CFO Casper Troskie differentiates leadership from management

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CFO Casper Troskie differentiates leadership from management

Dec 29, 2023 | Strategy & Leadership

For Old Mutual CFO Casper Troskie true leadership entails giving employees guidance to do their jobs properly while affording them freedom in their roles. “Be a leader rather than a manager. Once you have assessed your people’s ability to execute their roles, you need to trust them to execute the strategy.”

There are numerous functions under Casper’s supervision at Old Mutual including company secretarial, investor relations, taxation, actuarial services, and the legal department. “I have neither the time nor the ability to perform all these functions and hence I need to ensure that I am comfortable with the person who is leading each team,” he says.

Goal-oriented

“I am no legal expert for example, so my role is to ensure that I have the right person in charge of that division. I have been told that I am a very goal-oriented person who can be intimidating. At the same time, I think I am approachable . . . I think you need to have the appropriate balance to implement strategies whilst demonstrating that you care for people and their development.”

Casper has won numerous Partner Awards whilst at Deloitte and was a finalist for the South African CFO of the year in 2015. Given that his father was not a businessman, he has had to rely on certain mentors who took a personal interest in his career. These included certain seniors at Deloitte namely Philip Wessels, his first manager, then COO Richard Dunn and then CEO Vassi Naidoo.

As a way of paying it forward, Casper always has about seven mentees at any given point who he makes time for. Some of them have gone on to hold quite senior positions, including his successor at Liberty Yuresh Maharaj and Smangaliso Mkhabela, founder of The Shard, a boutique actuarial and analytical consultancy.

Strategy

According to Casper another vital role of a good leader is to set strategies and ensure they are implemented. “Strategy is all about execution. You can have a good strategy but if you cannot execute it then it becomes meaningless. The strategy must also be inspirational; people need to be moved by the strategy to give it their all. It should also be customer focused because if you don’t have a customer, you do not have a business.”

Any strategy also needs to have a long-term view and progress must be measured at appropriate intervals. Furthermore, you must consider current trends in your industry. “For instance, in our business, convergence has led to many different platform businesses becoming our competitors. Amazon may have started selling books online but before you know it, they have developed a platform to sell insurance. So, our competitors are not necessarily people in financial services. You need to anticipate such trends to develop a strategy that is bullet proof.”

Another aspect of Casper’s strategy playbook is information gathering. According to him research is critical to ensure that decisions are made from a point of knowledge.

Casper is a father of three – Joshua, who lives in in New Zealand, and Casper and Natasja who are both Bachelor of Commerce students in Cape Town. I asked him what advice he would give them as they prepare for the professional world. Put differently, what advice would he give his 25-year-old self?

“My eldest child Joshua is actually 25. He started a DJ company with the son of the New Zealand Prime Minister. I am not sure what advice I could give him seeing that, unlike me, he is a total extrovert. Anyway, the one mistake I think I made was staying in auditing for too long. I definitely should have gone into commerce much earlier and stayed there.”

Life lessons

Still, Casper did learn a few important life lessons from his experience in auditing. “In Durban, I was part of some really problematic audits. I learnt that if you are not comfortable with something, do not accept it. If there is something that you are unable to live with morally, you need to make yourself heard as soon as possible.

“Trust your gut and do not procrastinate. Do not worry too much about whose feathers you may end up ruffling. If you are wrong, you can apologise later but trust your gut.”

Problems should also be dealt with as quickly as possible. “Do not put off to tomorrow what you can do today. Even while I am on holiday, I make sure I clean my inbox daily. It is an important discipline to have because if you deal with issues promptly, they do not build up into bigger problems later.”

At this point Casper sits up. “Integrity! Integrity! Integrity!” he says animatedly. “You must have integrity to be successful. Think about it. I deal with a very large board, there are 250 people reporting to me directly and the Group has 28 000 employees. If there is an inconsistency in the way you operate, people will see through it. You must have strong values and put the goals of the group ahead of your own personal agenda.”

Looking to the future, Casper plans on transforming the finance function by modernising the systems they use. They are putting their finance infrastructure on a cloud.

In the next two to three years, he also need to find a successor. “Thereafter I will probably occupy a few board seats as a non-executive director. I don’t think I will go straight into retirement, that will be like a vehicle that has been going at 100 miles per hour coming to a sudden and complete stop.”

When I ask him if he fancies becoming a CEO, he pauses for a moment. “No. I am very clear of what value I add and of my expertise. In November, we successfully raised a bond of R2 billion at good pricing in the middle of a pandemic. Things like that are the things that I find exciting and what I enjoy doing. That is what I am good at.”

This article is an extract from the book ‘Masters of Money – Strategies for Success from the CFOs of South Africa’s Biggest Companies’ available here – https://www.takealot.com/masters-of-money/PLID90121297?gad_source=1&gclid=CjwKCAiAyp-sBhBSEiwAWWzTnmLGsW3EWthrsEzrN69lcPhFqkxkQjPsxSF6CHoP2oj6-XRBtDB5gBoCfA8QAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

 

 

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