162: Lindelani Gumbo

Inspired to follow in her father’s footsteps as a CA, Lindelani Gumbo has carved her own path as a regulatory accountant, a career built on a genuine passion for the financial sector and regulatory space.

Today’s podcast is sponsored by Draftworx, which provides automated drafting and working paper financial software to more than 8000 accounting and auditing firms and corporations. CFO Talks is a brand of the South African Institute of Business Accountants.

CIARAN RYAN: It’s my great pleasure today to welcome Lindelani Gumbo, who is a regulatory accountant and Assistant Vice President at Citibank South Africa, where she is tasked with following the, no doubt, labyrinthine legislative and regulatory reporting requirements detailed within the Banks Act, various other statutes and the Basel International Banking Framework. That’s a lot of compliance to cover. This is a role she’s performed since 2020 and a risk analyst at the South African Reserve Bank, while concurrently serving as a non-executive director at the Institute of Bankers of South Africa, on a pro bono basis. She’s a CA by profession and currently pursuing an MBA with the University of London. She holds a Professional Banker (SA) designation as well. One of her passions is the development and mentoring of youth, and we will get into that in a minute. First of all, welcome to you, Lindelani, tell us a little bit about your current role at Citibank, South Africa. This seems to be more of a regulatory compliance role than an accounting role, can you explain that?

LINDELANI GUMBO: Good morning, Ciaran. Firstly, thank you for having me this morning on this podcast. I must admit that the regulatory reporting world is probably misunderstood in many ways, as most South Africans are actually not even aware that this role exists. But in a nutshell, I’m within the finance team, particularly the regulatory reporting team within Citibank and as a regulatory accountant, one is tasked to ensure that accurate and timely regulatory reporting to the South African Reserve Bank. For example, this will include financial reports such as your balance sheet, income statement and more detailed reports would be your risk related reports such as liquidity management, credit risk, operational risk and capital management. In addition to this, I’m also involved in the preparation of annual reports such as Pillar 3, public disclosure and the

Internal Capital Adequacy Assessment Process, which is known as ICAAP document, which basically allows firms to assess their capital adequacy and requires them to have appropriate risk management based on local bank requirements and the Basel framework.

CIARAN RYAN: Are you based in Johannesburg or where is your head office in South Africa?

LINDELANI GUMBO: We are based in Sandton, Johannesburg, although due to the Covid crisis, we are currently working remotely from home and then going into the office episodically. But yes, the branch is based in Sandton.

It’s not always about aptitude, but rather having the right attitude.’

CIARAN RYAN: Okay, you’ve got quite an extensive career in banking. We mentioned in the introduction that you’ve got the Professional Banker (SA) designation as well. Take us through the highlights of your career and also touch on where did you grow up and go to school.

LINDELANI GUMBO: I grew up in KwaZulu-Natal, in a small town called Pinetown, it’s not small anymore. While at school I stumbled upon an aptitude for accounting, and I basically studied accounting all the way up until matric. After matriculating, I embarked on my journey towards becoming a chartered accountant and this was done through Unisa so one could say that I am a product of the South African system. I was never the smartest person in school and in all honesty, I didn’t pass my CTA or board exams the first time around. However, I was focused on reaching my goals and, I guess, sometimes it’s not always about aptitude, but rather having the right attitude. To this end, I did qualify as a CA and I’ve been truly blessed to have worked with really amazing people within the industry and amazing institutions as well.

CIARAN RYAN: It’s just an interesting point that you raise about there’s a persistence required, is there not, in accounting as a career particularly, because regulations have become a huge part of the accounting practice, and you can’t be flippant or glib, you’ve really got to have attention to detail and

you can’t say, well, I’ll get round to that next month. These things have got to be done and they’ve got to be done now. So would you agree with that as an assessment of what is required of the modern accountant?

LINDELANI GUMBO: I agree with you 100% and maybe to add on to that is that it takes a certain level of resilience as well, because it’s not an easy journey. Even when you are done with your studies, being in the corporate world requires so much of you in performing your day-to-day duties, whether it’s sitting in strategic meetings, you still have to carry that technical expertise and bring that to the room, while also acting with a level of integrity and objectivity. So I agree with you 100% that it has evolved over the years.

CIARAN RYAN: What I’m interested to find out is where did you go to school, was it in Pinetown as well?

LINDELANI GUMBO: I grew up in Pinetown and I went to Kloof High School.

CIARAN RYAN: In Durban?

LINDELANI GUMBO: Yes, in Durban. I’m born and bred in Durban.

CIARAN RYAN: What drew you to accounting, did you have a love of numbers or you wanted to have a better understanding of business. People come into accounting from so many different

angles, what was yours?

