‘You have to act like where you already want to be’
Welcome to this SAIBA CFO podcast, SAIBA is the South African Institute of Business Accountants, it has more than 12 000 members in the country and specialises in a wide range of disciplines such as accountancy and tax, training and development, career enhancement, legislation and financial reporting.
My guest today is Roselyn Madiba, she’s the CFO and country controller of Citibank South Africa, a role she assumed in May this year. She has been with Citibank for seven years and her adventure followed after she was a capital management manager at Absa and an audit and regulatory manager at Ernst & Young. She is a chartered accountant and a registered SAICA assessor.
Roselyn, tell us a bit about yourself, where did you grow up and when did you decide you want to take a career in accounting?
I’m originally from Zimbabwe, so that’s where I grew up and did my schooling and then post my A-levels I moved to South Africa in 2002 to do a Bachelor of Accounting degree at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. When I finished my degree, I joined Ernst & Young and that’s where I did my articles, which I completed in 2008, as well as all my board exams for qualifying, I passed them first time. I stayed on at Ernst & Young for three years post-articles as an audit manager but also on the regulatory side. My clients throughout my career at Ernst & Young were financial services clients, insurance and banking. So I was quite passionate, enjoying the banking space especially.
Also, during articles and post-articles I had an opportunity to be seconded at various banks, so not just auditing but also helping consulting, and secondment at banks, both local and international banks. So it made me want to be in the banking industry, as opposed to just auditing and consulting.
At around that time I was approached by the head of capital management at Absa Group and in terms of the role she told me about I was quite interested in it, looking after the internal capital adequacy assessment process for the Absa Group. I enjoyed that role because I really love strategy and soon after I joined Absa, it was rebranded to Barclays Africa Group, so that was great exposure and a great opportunity for me.
I then wanted a bigger role and bigger opportunity and more global exposure, the role at Citibank came through.
Tell us about your interview at Citibank, what was different about it, as opposed to other interviews you’ve done?
Citibank had not approached me initially, but it was then an interview of like, we really like you, we really want you to join us, when can you join. Hence, it was the opposite because usually when you’re poached, as in the way I was approached my Absa, then I went through the interview process. But the Citibank role was a position I had heard of via colleague at the time who was there contracting. So I joined Citibank in 2015 as head of local regulatory reporting and ICAAP.
There are many financial roles within a bank and I’m sure there are many CAs doing non-financial things within a bank, was it always your ambition to become the CFO?
Not always the ambition to become the CFO, as I said when I joined it was in the regulatory reporting space, which is not your typical looking after the annual financial statements or working directly with numbers, which you imagine the typical CA to do. In banking, there are many CAs who join banking in different parts of the organisation, they may start off in the finance space and then broaden into different roles. Some become relationship managers and re dealing directly with clients, others join the economic department and looking into research, or they join the product space and they’re developing products. So banking offers that, it’s not just thinking that a CA deals with numbers, it’s way more broader than that.
This is your first official CFO position, you were appointed in May, is this position and the responsibilities what you expected this role to be?
Yes, it is and to answer your question, did I always want to be a CFO when I first started my career, what I always wanted to be was to get into an executive role and to be part of influence and strategic decision-making, that was always my ambition from when I started my articles.
I thought, this area of financial services, and in banking especially, needs diversity, needs change and needs diversity in the boardroom and that was my ambition.
Peter Taylor is the head of Citibank in South Africa and there’s always a debate between the role of a CFO and a CEO, how well do you work with Peter and is there an overlap in the roles?
Peter Taylor is one of my mentors and sponsors, we work really great together. He was also one of my interviewers during five rounds of interviews. You have to work very closely, there’s strong collaboration that needed between the CEO and CFO. So I think he’s one of my biggest stakeholders because we have to be aligned in terms of the strategy and what we’re trying to achieve.
How important is experience for a CFO to be really effective in a business?
It is quite important to have experience because you need experience and a good understanding of the business and just good insight into where are we as a business and how are we going to achieve our strategy because you can have a strategy, but you need to set it into financial goals. It’s definitely important to have experience but not necessarily experience in that specific seat but experience in the business and experience and understanding the whole financial landscape.
You have mentioned that you feel like you are being mentored at the moment, but it must be difficult to manage a company alongside a CEO who is also your mentor because mentoring suggests that one party is, not a subordinate, but who is maybe taking advice, as opposed to contributing to the strategic objectives of a company. How do you see it?
Maybe I should clarify here, the mentoring was up until getting to where I am currently because that was the journey before, where I was dealing a lot with the stakeholders who are now all my peers. When I say mentoring, it’s like unofficially just mentoring, being your champion and your sponsor. But now there is collaboration, an equal seat at the table, which I know doesn’t always happen, especially when you are starting, but I definitely feel it.
Do you enjoy reading and what books are on your bedside table?
Yes, I love reading, I have a variety of books on my bedside table, but I also have an audiobook called Executive Presence by Joel Garfinkle. I quite like that book and I’m going through it again because you can never stop learning about establishing and strengthening that executive presence dynamic.
I also enjoyed Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, it’s a book I really love. It focuses on growing as a female leader, so that book gave me valuable tips and insights to getting to have that seat at the table as a female.
Another book that’s not work related is It’s Okay Not to Be Okay: Moving Forward One Day at a Time by Sheila Walsh, which I have found helpful because I’m a perfectionist by nature and I always want everything to be going well at the same time but that book has helped me to understand that it’s okay when things are not okay. It’s a Christian book and that’s where I get my values and my strength to believe in myself.