Scholtz Fourie has a demonstrated history of working in the travel and international chemical industries and in his role as CFO at Tourvest, he and his team have experienced and overcome the unchartered waters of the recent Covid lockdowns that affected most of the travel industry adversely.
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CIARAN RYAN: Scholtz Fourie is the chief financial officer at Tourvest Travel Services, which is South Africa’s foremost travel management company. After qualifying as a chartered accountant, Scholtz started his career as in internal auditor at the Bryanston head office of Omnia, which is a fertilizer and explosives manufacturer. There he focused on systems implementations and process, as well as financial control improvements. He spent six years with Omnia in Mauritius, first as commercial manager and later as commercial director. He returned to South Africa as general manager, commercial and finance, within the Omnia Group. He remained engaged with Mauritius, however, and implemented a new ERP system there for Omnia and was instrumental in continuing growth in the business internationally. His portfolio at this time included the company’s procurement function, where he first encountered the concept and practicalities of travel management. Having always planned to explore different options for career growth and advancement, Scholtz was ready to accept a new challenge when the Tourvest Travel Services opportunity arose in 2016. He stepped into the position of CFO in September of that year. As a qualified chartered accountant, Scholtz completed his BCom degree at the University of Pretoria and a CTA and honours degree in accounting through Unisa. He holds a law degree as well, an LLB. First of all, welcome, Scholtz, it’s great to have you on CFO Talks.
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: Thank you very much, Ciaran, and thanks to Nicolaas, it’s good to be here.
CIARAN RYAN: Also joining us is Nicolaas van Wyk, who is the chief executive officer of the South African Institute of Business Accountants. Hello, Nicolaas.
NICOLAAS VAN WYK: Hello, Ciaran, hello, Scholtz, it’s great to be with you.
CIARAN RYAN: Scholtz, if we can just introduce our listeners to Tourvest Travel Services a little bit, I think they’d be interested to hear from you, your perspective about how things are going, particularly during the era of lockdowns. We know what happened to the tourism industry, it was quite devastated, just give us some sense of business and how it’s been impacted by Covid during this period.
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: As a travel management company, we predominantly focus on outbound tourism for large and major corporates in South Africa. It’s quite obvious that since lockdown started, and actually a little bit before that, we could see that a lot of corporates were very cautious to travel and obviously with lockdown that never happened. So for us it was devastating when travel stopped. I was telling the guys before that prior that we were really on a steep upward path in terms of growth. So it put us very much in unchartered waters when that happened. It’s not just us, the whole travel industry has been impacted hugely by that. I’m very happy that I can sit and have this discussion 19 months after that and be able to say that we are still around, we welcome travel, we’ve seen two months of positive numbers that are starting to show, and we are just fortunate to see that people are eager to travel. I think that’s the important thing, we always knew that when borders open and travelling starts, people will travel.
That’s one thing that we firmly believe in that people want to travel and that they like these experiences, whether it be to go to a board meeting, to go and sit in front of somebody to have a negotiation face to face, I think everybody will agree that it’s just so much more powerful and you get so much more done when you talk to somebody face to face, than having to do Zoom calls or Teams calls. I don’t know about you guys but I’m, personally, pretty over this. So it’s been an impact for us, I think we’re fortunate in that we could implement a few controls and a few strategies during that time that could actually help us weather the storm. Central to that is our travel technology, I think a lot of guys would be familiar with Travel IT, the best travel booking solution out there, we’re quite proud of that, self-developed. A lot of our business is built around this technology and that helped us a lot.
‘I’ll go on record to say that we’ve got the best selection of content available in South Africa on our technology.’
CIARAN RYAN: Just explain the different revenue streams that you have, you spoke about outbound tourism being a big part of the business, you spoke about Travel IT, which I guess you make available to the market on a rental basis or software as a service basis, tell us a little bit more about that.
