Finweek English Edition - - Business strategy - BRUCE WHIT­FIELD

WHEN LE­NA­SIA-BORN Harry Kel­lan en­rolled at Wits Univer­sity in 1990 he wanted to be­come a doc­tor. A year later he switched from a BSc to a BCom and has never re­gret­ted his de­ci­sion.

To­day, the 35-year-old mar­ried fa­ther of one is chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer at First Na­tional Bank, part of an in­creas­ingly youth­ful team un­der CEO Michael Jor­daan, who’s yet to see his 40th birth­day. With six years un­der his belt at ac­count­ing firm Arthur An­der­sen, Kel­lan was lured to the cor­po­rate fi­nance di­vi­sion at HSBC but soon re­alised he wasn’t cut out for a long-term ca­reer in in­vest­ment bank­ing and put his CV into the mar­ket. For­mer An­der­sen col­league Alan Hed­ding, who was CFO at FNB, con­tacted him and of­fered him a job in fi­nan­cial man­age­ment. It was a new dis­ci­pline, for which he says he was un­pre­pared, but he took the job in Jan­uary 2005. Hed­ding has moved from FNB’s head of­fice at Bank City in Jo­han­nes­burg’s CBD to the FirstRand head of­fice in Sand­ton as head of fi­nance, re­port­ing to fi­nan­cial di­rec­tor Jo­han Burger. Kel­lan was ap­pointed to re­place Hed­ding on 1 March.

Says Kel­lan: “My in­vest­ment bank­ing ex­pe­ri­ence taught me about strat­egy and taught me to find the story be­hind the num­bers.” He says the role of the CFO has changed con­sid­er­ably in re­cent years. “We have to get into the habit of look­ing be­yond next year – us­ing the in­for­ma­tion we have at our dis­posal now to look for­ward as much as three years – so that we can help po­si­tion the busi­ness ef­fec­tively.”

Kel­lan knows he was for­tu­nate to get the job. He was one of eight po­ten­tial CFO can­di­dates who man­age the fi­nances of var­i­ous FNB di­vi­sions. They have a dot­ted line re­port­ing struc­ture to him but re­port di­rectly to the heads of their busi­ness units.

“It would have been good to have got the job in two years’ time, but even then I wouldn’t have felt ready… there’s prob­a­bly never a right time,” he says con­cern­ing his new role, which places him at the cen­tre of the FNB en­gine room. “Ti­tles are ir­rel­e­vant – you have to earn re­spect,” he says. “That’s what the group cul­ture is about. Man­age­ment here is about con­stant ne­go­ti­a­tion.”

Even younger than Michael Jor­daan. Harry Kel­lan

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