Information and communications technology (ICT) giant BCX has begun to professionalise its finance team with professional accounting designations of Associate General Accountant [AGA(SA)] and Accounting Technician [AT(SA)]. Earlier this year, the company started the process of empowering its team of 250 employees with these professional accounting qualifications offered by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA).
Commenting on the decision to professionalise her finance team, Prosperity Zondi, Executive: Finance Business Partner at BCX, says that it was important for the company to be aligned with the evolution of the finance function. “The purpose of the finance function has evolved over time. It is no longer for stewardship, operation control of physical and financial resources within the organisation. As BCX, we believe that our finance vision is to be a strategic business partner, a trusted advisor through collaboration and functional excellence to drive value creation. We had to look at where we are and how we needed to move to be seen as a strategic partner, and not just a provider of financial reports that can only be understood by the finance function.”
She adds that the company looked at its strategic building blocks that would take them to where they want to be. “We looked at our strategy, vision and operation model design and realised that our people are an important element of our journey in reaching our vision. For the finance function to go beyond the numbers, we need to be professional and we cannot leave out the financial control experts. We also had to assess with various stakeholders about what they expect from the finance function. Based on the feedback we realised that we needed to empower our people to be able to meet organisational expectations.”
Research conducted four years ago by Deloitte involving 290 CFOs over a six-year period also showed that finance divisions are spending more than 55% of their time on steward and operator roles as compared to strategist and catalyst roles. These focus on proactive and predictive activities to guide and steer the business to make the right strategic choices in response to increased uncertainty and focus on partnering the business, and provide the insights to drive commercial outcomes in the key moments that matter.
Zondi says that after meeting with SAICA, the feedback from her team showed the AGA(SA) as a designation of choice. Out of the 250 finance employees, 50 were immediately interested in pursuing the AGA(SA) designation. Two have already qualified as AGAs(SA) and Zondi aims to have 10 more to qualify as AGAs(SA) by the end of 2020.
“By 2022, the rest of the team will qualify. Already at the Telkom Group we have the CA(SA) stream. When we looked at the AGA(SA) route at BCX, it was an obvious choice to take our people to the future state of finance. We realised that we have people who are advanced and those who have basic accounting qualifications, but now need to close the gap. You will be amazed that most people did not know about the AGA(SA) route until SAICA came to present to them. Our employee value proposition is that we are intentional about empowering our people as they are our asset. We cannot reach all our ambitions if our employees are not empowered.”
Zondi says that two years ago when BCX was revising its business strategy the finance function played a pivotal role in the process. “This showed that the finance function was taking a more critical role as the sounding board for the CEO.”
“As you will have seen in the news recently, our profession is being challenged. There are things that have come out to challenge the profession. We have to make sure that we restore that dignity and how we will handle financial issues in the future. Professionalising the finance division might look like it is just an investment, but it is an investment with rewards,” Zondi concludes.
It is proactive actions like these that also contribute to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals — particularly the objective of promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment as well as decent work for all.
SAICA, South Africa’s pre-eminent accountancy body, is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading accounting institutes. The Institute provides a wide range of support services to more than 46 000 members and associates who are chartered accountants [CAs(SA)], as well as associate general accountants (AGAs(SA)) and accounting technicians (ATs(SA)), who hold positions as CEOs, MDs, board directors, business owners, chief financial officers, auditors and leaders in every sphere of commerce and industry, and who play a significant role in the nation’s highly dynamic business sector and economic development.
Chartered Accountants are highly valued for their versatile skill set and creative lateral thinking; that’s why the top 100 Global Brands all employ Chartered Accountants, according to CAW, 2020 – Interbrand, Best Global Brands 2019.
What is an AGA(SA)?
AGAs(SA) play key managerial roles within diverse sectors of the economy. Professionals who hold this qualification have successfully completed a SAICA accredited degree and a SAICA training contract or assessment to ensure they offer a strong set of technical accounting and financial skills required to navigate today’s complex and evolving business environment. They are technically-minded accountants, who have the ability to bridge operational and strategic management functions. Their expert ability to drive accountancy and financial excellence in organisations enables them to deliver results and accelerate organisational financial performance.
SAICA’s mid-tier AGA(SA) designation enables finance staff to have stronger technicaland analytical rigour to drive accounting, financial and operational excellence in organisations. They can perform various roles, including the compilation of financial statements for companies, act as a commissioner of oaths, register as a tax practitioner and perform independent reviews.
What is an AT(SA)?
AT(SA) is a recognised and respected competency-based accounting qualification offered by SAICA. It is job-related, application-driven and meets the need for sound accounting and financial skills in the workplace. With ATs(SA), employers get the assurance and benefit of high quality, practical accounting skills — adding real value to finance teams.
In essence, AT(SA) is a mark of professional competence. Once trained, bearers of the designation show a solid understanding and practical application of accounting and finance skills. As a foundation phase qualification, these professionals play a key support role in finance and business, competently working across all sectors of the economy to improve organisational productivity and efficiency. The qualification enables accounting technicians to occupy diverse roles such as Accounts Administrator, Payroll Administrator, Debtors/Creditors Clerk, Payroll Assistant and Financial Accountant.