‘I fell in love with accounting and it’s still my passion’
Welcome to this CFO Club Africa podcast, in this podcast series I speak to leading CFOs to highlight their professional journeys, their perspectives on the industry and their perceptions regarding the skills a modern CFO must have to lead a successful organisation.
My guest today is Engela Van Loggerenberg, she wears a number of hats, she’s the group financial director of Cash Converters Southern Africa, she’s also the managing director of True Accounting and the owner of a Cash Converters store in Woodmead. She has nearly three decades of experience in the finance industry across numerous sectors, such as retail, security, IT, mining and finance. She holds a BCom in financial management from Unisa. Engela, it seems you are doing three fulltime jobs.
It is quite a full day, but I think it’s all about planning and also having good structures and teams around you. I obviously can’t do any of this on my own, I really have strong support around me and that just makes it so much easier.
Tell us about yourself, where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an accountant?
I’m from the East Rand, I was born there and have always been there and I actually landed in finance quite by accident, I did not really know what to do after school. I got a part-time job at a company doing reception work for them, I loved it so much and they obviously loved me and asked me to stay permanently, they said they’ll send me on some courses and one of which was a bookkeeping course and I just loved it, and from there the journey started. I studied part-time all along the way and I eventually got my degree, a BCom from Unisa, and I fell in love with accounting and it’s still my passion.
Tell us about your career journey, obviously doors opened for you, but you still need to walk through them, tell us about that journey.
Yes, it has not always been easy, working fulltime and studying part-time, I also had a young family at that time, I had two young boys. So it definitely was not easy but I think if you are determined and self-motivated, anything is possible. Like I said, I had a strong support structure, lots of people around me to help me when I had to study, take care of the kids or help with chores. It’s definitely very important to have a support structure around you. But I think the most important thing was just to work hard, it’s nothing more than that, I really had to put in the time and in the evenings when everyone went to bed, I had to take my books and study and literally work my way up.
I had a plan and a goal and that was to be a financial director at some point and that’s what I worked towards.
Each step of the way it was just another step forward. Just stick to the dream, stick to the plan, stick to the goal and work hard. I think that’s all it is, it’s just working really hard.
What was your first accounting job?
My first accounting job was to do the accounts at the first place I worked and that was a small engineering company called Casting and Machining Services, I’m still in contact with the owners and we have a very good relationship. That’s where I started as a receptionist and then I moved over to the accounts and the payroll. Then I got a job as a bookkeeper in an accounting firm and from there I worked my way up and moved up all the way.
In 2015 you were appointed the executive and group finance director for Southern Africa for Cash Converters. Were you head-hunted or did you apply for that job?
I applied for the job, and I originally just started on the finance side for the Cash Converters Group. They started a few years before that with True Accounting as a boutique accounting firm to assist the Cash Converters stores and eventually I became the managing director of that company, and we grew it quite a bit. The journey with Cash Converters has been so inspiring, the founders, Richard Mukheibir and Peter Forshaw, are still in the company. They started the company 28 years ago and we continue to grow the group.
We’ve got 87 stores across South Africa and Namibia, and we have plans to expand to Nigeria and Mauritius.
How closely do you work with the CEO and are you involved with the formulation and conceptualisation of new strategies?
Yes, I am part of the EXCO group, and the CEO, the EXCO and entire director team, we work very closely. We’ve got weekly meetings where we strategise, where we plan and where we make sure that we are ready for the road ahead. We obviously all learnt a lot from Covid and everything that came with it, we’ve put new strategies and plans in place as far as technology is concerned, we have digitised most of the things we do.
Let’s talk about Cash Converters, it has 87 outlets, are they all franchises?
Yes, we do have corporate stores as well, but the majority are all franchises and individually owned but they’re part of the franchise group and part of the Cash Converters brand. I’m also very much involved with these outlets, specifically because of True Accounting, where we do their finances and the accounts for them. So that’s from beginning to end, literally when they want to buy a store we register a company for them, we do the compliance, then we do their monthly accounts for them, everything up until they need their financial statements at the end of the year. So it’s very much entwined between operations and between finance.
We’ve got a whole lot of different departments and each department has got a role to play to make sure that the Cash Converters stores are profitable, from marketing to IT to operations, the finance, there are so many different departments and all of them are specifically there to make sure that the Cash Converters store is up and running from the word go, so that they can become profitable as soon as possible.
You are also the owner of a Cash Converters store in Woodmead and I’m sure that gives you a lot of insight into the challenges facing these individual franchise owners?
Absolutely, I think it makes it easier when a franchise owner talks about the difficulties or the challenges, specifically towards financing, cash flow, I do have a lot of insight because I’m on the other side. I think that definitely helps to give them guidance and good advice.
Let’s talk about your role as the CFO of Cash Converters, what do you think are the key challenges a modern CFO faces on a daily basis?
My role as the group financial director is to make sure that the finance is sorted, that there’s cash flow, that the budgets are adhered to and that the budgets are in place, that we meet the budgets. As far as strategy and growth is concerned, that there’s capital for those. So that really fall on my shoulders, and I think what keeps me awake at night is to make sure that we can grow the business. After Covid there are so many opportunities out there, specifically for our business, Cash Converters.
We have seen that people need cash, they need an environment where they can sell their items, people need an environment where they can safely borrow money and we obviously provide that for them.
But we want to grow the business, we want to sell more stores and for all of that we obviously need capital, and that is a big part of my job to make sure that we’ve got enough capital to be able to grow the business.
Cash Converters has a CFO and financial director, what are the main differences between these two roles?
I think for myself, my role is more on a day-to-day basis to make sure cash sure and, like I said, the growing of the business and the day-to-day finance. Whereas the CFO is more on the long-term growth plans, new innovations, new things and products that we can bring into the business, he’s very much focused on research and development and the finance of those products. He is extremely good at that; Peter Forshaw is one of the founders and he is extremely innovative and he’s always thinking of new products that we can bring in. He’s specifically involved in digitisation, that is where his strong points are, and his focus is on that side of the business.
If you look at the responsibilities of a typical CFO, what do you think are the key skills a CFO must have to be really successful?
For me, it’s definitely the ability to plan ahead and make sure that you’re able to plan two steps ahead because things change so quickly in our environment, especially these days, as I said the after-effect of Covid, the economy, talks of recession, I think it’s to be able to always stay two steps ahead. Remain calm under pressure, that’s definitely very important and to be passionate about what you do, and I think that’s not only for any person in finance, I think that’s for any leader in business, all of these skills are critical and so important. But to be passionate and to lead by example, I think with that you can do anything.