FM Wisani Mhinga speaks on transition from private to public sector

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FM Wisani Mhinga speaks on transition from private to public sector

Nov 30, 2023 | Strategy & Leadership

The Industrial Development Corporation’s Financial Manager Wisani Mhinga  always knew that he was not meant to be in audit. It was always just a means to an end. He could not see himself becoming an audit partner. However, he did value the rare opportunity of obtaining the vast exposure to so many clients in different industries. Going through audit articles was a privilege he cherishes.

‘The reason I did not stay in America when I was seconded three months after articles is that I was not a fan of the culture of work that they had there. They would work ridiculous hours instead of what we do here which is to focus on the work, get it done in normal time and go home. A normal day for us when I was in Dallas would begin at 9 a.m. and we would be done at 10 or 11 at night. I didn’t find it necessary to stay that long in the office because work was done at a leisurely pace.’

Ordering meals would take almost an hour as the team discussed the menu and someone had to fetch it. They would then sit to eat and just chit chat and later they would play some games to take a break from working. Wisani would rather we worked through the day and went home at a reasonable time.

‘But other than America, I am not very keen on emigrating. I know a lot of people who have moved overseas and found it to be very expensive, the cost of living out there can be very high. Despite the socio-economic challenges we have in South Africa, I think you can live a relatively comfortable life as a qualified professional. Secondly, I value having family around.’

At audit firms, given the nature of the work there are always deadlines, time sheets to fill and it is generally high paced. Wisani found it demanding but enjoyed the camaraderie and frequent get togethers to reflect on battle scars and achievements. That is a great culture when you are young.

From public to private sector

When he joined FNB, he found it similar as there are a lot of professionals and there are many business units, some large and others small. It is just as high paced as audit but one tends to get isolated working in one’s own business unit which may not necessarily be in teams.

‘I am now working for a government institution and the pace is not as intense. The exposure of work you get is very fulfilling. challenging and holistic. I feel like in the bank you get just a little piece of the finance environment while here you get the broader picture and the exposure is immense. The interesting thing is that there is a certain respect that exists here, the kind of thing that you see in our African culture is reflected here. It is a fine balance that I like, that of a professional institution with all its commercial objectives but still maintain that homely African feel. It is beautiful.’

As financial reporting manager, Wisani has four direct reports and about 10 who report to him indirectly including chartered accountant trainees.

‘My approach is to make our vision clear and outline what we are trying to achieve. It is important for them to see the sense in what we are trying to do. My style is to set out the objective and give the team members the opportunity to do the work. When I review and note that there are gaps that I pick up, like items that don’t reconcile, Igive guidance on how it should be done.

The aim is to ensure that the work that is done is done in a manner that anyone who reviews it can see the objective, understand the process and come to the right conclusion. There should be minimal questions that should arise from reading a report. The more I do this with team members, the less review time that is required as the output is user friendly. I like to see things from a holistic perspective rather than getting bogged down with the detail which can be time consuming. I also give team members the opportunity to review each other’s work which helps me as this is a form of delegation. It also helps them learn as this then means that they will do their own work with a reviewers perspective when they prepare it the next time.’

Quick Fire Questions

Surprising thing about you – I grew up listening to music. My late sister was a South African Music Awards winning artist and we are generally a music-loving family. As a result I can dance like Michael Jackson, the spin, the quick, the moonwalk…. Everything.

Dream car – I currently drive a Mercedes Benz CLA but now that I am married with a little son, I have become more family orientated. So my dream car right now is the Ford Everest – the latest top of the range one with all the best specifications.

Favourite restaurant – Hussar Grill. Their steaks are always juicy.

Hobby – Hiking. I love the outdoors. I also enjoy playing Fortnite with friends after an eventful work day.

Meal – Pasta. Any kind of pasta. I am a very good cook under instruction, we subscribe to this thing called Ucook  who deliver groceries and the exact ingredients that you need to cook for each meal in a week with clear instructions of how you should cook them.

Favourite app – I wont say Instagram or Facebook. I deleted them because they are both energy and time consuming. Favourite app at the moment is Easy Equities, I like to play the stock market even if lately it has been really bad!

Holiday destination –  I need to stop going to Durban and Cape Town, there is more to see in the world. I have only been to the US and Mexico so I need to do more of overseas. I would love to go to Zanzibar, I have heard great things about that island.

Favourite book – The Alchemist. It is a fine mix between fiction and self-help. It has pearls of wisdom.

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