LINDELANI GUMBO: Well, in all honesty, I could say that I was indirectly mentored by my father, and he is what I would term a first generation chartered accountant in my entire family. So him and mum got married and they pursued a specific journey within their lives, and being a child in that household, I observed the hard work that it took my dad to study part-time and actually become a chartered accountant to a point where he opened his own auditing firm. So I was inspired by my father. I guess when I got to school, yes, accounting was just second nature, and it was a viable route for me.

CIARAN RYAN: So you were completely immersed in accounting. Your dad was a CA, so you’re a second generation CA, and your dad has his own audit firm, is he still in practice as an auditor?

LINDELANI GUMBO: I think he retired a year ago but he’s still in practice, his audit firm is called Ngubane & Co., and they are based in Midrand, Durban and I think Polokwane as well, I’m not sure about Cape Town but it’s a medium-size audit firm.

The idea was to go back to auditing one day, but I guess I got stuck in banking, it’s just been an interesting journey.’

CIARAN RYAN: Were you never tempted to join your dad’s business, or did you want to go off and do your own thing?

LINDELANI GUMBO: I was tempted to join my dad’s business, but at the same time, I always questioned myself, what could I bring to the table over and above the next chartered accountants. So that’s where my particular interest within the banking sector arose, where I was like, I actually love the financial sector, I love risk management., I love the regulatory space. On my side, the idea was to go back to auditing one day, but I guess I got stuck in banking, it’s just been an interesting

journey. I’ve learned so much and I continue learning every day.

CIARAN RYAN: Yes, and we mentioned at the beginning that you’ve got the Basel regulations, plus you have all of this legislation in South Africa that has to be complied with. So it really is, I would imagine, quite a challenging role to do your job, just given the level of regulation that is there. I’d say it’s a bit tougher in banking than it is in other sectors. Would you agree with that?

LINDELANI GUMBO: It is a bit tougher in the context of you can’t look at bank regulation in isolation without considering other elements of regulation within South Africa. For example, Companies Act, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority framework, your International Financial Reporting Standards. So without that background, that accounting background, I think it becomes a bit harder to actually understand the regulation side of things.

CIARAN RYAN: Tell us about one of your passions, which we mentioned at the beginning as well, mentoring and youth development, what got you into that?

LINDELANI GUMBO: What got me into youth mentoring and development was that I found that when I was growing up, there was a lack of direct mentoring. What I mean by that is that, yes, we can get inspired by our parents, but it’s always nice to interact with someone who’s five or ten years ahead of you, so that you don’t make the same mistakes. So I strongly believe that we all need a little helping hand to get through, whether it’s our studies or career and someone to actually help us navigate the challenges that one may face. So I believe that having a mentor gives you a great foundation from which to grow and build yourself, noting that you must also drive your own change as an individual. So whenever I get a chance to engage with the youth, I always strongly encourage

them to invest in continuous self-development, never stop learning, and align themselves with what’s really important is the right mentor.

CIARAN RYAN: Where do you engage with this, is this a group that you have formed or that you’re a part of, or is this something that comes through the banking system? How do you get into that?

LINDELANI GUMBO: On my end, when I was at SNG Grant Thornton, I engaged with the University of Johannesburg for the CTA students who are on [unclear] and basically, you play the role of a mentor from a study standpoint. Then when I was at the South African Reserve Bank, I allowed myself to be mentored by my old boss, Lushendren Pather, he’s a fantastic guy. While I was at the Institution of Bankers in South Africa, I did engage in the youth forum where basically the mandate was to encourage the youth to come into the banking and financial sector, because what we’ve observed is that it’s actually lacking young people. The idea was let’s connect the youth and actually broaden what banking is, and not for them to think that banking is just either being a bank teller or a bank manager, and actually open up banking and let them know that there’s actually operational risk, there’s market risk, there’s regulation reporting. There are so many different facets that one could actually grow into. Then in my current role, I have just taken it upon myself to also mentor the grads that we have within our team and always encouraging them to establish a work/life balance and basically continue with their studies, continue with self-development and continue with

skills development from their part.

CIARAN RYAN: That’s incredible and I guess there’s great joy in seeing the results, the fruits of that mentoring, when you see people progressing in their career or getting a better understanding of what it is that’s expected of them. I’m sure that’s a great reward for doing that kind of work.

LINDELANI GUMBO: It is rewarding because if I had someone who could save me three years of my career journey or save me three years of my studies, time is very valuable. So it is rewarding when I can lessen the journey for someone and just see the speed bumps or the potholes ahead and then tell them, listen, you’re actually going down the long route, here’s an easier way that’s tried and tested, I did it, my friends did it, maybe try this route, it might save you 12 months.

