This study is the first detailed analysis to look at
the profiles of CFOs at South Africa’s top listed
companies by market capitalisation, the JSE Top 40.
Our research has produced fascinating data about
the profiles of CFOs and the routes they have taken to
reach the top of their function. We have paid particular
attention to CFOs’ background, functional experience,
diversity, education and professional qualifications.
We also take a look at the CEOs of JSE Top 40
companies with backgrounds in finance leadership.
We end our report by comparing South African CFOs
with their counterparts in Australia, the UK and the US.
While our research reveals that their careers have taken a variety of trajectories, there is a conspicuous lack of diversity
among JSE 40 CFOs.
Nine (22.5%) of the TOP 40 CFOs are from a broadbased black ethnicity group.
Only three out of 40 CFOs are women. While the percentage
of female CFOs is low in most markets, the situation
in South Africa is of particularly concern.
Of those CFOs whose nationality we have been able to
confirm, only 15% are not South African nationals. These
five non-nationals come from Australia, Germany, Greece,
Netherlands and Zimbabwe.
JSE 40 CFOs range from 36 to 61 years old, with an average
age of 49. Two-thirds of CFOs are between 46 and 55
Internal vs. external appointments
Two-thirds of JSE Top 40 CFOs were appointed to their
roles from inside their companies. Leading South African
companies appear to have a strong enough pipeline to
enable a smooth succession in the leadership of the
finance function. They benefit from the continuity that
comes with appointing an internal candidate, as well as
the positive signals this sends to high-potential, future
leaders of the finance function.
Out of the seven CFOs appointed during 2017, four were
internal and three external candidates.
Development areas for companies to consider
With two-thirds of the current cohort of CFOs being internal appointees, many JSE Top 40 companies
appear to focus on finance talent management with an eye to CFO succession. However, we recommend
that all companies should be regularly reviewing their pipeline of high-potential finance professionals, steering
them towards the kind of roles that will position them to be credible candidates for CFO when the time
comes. We recommend that companies ask themselves the following questions:
- How do we encourage gender and ethnic diversity at all levels within our finance organisation?
- How do we expose high potentials to the challenges of high-impact communication and
- How do we make sure that our best finance professionals do not fall into the “specialisation trap”? How can we develop their skills and experience by offering them business or functional roles outside their comfort zone?
- How do we rotate high-potentials through roles in the corporate centre?
- How do we help finance professionals gain international exposure, especially experience living and
The average tenure of CFOs is 4.1 years. Those in the
financial services sector have the longest average tenure
at 5.2 years (the CFOs at Capitec Bank Holdings and
Investec have both been in the role for at least 15 years).
The current average tenure of internally appointed CFOs
is 4.4 years, compared with 3.5 years for external hires.
Internal vs external
Of the nine CFOs with prior experience as a Group CFO,
six were external and three were internal appointments.
While external hires were mainly drawn from the ranks of
CFOs and general management, around one quarter of
these appointments came out of professional services/
JSE Top 40 CEOs with CFO experience
- 13 of the current JSE Top 40 CEOs previously held a Group CFO role. Nine of these had been CFO of the same
company they now lead, and six were appointed to CEO directly from the CFO role.
- Two CEOs had been the CFO of a non-listed company, whereas 11 had JSE CFO experience.
- CEOs who had previously been CFO of the same company had served as CFO for 5.7 years on average before
taking on the top job.
Finance function experience
Nine of the JSE Top 40 CFOs (22.5%) had prior experience
as a Group CFO. 45% were either a group CFO or a
divisional/regional CFO immediately prior to their
appointment. A further 20% were in a managing director
or other general management role.
The current cohort of JSE Top 40 CFOs have occupied a
wide range of roles during the course of their careers.
78% have worked in a professional services firm, although
this is explained by the fact when most of the current
CFOs were starting out, a three-year stint at an audit firm
was a prerequisite for becoming a chartered accountant
in South Africa or for a career in finance. It is interesting
to note that while most CFOs have spent the majority of
their careers in finance roles, 61% of CFOs have had at
least one non-financial role during their career.
Forty-five percent of CFOs have worked outside South
Africa at some point in their careers.
Education & qualifications
Ninety percent of CFOs have a Chartered Accountant
qualification. 22.5% of CFOs have a postgraduate degree
(Masters, MBA or PhD).
All JSE Top 40 CFOs sit as executive directors on their own boards. Seven CFOs hold a non-executive directorship
on another listed company board; one CFO sits on two outside boards while another sits on four outside boards.
|Size of sample
||JSE Top 40
|Internal / external appointment
67.5% / 32.5%
49% / 51%
48% / 52%
62% / 38%
|% of women
|% of foreign citizen
||Divisional or Regional CFO
||Financial Planning and Analysis
||General Manager/Managing Director (including COO and Group/Regional/Divisional CEO)
||Corporate Development/Mergers & Acquisitions
||Group Financial controller
||Other Non-Finance (Banks, Non Finance Roles, etc.)
||Other Group Finance (Reporting, Accounting, Planning, Strategy, FP&A)
||Professional Services/Accounting Firms
||Other Finance Non-Group (Including Financial Reporting/Accounting/Control)
||Consumer goods and services
||Technology, media and telecommunications
Our in-depth research draws on information in the public domain and on our knowledge of
the backgrounds of individual CFOs. This has enabled us to examine specific roles that
CFOs have undertaken inside and outside the finance function, identify patterns and
consider the range of experience that may be required of CFOs in the future. The data is
based on an analysis of the JSE Top 40 companies incorporated in South Africa as at
1 March, 2018. In the case of CFOs who were promoted from interim or acting CFO roles,
we consider their start date when they began their interim role.