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: Ciaran, it’s different pricing models for different clients. Predominantly the traditional service fee model is what’s well accepted in the market, so we definitely provide that. It’s spilt between offline fees and online fees. I think the beauty about our technology is that we give the booker the ability to basically choose from a multitude of sources that we have. I’ll go on record to say that we’ve got the best selection of content available in South Africa on our technology. So that gives the power into the hands of the booker. The second pillar of our technology is the strength of our approval framework, which is really relevant in our market and elsewhere in Africa, I think the combination of that just makes it so powerful. So that’s an online transaction, we like online transactions because it actually helps our productivity, but we also appreciate that a lot of people travelling want to speak to a consultant, so we try to keep that balance going. So it’s mainly those two service fees and then for some clients we implement a management fee if they like to lock in a monthly fee. That’s mainly the model, Ciaran.
CIARAN RYAN: Nicolaas, maybe let’s bring you in here, I just find this a fascinating business to be in and I imagine the challenges as a chief financial officer and as an accountant, and as an executive, when you’re hit with something as devastating as Covid it really does require the maximum amount of ingenuity that you have. Nicolaas, your thoughts about this.
NICOLAAS VAN WYK: I’m still surprised to see so many tourism businesses in existence. I don’t know how you survive 18 months of such a lockdown as we went through. I didn’t personally agree with the way we as a country went about the whole thing, we knew early one who is the most affected individuals, and we should have protected them first. But to lockdown your whole economy, that will have lasting damages. So it’s very good to see so many businesses making a comeback and we recommend for our members to support all the tourism businesses, they form a crucial part of our economy. We hope that with the travel now being opened up internationally that we can attract international travellers once more. But it’s for this reason, and I just want to agree with Scholtz, I am also now done with Zoom. There’s some techy somewhere in Silicon Valley loving the idea of having meetings online all the time. But there’s nothing like personal connection to get the creative juices flowing, to share new ideas, to form relationships that last. So we’re very happy that Tourvest is supporting SAIBA in our to the CFO World Congress now in November. We are really looking forward to start networking again with the CFO community. So I’m very happy that the tourist sector is back again.
CIARAN RYAN: You’re talking about the trip to Mexico, which is coming up, is it later this month, November?
NICOLAAS VAN WYK: Yes, we’re actually travelling from November 16 to November 24 and we’re combining it with the CFO World Congress, which is annually hosted, this year it’s in Mexico City. We’re spending two days at the conference and then doing some tourist activity. So I’m really looking forward to experiencing the Mayan culture as well. We’re about 25 CFOs from South Africa, we are the biggest contingent of any country represented in Mexico. Then whilst there we’ll be having talks with IMEF, which is the Mexican association, because we are interested as SAIBA to sign an MOU with them and exploring ways that we can extend CFO Talks also to them, and even our designation, wanting to take that global. Then after that we will have some more tourist activities, going to Cancún, which we’re really looking forward to and experiencing the warm waters of those oceans. Then building networks with CFOs and coming back invigorated with new ideas, so that we can go back to our company that we work for and build on these relationships that we have built. Some of the world speakers at the event include speakers from the World Bank, the IMF, big corporates from the Americas, including the US, discussing global trade, how to build a developing economy like Mexico and South Africa. Then it will also be interesting, obviously, to hear about Mexico’s specific issues because they have their own challenges with regard to the US migrations that are taking place, relocation of businesses, lower cost structures for businesses. So we’re really looking forward to this event and Tourvest has been kindly assisting us with making arrangements for our flights and helping us with the bookings because it’s not something you want to do on your own, especially if you are responsible for 25 people, so you’d rather work with a strong partner with a good reputation.
‘We are fortunate enough to have quite a big part government business that helped us through sustained periods like that.’
CIARAN RYAN: Scholtz, let’s just go back to you, I’m just interested to hear about this period, this last 18 months that you’ve had. You said you are done with this Covid and people do want to get out, you can feel this pent up frustration that people have, they would love to travel again. Now, the question is how did you survive this? If your business revenue has been devastated, as I imagine it probably was in certain areas, how did you survive this, what did you do?
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: Unfortunately, we did have to go into cost cuts and with our people cost being a big part of our income statement or our cost line, unfortunately we did have to two rounds of Section 189s that we had to go through. So unfortunately, we had to go into that. We are fortunate enough to have quite a big part government business that helped us through sustained periods like that. Everybody knows that government was quite active during this period, so there was a lot of travelling from our local government and that helped us to get that done. We were quite innovative in other areas, assisting airlines, including international airlines just to help them get through this period in terms of call centres and that, so we helped a little bit on that side. But it was mainly about making sure that we can contain our costs and lowering our costs.
