed for the benefit of the environment and society.’
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are re-emphasising the focus on the organisation’s purpose and are affecting corporate reporting and disclosure significantly. Human capital governance has become more complex as a new generation of employees enters the corporate world with a new set of expectations, while the way organisations are run has changed significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finding balance is important
Finding balance when you have a busy, all-encompassing career seems out of reach for most people. However, Ansie seems to not only make it work, but she thrives in all her roles. And, as they say, you cannot do a good job if your job is all you do.
‘Being a wife and a mother in the main assisted with rather than detracted from my career. Children have a way of grounding a person regardless of whether one had a hard day or a good day at the office,’ says Ansie.
Her husband, George, is an insolvency practitioner. The couple has two sons, Joshua and Gabriel, who are 21 and 16 respectively. And Ansie not only loves finding a balance in her life, but she also appreciates the perspective it gives her.
‘I enjoy being creative by writing or sewing my own clothes or making something for the house. I love, love reading, whether it be history, biographies, spirituality or fiction.’
Finding a new perspective daily
‘There is nothing that gives a healthy dose of perspective on what is actually important in life than spending time with kids. As far as my husband is concerned, he supports in practical ways by carrying more than his fair share of duties at home and by always encouraging and believing in me. I am blessed, I know. And no, I cannot say that I ever really mastered work/life balance. I just do the best I can at any given time!’
Despite her strong involvement in the accountancy profession over the years, Ansie is not a CA(SA). ‘I did my BIuris and LLB degrees part time while working at the Department of Justice and immediately upon qualifying got employed at KPMG, where I stayed for 15 years.’
When she left KPMG to join the Institute of Directors South Africa (IoDSA), Ansie worked closely with the bigger firms who were all involved in various collaborative initiatives, including the drafting of King IV.
‘Since 2018 I have been serving as non-executive director at KPMG and so it seems that my destiny has been to work in the profession even though I am not a CA(SA) myself. I believe I am a more rounded person for having had this broader experience to complement my legal qualifications.’
Ansie’s advice for young CAs(SA)
Today, Ansie knows achievement is the result of hard work, but it is almost always also attributable to having had the support of others and having been at the right place at the right time. ‘Therefore, build connections with others, be alert to opportunities and take initiate,’ is her advice.
‘When we think about power it is usually in terms of being action orientated, logical and task driven. These are important. However, intuition, listening and reflecting are also forms of power that the world sorely needs.
‘Women are particularly good at wielding the latter type of power and if well balanced with the former, it is a super power.’