We love going to the Kruger National Park and one of our favourite stops is Dullstroom.’

CIARAN RYAN: Yes, that is huge benefit, avoiding mistakes that others have made, it can save you years and advance your career a whole lot quicker. Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do in your downtime? Where are your passions outside of work?

LINDELANI GUMBO: Outside of work, when my husband and I happen to align our leave schedule, we actually do our annual bush breakaway and what that entails is we intentionally go to a remote area with poor or no reception and we fully immerse ourselves in nature. We love going to the Kruger National Park and one of our favourite stops is Dullstroom, we love that place, the restaurants there are great.

CIARAN RYAN: Yes, you stop on your way, and it really feels like you’re in another country there. I haven’t been to Scotland but what I’ve seen of Scotland with that heather, the shrubbery, the landscape, it’s very rugged and cold and windy. Please continue.

LINDELANI GUMBO: We love it for that, the one time we actually spent a weekend there and we love that whole sleepy town vibe, where it’s misty and it just allows you time to recentre yourself.

CIARAN RYAN: One of the things they do there is trout fishing.

LINDELANI GUMBO: Yes, there’s also a bird rehabilitation centre, we love visiting that place a lot. Although we haven’t actually done the trout fishing, but we do eat it a lot when we’re there, and we stop on our way back [from Kruger National Park] and we stock up on trout for the next couple of months.

CIARAN RYAN: Put it in the icebox and drive home with it.

LINDELANI GUMBO: Yes, but when we’re not in Dullstroom we try to exercise, now with Covid we’re all sitting at home, but prior to Covid I was attempting 21-kilometre races. So we try to stay healthy, my husband and I are trying to pick up cycling as well. We just try to have a life that is active outside the house when we’re not working, just to reinstill that work/life balance.

CIARAN RYAN: Fantastic. So remote places where there’s no cell phone reception, Kruger Park being one. So you’re going to the game reserves every year, you’ve probably been to other ones as well, right?

LINDELANI GUMBO: Yes, there’s one in Pilanesberg that we also like to go to but I’ve just forgotten the name right now, but that one’s also really lovely and we’ve seen a lot of game there. We’ve also been to Modlito Lodge, it’s also a very mice establishment where you literally switch off, they only have cell phone in the main reception of the lodge.

CIARAN RYAN: The nice thing about the Pilanesberg is it’s hilly, so it’s beautiful landscape and you can actually get great views because you can be elevated and you can be looking down on the valley, whereas Kruger would tend to be quite flat. Kruger has got its own beauty, it’s completely different. But I can understand the attraction of that when you spend your life working in a regulatory environment or an accounting environment, you do want to completely unplug. So I totally understand what you are saying and why you choose that particular way to unplug.

LINDELANI GUMBO: Yes, and weirdly enough, we actually like birdwatching as well, my husband got me into it. So I think those areas as well are good for birdwatching, where you can tick off the birds that you’ve seen.

CIARAN RYAN: Okay, final question, are there any books that you would recommend, something that really inspired you?

LINDELANI GUMBO: I think a book that really changed the way I look at my personal

life and career would be a booked called Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg. I know it’s a popular read, but it’s one book that really shaped the way I think I currently see my career play out and it’s given me more confidence to basically lean in and participate, whether it’s in the workplace or in my private life, it’s made me very aware of myself and my surroundings as well.

CIARAN RYAN: Wow, okay, what a fascinating discussion. I think the journey that you took, where you started to specialise, I got a little bit intrigued at the point where you mentioned that your dad is a CA and it would seem so logical that you would go and join his business, but you took another path altogether. I find that fascinating and you’ve made that your career and it’s a very, very specialised area. Then also I think what our listeners like to hear about is what do accountants do in their spare time, and you going out to the bush and unplugging and switching off the phone, going to Dullstroom, which I highly recommend to others, you’ve got to go and see that place because it does feel like you’re in another country. The books and the things that shaped your career and your character as an accountant, so I really want to thank you for coming on and sharing those insights with us.

LINDELANI GUMBO: Thank you, Ciaran, for having me. It’s been quite an experience, it’s the first time doing this.

CIARAN RYAN: And you did great.

LINDELANI GUMBO: Thank you [laughing].

CIARAN RYAN: Please stay in touch, we’d like to see how things go with you and your career in the months and the years ahead.

LINDELANI GUMBO: Okay, I definitely will keep in touch.

Ciaran is a seasoned journalist and podcast host. He has a back-ground in finance and mining, having pre-viously headed up a gold mining operation in Ghana.
In this podcast he interviews various CFOs, getting more detail on the role of the CFO and their daily challenges and solutions.

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