I’m fortunate enough that our CEO, Morné du Preez, is also a chartered accountant, so we could really go into beanie mode, and he was very instrumental, for instance, in getting our lease negotiated, he did really well on that. So it was mainly down to cost containment, making sure that we look at some other revenue streams and making sure that we look after the clients we have. I think it was very important that we could understand our existing customers and their needs and their fears, and make sure that we can look after them. I think those were the few things we did, powerful things but it really did help. One area where we also grew, just to link up with you guys going to Mexico, it’s this “bleisure” word, where people go on business travel, and they include a bit of leisure. We’ve seen a little bit of that before and I think that’s what’s going to happen now coming back. So where leisure was also a small part of our business, where we’re focusing now, we started focusing during Covid, as we realise that leisure will come back in a big way when travel returns. So we spent a lot of our time getting our technology to assist our leisure division, which has done and is doing really, really well, especially with local travel. So when local travel was allowed, we could start doing some of that as well. So we do see a lot of focus going into our leisure division as well going forward.
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: Ciaran, I’m from Pretoria, I did a little detour in Mauritius, but I was born in Pretoria, went to school there, I studied at the University of Pretoria. I joined Omnia, as you said, and what was very fortunate for me at that stage is I joined as internal auditor but I reported to the group FD, who really helped me to get a big picture but not lose the detail. I think that’s really helped me in my career to always be able to keep the big picture in mind, without losing the detail. So I started there and the fast forward to when Omnia embarked on a massive ERP project, Mr Noel Fitz-Gibbon was brought back, who was a previous FD of Omnia, and then I reported to him. So I had the benefit of having very strong mentors, if I can call them that, early on in my career. I could really look at these guys and learn from them and I am very fortunate to have had that.
When I moved to Mauritius, Noel said I had to get back in the trenches because a lot of my work up to that stage was business processes and internal audit, which was kind of outside the business, and when I moved to Mauritius, I really got stuck into the actual business side of the business. I had to be involved in deals and the procurement side of it, without losing the focus. I think that’s all helped me so that by the stage I joined Tourvest, I was really ready for the CFO role. I didn’t do the traditional accountant, financial manager, CFO, I came from a little bit of a detour but I’m very thankful for that and it did give me a much different perspective. I believe it’s given me a very processed-focused approach, which I think works well. Even during this Covid period, what we’ve done is we’ve turned the business almost horizontal, so that I want way more people involved in the actual process and understand the full process and try to get more value out of my people, instead of having them in boxes. When I look back now, it comes from how my career has progressed. So that’s my journey to CFO.
CIARAN RYAN: Was accounting a natural fit for you or was it something that you decided you wanted to do when you were already in school or was it something you fell into because maybe your parents were involved in it?
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: No, my dad is a quantity surveyor, he’s 73 and still working.
CIARAN RYAN: Is he? They are kind of accountants, except for the building industry, right?
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: Exactly, so when I was in grade eight, I remember going to the guidance counsellor and I said I was going to be a chartered accountant. I had no idea what I was going to do, I just told her that’s what I’m going to be. So I didn’t even bother with biology or science, I picked my subjects, I picked accounting, economics, computer studies and maths, that was it. Pretty early on I made my mind up, yes.
‘We actually came up with an idea before Covid that we wanted half our people to work from home.’
CIARAN RYAN: This point that you raised previously, where you’ve gone horizontal in terms of the way that you manage your team, just explain that a little bit. I just want to find out how you’ve been dealing with this Covid thing because are you working from an office or working from home or both?
