From game ranger to game changer

Jeff Ryan is an expert in the interaction between finance, technology and people. The current MD of AWCape shared his thoughts in a CFOClub Podcast on how CFOs should approach AI, what managing an acquisition is like and what he learned from his early career experiences as a game ranger.

Written by: Leigh Schaller

Clawing for success

Jeff Ryan is the managing director of AWCape, a Sage provider in South Africa. Jeff worked internationally and locally at large firms, including Accenture and EY.

However, this hasn’t always been his career path. Fresh out of university, Ryan found himself wrangling slightly larger clients, working as a game ranger at the Mala Mala reserve, affording him unique perspectives he still employs today.

“Obviously, you’re in the big five environment, so they [guests] have to feel pretty safe, and that’s got a lot to do with the game ranger and the interactions. In the same way that, when you’re selling a product or a service and engaging the clients, they’ve got to feel very comfortable with who they are engaging with.”

US firm Lescault & Walderman recently acquired AWCape. So which is tougher, managing M&A or game ranging?

“I think I’d rather do a merger. Game ranging is quite tough in terms of the environment you’re working in. Animals aren’t as forthcoming sometimes to do what you want them to do.”

South Africans’ work ethic is our competitive advantage

In a statement following the acquisition of AWCape notes that the company, “offers us [Lescault & Walderman] a remarkable pool of talent that helps us to grow rapidly in the face of a shortage of Sage Intacct implementation skills in the US.”


The work ethic of South Africans is an aspect that Ryan has observed that stands out, having experienced different working cultures during his employment in the U.K.


“In terms of the quality of service, and I think that’s where South Africans differentiate themselves, not just working in South Africa, but working overseas, is that we are willing to do more than is expected of us.”


Jeff says, “I was in London… people in London, very much have their role, and they do their role. If you step outside of that role, some people get irritated because they have their own role, and other people are amazed that you’re willing to go over –  and that is a South African mentality. It really is something about this country that we’re willing to do more and give more of ourselves for businesses. It shows through their loyalty, their passion, etc. So I do think that South Africa has got a lot to offer the world.”

How CFOs should approach AI

Jeff has been working at the intersection of tech and finance for decades and advises CFOs to approach the AI age with open-mindedness.  


“So from an efficiency and productivity perspective, AI is massively reducing the amount of time to complete a timesheet. And it’s a major win.”

However, Jeff notes there are limitations. “I think in a lot of ways, not all businesses are going to find it applicable right now. But I think every business should be aware of the changes that are happening in the world.”


You can listen to more insights from Jeff Ryan on how CFOs should approach AI on the CFOClub podcast and videocast. 

This content is only available to CFOClub members. To find out more about how to join this community of experts, follow this link.

Episode Hosted By Leigh Schaller

Leigh Schaller is a multimedia journalist in the finance and socio-economic space. You can find his work in Accounting Weekly, covering everything from unemployment to corruption and automation.

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