WHEN HARRY MET BANKING
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