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: We actually came up with an idea before Covid that we wanted half our people to work from home. We wanted people to work remotely, we wanted them to be empowered through technology, obviously with being a technology company we wanted to stick our toe into the pool but we got thrown into the deep end quite early. So a lot of our people work from home. We actually went back to the office quite early, I think it was end of October last year that we already went back to the office but selectively. I see Morné is in the office every day because he just can’t work at home, he tells us. But most of us have got remote desks, we go in when there are meetings, and we are online all the time working and that’s what we wanted. So I think we’ve actually embraced this new way of working from that perspective. Obviously, allowing your workforce to do that, there’s a lot of responsibility from you as a manager, as well as the team themselves. So we had to make sure that we could train the people who could fit that mould and we also had to make sure that we can give them the tools to do that, including our customers, which fits in with the story, if we can put the technology on their phone or on their laptop, they’ll be able to book, they can approve transactions, they can see where they’re going, they can get their full itinerary on their phone. You don’t necessarily have to have them come in and make a booking, if I can use that example. The same for our people, one of the first things I did when I joined Tourvest was to look at the…it looks like an ERP implementation, but we call it a back office. We used to be on a traditional travel back office and we moved to Oracle NetSuite, which is in the cloud. Now that just creates massive flexibility, I can check NetSuite from my phone, a lot of people can do it off their iPads and it just opens up all of that. So we’ve embraced this hybrid model of working at the office and working at home. The funny thing is that when we started telling people to come back to the office, they wanted to come back, so I think it’s a good balance. We’ve got people coming in at different stages during the week, we’ve got people who are fulltime from home, so we’ve embraced this transition. Then your question about what do I mean with horizontally, what we basically want to do is make sure that our people control the process from point A to point Z, where possible, without losing your financial controls and your segregation of duties, obviously. Previously in a travel management company you’d have these boxes, you’ve got your consultants in one corner, you have your client-facing people in another corner, you have the accounting people all the way in the back and we wanted to break down those boxes and get the best people to run with these processes from back to front.
We also changed our general manager structure where we wanted these people to get stuck in and help us develop our strategic initiatives. Early on in Covid, Morné sat us all down, EXCO and MANCO, and he said what are the great ideas that we want to implement in the business. What we did just when Covid hit is we actually identified 16 of those initiatives and said, well, we’ve got some time now, let’s put our efforts into building those things in technology and changing our processes so that when travel comes back, we’re in a perfect position to take hold of the opportunity. I believe we’ve been quite successful with that and it doesn’t change, we keep on doing that but it’s changed the way [unclear] in a very linear way or a vertical way to a more horizontal [unclear] structure between management and the operational people.
CIARAN RYAN: Nicolaas, maybe I can bring you in here because this is a fascinating point and I think a lot of organisations have become quite creative over this period. We’ve spoken to Coenie Middel about some of the innovations that he introduced during this Covid period, and I think at SAIBA as well, you’ve embarked on a similar journey of innovation and using this time properly to assess where are we, and where do we want to be.
NICOLAAS VAN WYK: Yes, I think most businesses have taken that approach because you have to build for when everything gets back to normal. From our business side, as a professional body we look at designations and as Scholtz was just relaying his career development, I was just plotting that towards our own competency framework and as he now said, what we see is a lot of people do study the CA route because that’s the route that’s well known and it’s such a good brand to be associated with. But when they start with the executive level, then as Scholtz explained, you need to start entering the business side of the company. It’s no longer just financial statements and auditing. Then that’s when new relationship building becomes important, that’s what we call the catalyst role of the CFO and you have to have a strategic role as a CFO. So what we did was build all these characteristics or skill sets that a person would need, as they have qualified now as an accountant, they have gained many years of experience, if they’re lucky they work with good mentors who guide them through the process and they become more and more involved in the business side of the company.
Some then add an MBA to their studies and that’s where our designation of CFO (SA) comes in, so we combine the accounting with the MBA and ten years of experience because it’s a unique set of skills that a person needs. I think those companies that are lucky enough to have this level of CFO are the ones that are going to take more market share because as economies recover and as Scholtz has said, if you’ve done your homework, then you’ll reap the benefits. I’m reminded of what Warren Buffett once said, once the tide goes out, we’ll see who swam naked. So it’s that time right now. But that’s why you need a strong CFO and companies need to invest in their CFOs because they need them in good times but more so when times are tough.
‘We’ve turned it around where we are now definitely a travel technology company that does travel management services.’
CIARAN RYAN: Scholtz, maybe just pick up on that, I’d like to hear from you a little bit about these innovations, have some of these been brought to market or were they really just efficiencies that are not visible to the public? Tell us a little bit more about that.
