184: Moshe Fohrman



If it wasn’t for SAIBA, I wouldn’t have been able to open a Business Accountant in Practice institution’

My guest today is Moshe Fohrman, he is the managing director at MBZ & Associates and he’s also the CFO of Fohrman Trading International. He’s a CA, he’s also a qualified business accountant and holds both SAIBA and SAIT licenses. He also has a master’s degree in taxation, and he has been in the industry for two decades and he has a wealth of experience as a finance professional, especially as a CFO. Moshe, it seems like you are doing two full-time jobs, how do you keep the balls in the air?

Yes, I am the CEO of MBZ and CFO of Fohrman International, basically we work around the clock, I work from morning to evening, it is stressful at times, but I must be honest, I’ve got a love for accounting and a love and passion for what I do, so I see it as a lifestyle, it’s not so hectic in that respect.

Tell us about MBZ and Fohrman Trading, are they differently focused companies?

Fohrman International is an ATM business that’s run in the state of New York, USA. So it’s completely different to an accounting business. It’s an ATM business, where you partner with the different banks in America, and you own quite a large amount of ATM machines and they’re positioned all over New York. It’s quite an industry, think of it like this, imagine owning all the Standard Bank, FNB and Nedbank machines at all the different petrol stations but obviously, it’s not owned by FNB, but it’s owned by Fohrman International, which is quite amazing. We currently have around 350 machines and it’s quite an industry because it’s very monetary consuming and basically there are a lot of legalities with the New York laws and all that kind of thing but it’s an industry that could never necessarily work in South Africa, purely because of the crime and because we’re not really a cash-based country in South Africa.

In America where it’s tourist-based and cash-bashed, it’s actually an incredible opportunity of where it goes and how it goes.

Is that yours, do you own it?

No, I don’t own it, my brother owns it. Let me go back with a bit of history here, I was the financial director of a school for just under ten years and then my brother, who has been in America for twenty-odd years, he developed it and he built the company and whereby in order for the company to grow he needed fiscal discipline, he needed corporate governance, he needed proper financial statements, he needed proper strategic thinking, and he asked me and offered me a lucrative position in the industry. I left the Yeshiva College at the end of 2018, the beginning of 2019 and I commuted to America for the whole year of 2019, going to America, building relationships, building software and developing financials and getting investments. It was an absolutely marvelous experience. Then during Covid I was stuck in South Africa, and I couldn’t commute to the USA. So like the rest of the world, we used a lot of Zoom and Microsoft Teams but we see opportunities in weakness and we were able to do a lot of work online. So while I was based here in South Africa during Covid, I decided to build MBZ & Associates.

I joined SAIBA and it’s been an unbelievable institution; I’d just like to put it out there so that the listeners understand how amazing SAIBA is.

In 2013 SAIBA had 300 members and by 2020 they had over 9000 members, that is just not normal growth, we are talking about a seven-year growth of about 3000%, which is off the charts, I have never seen anything in my life like that. All I can say is that SAIBA is definitely growing the way that it should be growing and five stars to SAIBA for being so amazing because I don’t think any other professional body in South Africa can actually boast that kind of result.

What value does SAIBA add to your life?

SAIBA gave me the opportunity to open up Business Accountant in Practice institution, where one of my passions in life was always to have my own business in an accounting sphere, not necessarily to create a regular grey suit typical boring accountant, we wanted to create a new kind of accounting practice, which is much more than just the financial statements. We want to have a relationship with our clients, we want to grow with our clients, we want to strategically understand where they are coming from to see where they can go and basically take it to a whole different level.

SAIBA gave me that opportunity, if it wasn’t for SAIBA, I wouldn’t have been able to open a Business Accountant in Practice institution and I probably would have just climbed the corporate ladder and basically just continued being a financial director and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just to give you some perspective of how crazy this is, I started MBZ just over 18 months ago, we’re sitting with over 52 clients in just 18 months, it’s absolutely unbelievable.

It seems as if the boundaries between CEOs and CFOs are disappearing or at least they’re not operating in silos anymore. You wear both hats, how have the roles evolved and how should CEOs and CFOs work together?

That’s a very good question. First of all, there is definitely a distinction between a CEO and a CFO, there’s no two ways about it. The CFO is the third most important person on the corporate ladder of the company and a CEO is a visionary and a creative and very different individual. However, you will get a situation where an individual can grow to be both a CFO and a CEO or vice versa. It’s not necessarily that you have to be boxed in to a situation that you have to be either/or.

What I have found in the past 20 years is that you definitely have to find the niche of who you are.

If you study to be a financial director, for example, but you can be a CEO, it doesn’t mean you have to be limited to one or the other. But you have to find out what the talents are within you and maximise on that situation and be the person who you are. A lot of financial directors who I have encountered and colleagues of mine have both the roles as CEO and financial director at the same time.

I have always believed that you can’t go to school to necessarily be an amazing accountant. You can learn all the technicalities but you either have that personality and you have that drive, and what the university enables you to do is to sharpen what you already have.

What do you regard to be the critical skills that a CFO must possess to be doing slightly more than just the books?

I believe it boils down to a relationship, a personality, you get two types of accountants, if you want to call it that. You get one who is basically very dry, very methodical, very organised and governance from start to finish, you get that one kind of personality. Unfortunately, they’re not the kind of person who can have a relationship with their clients in a way that another individual could have. But then you’ll get another individual who’s got a very bubbly personality, who’s very talkative, who’s very creative but who’s also become an accountant, that kind of individual is the one who’s going to become a CFO and a CEO or can be one or the other.

What do you think are the most significant challenges facing CFOs today?

Where does one start with that? There are two parts to being a CFO, the one is the corporate meaning, all the governance you have to do, all the strategic and the procedures and the controls, all of that is pretty standard. But what happens is that for a CFO to be successful, they need to be well adjusted to the knowledge about what’s going on in the world today and instead of seeing it as a negative atmosphere, which it can be painted in a terrible light, they have to look out for the opportunity in a challenging situation.

I think where the challenge is, is that people don’t understand what their talents are, so they need to understand what their talents are as an individual. Then they need to understand that we are all in this world together, that’s the way I see it, every single person in this world is here for a reason and every single person has something to offer as an individual. Once we understand and connect the talents that we have and work in harmony together, we can achieve something that’s much greater and that’s what we really need to do and achieve.

Ryk van Niekerk is an award-winning financial journalist with over 20 years' experience. He is Moneyweb’s editor and hosts the Market Commentator podcast and RSG Geldsake, covering the markets, and financial and investment content, joined by CEOs, entrepreneurs, policymakers and others.

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