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: Look, obviously, a lot of our time and effort goes into enhancing and improving our technology and improving Travel IT. So we did that at quite an expedited rate, we’ve introduced expense management to the market, where you can record and manage your company expenses, such as your travel expenses and floats. Then we also started with our procurement side, which we’ve introduced to selective clients, so a lot of time from technology development went into that. I think if you look at how we’ve evolved since I’ve been with the company and it’s not due to me, it’s just the path that we’re on, we started off as being a travel management company that has the best technology. We’ve turned it around where we are now definitely a travel technology company that does travel management services. As I mentioned earlier, our technology stands central to what we are doing and what we want to do. So it just means that a lot of our time and effort went into making sure that our technology becomes even better. We’ve got lots of partners in South Africa and globally that help us and work with us. So that’s what most of our effort went into.
CIARAN RYAN: Just talk about some of the challenging assignments that you’ve had in your career, you spent time in Mauritius with Omnia but for the last five or six years you have been with Tourvest, and I would imagine going through and surviving Covid would probably be up there, and like most CFOs, it’s one of the most challenging things you’re ever likely to face.
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: Yes, let’s start with that one, it was really tough. I chatted to somebody at one of our client functions, we had a client function two weeks ago, which was excellent, we enjoyed it so much. Just to get the people out and to show them what we’ve been busy with, and to have them at our premises. I chatted to somebody there and I said that this was one of the toughest things, if not the toughest period, that I’ve gone through. But it’s also been one of the best, just because of how it’s moulded us as a team and what we’ve achieved in terms of improving the business and getting ourselves ready for what’s to come. So although it’s been really tough, maybe I’m downplaying how tough it was, it was pretty tough but I’d like to look at the positives that came out of it and there were really quite a few.
When I joined the travel industry, which is a very small industry really when it comes to relationships and people, coming from moving fertilizer and making fertilizer and explosives into travelling, that was quite a big change. Immediately people will ask the question, well, what do you really know about travelling. Although I was quite an avid traveler, the travel industry has got its tricks and its nuances, and you have to spend some time in getting to know that. So coming into this industry and into this business was quite tough and the first thing on my plate was improving or removing and replacing the ERP system, so that was quite a tough assignment. But again, I think we did it extremely well, we did not miss one month or one week of reporting, to give you an idea. I had a fantastic team with me, my team has stayed intact, and they helped us to get that done. But it was tough, a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into that one. I think my very first assignment at Omnia was also pretty difficult, I remember I walked in in the morning and [unclear] walked into me office and said that he wants me to review the transfer pricing policy. Now, coming out of articles, your idea of transfer pricing is a cost accounting exercise, and little did I know that it was a very, very comprehensive tax exercise that would actually set me up for quite a lot of these that I did throughout my career. So that one was also pretty tough, just because it was the real corporate assignment that I had. There have been some other ones as well but those are the ones that come to mind now.
Working in paradise
CIARAN RYAN: How was it working in Mauritius for six years, it sounds like paradise, but was it?
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: It is paradise, it was lots of fun. It probably wasn’t an assignment but one of the toughest things was to decide whether I come back [unclear] you’re starting to put your roots down. It’s a fantastic place to live, the work environment, contrary to popular belief, the people there work really hard, they’ve got a lot of pride in what they do and it’s a very interesting culture. I rocked up there as a 30-year-old and I thought I was going to change the way that these people do business, and I think you realise after a while that you have to adapt to the culture, you have to appreciate and respect the culture. I think it was very good for me to go there and spend six years in which is now my second home, I don’t own property there but I still go back there often and I have got lots of friends and connections, and I am very fond of Mauritius but it was very good for me. Even in the role, I think to sit central to…Omnia at that stage was one of the best, if not the best, GBL company on the island. We had our management company bring people around to show them how we were operating. We moulded a very good team, I was very proud of the people we had there and what we achieved. We had some of the group’s specialists in terms of dealing with cross-border transactions in that office and we had a very close-knit team. It was a very good experience for me.
CIARAN RYAN: A quick couple of questions here, what’s the state of the accounting industry in South Africa, in your opinion, is it in crisis or not?
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: I wouldn’t say it’s in a crisis but I think if you’re an investor and you’ve been reading the papers and seeing what’s going on with some of our corporate companies, you wouldn’t put as much faith in accounting as probably ten or 15 years ago. I think there are definitely warning lights, is it achieving what it’s supposed to achieve, I’m not so sure.
CIARAN RYAN: Nicolaas, your opinion on that, and also maybe talk about the CFO designation and why SAIBA decided to register that as a designation.
NICOLAAS VAN WYK: In South Africa professional bodies can register their designations with the South African Qualifications Authority, which was created by the National Qualifications Framework Act and the idea of government was to on the one hand provide for qualifications with universities but then after years of experience, people then tend to get employed in occupations and then group themselves in professional bodies. So then they allow professional bodies to register with SAQA and then issue designations. Then, obviously, SAIBA has a long history within the accounting profession and we, through our association, since 2016, with the International Association for CFOs, we then saw that worldwide, CFOs form their own associations or clubs alongside professional bodies, where the professional bodies focus on accountants, developing specialist accountants. Then CFOs grouped themselves voluntarily into these clubs. What we then thought was wouldn’t it be nice to give recognition for all these years of study and experience, and it’s also unique experience, it tends to be non-accounting experience, it’s more management experience, people experience, strategic experience, operational knowledge, IT knowledge.
So then we felt let’s give recognition to these skill sets through a designation and that’s how we registered our designation for CFOs, it’s called Certified Financial Officer (SA). We’re trying to take it global, so that it’s a unified designation for CFOs worldwide and that idea came from our association with our Chinese CFOs club, where with China having such a strong economic influence, they need CFOs to be very flexible and work in one country and then the next, and adjust to the various criteria, cultures and setups. So you need to know the overall competency of a CFO. So we feel very strongly that there’s such a need for a designation and it’s partly why we started CFO Talks and we’re also now participating with the conference in Mexico to start grouping CFOs more globally around a common set of competence standards, if you will. So that’s our background to the designation.
CIARAN RYAN: Scholtz, what do you say to that, Nicolaas raised a couple of points there about the evolving role of the CFO, so it’s more management type stuff and there’s research coming out of Europe, for example, showing that there are more CFOs from a non-accounting background than from an accounting background. What’s your take on that?
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: I think I would agree with that, and I welcome what Nicolaas has said. The reality is that it’s more about people management than management relationships, it’s strategic thinking, and a year ago it was crisis management, but how do you deal with situations and how do you deal with curveballs. Accounting is crucial and you asked about the state of accounting, it’s crucial and it has to be standardised. But when it comes to that CFO designation of the role of the CFO, it’s way more than accounting and I think that’s why I welcome this designation, this approach, and it’s good to hear that it’s worldwide, where people are recognising that it’s not an elevated accountant, it’s way more than that.
CIARAN RYAN: Great, now let’s talk about yourself, I don’t think you were that old as a CFO, in fact I think you were quite young, but you obviously have an eye on your legacy, what would you like that to be?
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: What I really enjoy is the teams, I enjoy the people reporting to me, I enjoy the time I am part of now. When I think back to my time at Omnia, the teams that we created in Mauritius and how we improved some of those people, and even what I am doing with the people I work with now, I think I am quite passionate about that. I would like to have one of them to have an interview like this and refer to me like I refer to Delwyn, Noel and Morné. I think those are great guys. I think you can do some great stuff, you can have a great idea but none of that can really happen unless you have a great team. You can even have great people around you, but unless they are a great team, that will not really work out. So that’s it, I don’t want to be remembered for a great journal entry or a great set of financials [laughing], unless it’s the best month ever, then I don’t mind. No, I’m joking. But I think that’s the important stuff, Ciaran. I’ve also seen Delwyn and Noel retire, and I see where they are now and that’s the lasting stuff because companies come and go like people come and go.
CIARAN RYAN: Okay, let’s talk about you a little bit, what do you do in your downtime? Are you a family man? You said you like travel, what do you do?
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: When travel is open, we travel quite a lot. So when I am at home I love spending time with my beautiful wife and two daughters, they are 13 and ten years old, almost eleven. So it’s a fantastic age, I just love spending time with them. I love music and in my younger days I used to play a lot, so they are now starting to pick up instruments and it’s just fantastic to watch their love for music. So they sing and they play music, and it’s just wonderful, so I love spending time with them and doing that with them. Then, obviously, I live in Pretoria, I used to tell people that I surf but I can’t do that anymore, so when I’m in Mauritius or when I’m close to the ocean I try to have surf, if I’m not too overweight, which I guess is an overall problem now after Covid. So I am looking forward to hitting some waves again. Then also keeping fit, I started playing golf with my wife, she started a year before me and she’s really good, I’m not that great. It’s a funny thing, when I started at Omnia, none of the accounting guys played golf, when I came out of articles, everybody played golf. Then when I came into the travel industry, Morné asked if I play golf, and I said no. So he said, okay, fantastic because while everybody else plays golf I have to do the work [laughing]. But then during Covid I started playing a little bit, so hopefully I can get better.
CIARAN RYAN: What musical instruments do you play?
CIARAN RYAN: Is that right?
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: Yes, my one daughter just picked up the base the other day and now she’s playing. She can hear a song and play it, it’s just fantastic, their brains are like a sponge, they can just sit down and do that.
‘I see somebody tried to refer to Covid as a black swan and somebody said it’s more like a grey rhino.’
CIARAN RYAN: Okay, here’s the final question, books, it’s a question we ask everybody, what books would you recommend?
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: I’ve got a lot of practical books, obviously books around due diligence, I actually bought a guide the other day. But I like Malcolm Gladwell very much, I like all his books, The Black Swan was fantastic. I see somebody tried to refer to Covid as a black swan and somebody said it’s more like a grey rhino. But I like this non-business business books. I also thought Blink by Malcolm Gladwell was quite good, where he wrote about how you think without thinking. I’m interested in those gut feeling decisions that people make and how that happens. I like Malcolm Gladwell very much
CIARAN RYAN: He wrote The Tipping Point and Blink, as you mentioned, and Outliers.
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: What the Dog Saw was also good, it was about the story of Heinz Ketchup and all that, it was quite good.
CIARAN RYAN: So Malcolm Gladwell is definitely worth a read, any one of his titles.
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: Yes.
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: A lot of fictional stuff, I’m a huge Terry Pratchett fan, I think I have read all his books. Then, obviously, do yourself a favour and read The Black Swan from Nassim Taleb, I think it’s a fantastic book, it’s funny, it’s almost like [unclear].
CIARAN RYAN: It is and very challenging, it really does challenge you, all sorts of assumptions get thrown on their head in that book. Okay, I think we’re going to leave it there. It’s been a fascinating discussion, Scholtz, I’m really happy that we spoke, it gave us some insight into your life and your career at Tourvest, I think what was also fascinating was just to find out where we are in with the tourism industry. I’m glad that some of the changes that you made during this period, where you were developing, innovating and planning for the future, and it’s also good to hear that there is some sign that corporate travel is starting to pick up again. Nicolaas, any final words from you?
NICOLAAS VAN WYK: I’m just having to CFOs of the calibre of Scholtz, and I’ve heard a lot about his CEO. These are people who get their teeth stuck in, it doesn’t matter how big the obstacles are, they adjust, they get their people on board and then they plan for the future. I think that’s what they want for our CFOs, that’s the main characteristic, how well you can plan ahead, not be phased by challenges and then adjust. I think Tourvest is in good hands, and I just want to thank Scholtz again for their assistance with our tour to the CFO World Congress. We’ll definitely make sure that everybody knows we used Tourvest to get us to Mexico.
CIARAN RYAN: And back again.
NICOLAAS VAN WYK: Well, we’ll see if the sea is nice and warm and Cancún is nice, we might stay.
CIARAN RYAN: Okay, Scholtz, thanks so much for coming on. Please stay in touch, we’d love to have you back on again. It really was a fascinating discussion, and we really appreciate your insights.
SCHOLTZ FOURIE: Thank you very much, Ciaran. Thanks, Nicolaas. Thanks for having me, it was fantastic talking, and enjoy the trip, travel is open and I’m looking forward to seeing you guys in the sky.