Business Day

Tak­ing her place at the top of the ta­ble

• Re­cently pro­moted part­ner en­joys the sup­port of her law firm, her fam­ily and mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in busi­ness sus­tain­abil­ity, writes Penny Haw

- Entrepreneurship · Business · Austria · Belarus · Cape Town · Iceland · Belgium · Pretoria · Mazars · University of South Africa · South Africa · Africa · University of Fort Hare · organization · Billy Hughes · Tshwane University of Technology

Flex­i­bil­ity, agility and the abil­ity to quickly adapt to change are es­sen­tial char­ac­ter­is­tics of busi­nesses that want to flour­ish in an age in­creas­ingly shaped by tech­nolo­gies such as ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, the In­ter­net of Things, ro­bot­ics and quan­tum com­put­ing.

They’re also cru­cial at­tributes of char­tered ac­coun­tants (CAs) of to­mor­row and the com­pa­nies they work for, says Bongiwe Mbunge, who was re­cently pro­moted to part­ner at Mazars Cape Town. For the pro­fes­sion to demon­strate con­tin­ued com­pe­tence, it is, she says, in­creas­ingly im­por­tant to achieve sym­me­try be­tween non­tech­ni­cal and tech­ni­cal skills, and for CAs to ad­vance their busi­ness acu­men to sup­port de­ci­sion mak­ing.

“As a com­pany, we also ap­pre­ci­ate the im­por­tance of bal­anc­ing the ser­vices we offer so that they do not con­cen­trate too heav­ily on au­dit­ing,” she says. “There’s a big call to de­velop ef­fec­tive ser­vices in the ad­vi­sory space. Ac­cord­ingly, CAs have to ask them­selves how they, as pro­fes­sion­als, can ap­ply their ex­per­tise and help build busi­ness so they can be on the front foot. We need to look ahead, ask how rel­e­vant we are go­ing to be in the next 10 and 20 years, and be pre­pared to adapt and change as re­quired.”

In June 2017, Mbunge along with her col­league Wil­liam Hughes and fel­low part­ner at Mazars Cape Town Jean Wes­sels de­vel­oped and rolled out a Busi­ness Sus­tain­abil­ity Ser­vices divi­sion at the com­pany. In keep­ing with the World Coun­cil of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment def­i­ni­tion — which says a sus­tain­able busi­ness is one that “meets the needs of the present with­out com­pro­mis­ing the abil­ity of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to meet their own needs” — the new of­fer­ing is de­signed for clients of all sizes. It aims to de­velop and sup­port strate­gies that cre­ate eco­nomic value and con­trib­ute to healthy ecosys­tems and strong com­mu­ni­ties.

By fo­cus­ing on the three Ps — profit looks at eco­nomic ef­fi­ciency (in­no­va­tion, pros­per­ity and pro­duc­tiv­ity), peo­ple takes into ac­count so­cial eq­uity (poverty, com­mu­nity, health and well­ness, and hu­man rights) and planet fo­cuses on en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­count­abil­ity (cli­mate change, land use and biodiversi­ty) — Mazars now of­fers a holis­tic so­lu­tion to help clients build re­silience, and sur­vive tur­bu­lent times and change, says Mbunge.

The launch of the Busi­ness Sus­tain­abil­ity Ser­vices divi­sion and, most no­tably, sub­se­quent sign­ing of clients were piv­otal.

“I have found my pas­sion and am al­ways think­ing about it, re­gard­less of where I am. I am un­lock­ing ev­ery­thing I am and have learnt and ex­pe­ri­enced, and that is trans­lat­ing into how en­gaged I am at work. What makes the field of sus­tain­abil­ity even more ex­cit­ing is the value it brings to clients.”

Mbunge chose ac­count­ing as a ca­reer af­ter hav­ing shown a nat­u­ral in­cli­na­tion for the field at Com­mer­cial High School in Cape Town. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing with an ac­count­ing di­ploma from Pre­to­ria Tech­nikon (now Tsh­wane Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy), she worked briefly for a non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion in the health sec­tor un­til it closed due to a lack of fund­ing. Shortly there­after, in 2003, she joined Mazars.

“It was then that I re­alised I would need to study fur­ther to be sat­is­fied in my ca­reer,” she says. “I saw how im­por­tant it is to qual­ify as a CA. I re­alised it would not only ad­vance my skills and un­der­stand­ing, but also give me the con­fi­dence I need to get ahead and in­ter­pret dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions in busi­ness.”

Thus be­gan the process of first ob­tain­ing her ac­count­ing de­gree at the Univer­sity of South Africa, then tak­ing a year sab­bat­i­cal from Mazars to com­plete her hon­ours at the Univer­sity of Fort Hare and there­after, “climb­ing the fi­nal moun­tain” to com­plete her ar­ti­cles and qual­ify as a CA(SA). Dur­ing this time, Mbunge got mar­ried and had two daugh­ters. The first ar­rived pre­ma­turely and had to stay in hos­pi­tal for the first three months of her life.

“I could not have con­tin­ued with­out the re­mark­able sup­port of my hus­band and Mazars. The com­pany has sup­ported me through­out, not only giv­ing me the time to study, but also the flex­i­bil­ity I needed when my daugh­ters were born. It helps that Mazars is pro­gres­sive in terms of gen­der trans­for­ma­tion. We have women in in­flu­en­tial se­nior po­si­tions, in­clud­ing man­ag­ing part­ner Michelle Olk­ers and Yolande Fer­reira, head of au­dit in Cape Town. That is not only ap­pro­pri­ate, but also mo­ti­vat­ing.”

When she’s not at work (where she is also very in­volved with train­ing) Mbunge is busy with fe­male em­pow­er­ment ini­tia­tives, which is an­other sub­ject that is close to her heart.

“It was big achieve­ment to have made it as a part­ner and it made me think about sev­eral things. I’ve re­alised how im­por­tant it is for SA and for black tal­ent to pause be­fore hop­ping hor­i­zon­tally in busi­ness. It’s tempt­ing to take new jobs at new com­pa­nies that come with in­creases, but per­haps we need to stick it out and get to the top of or­gan­i­sa­tions where we can in­flu­ence dia­logue. That has been de­lib­er­ate. It is one of the rea­sons I have not left Mazars. I see the need for up-and-com­ing black pro­fes­sion­als to see oth­ers like them sit­ting at board­room ta­bles. That is the li­cence for the black child to say, ‘I can do it’.”

When she re­ceived feedback that her busi­ness case for part­ner­ship had been ap­proved, she saved a copy of the case for her daugh­ters, Khaz­imla (5) and Kh­wezilomso (2) along with the note, “I have pushed and made it to the top of the ta­ble. This is your li­cence to dream big.”


 ??  ?? Bongiwe Mbunge … pas­sion.
Bongiwe Mbunge … pas­sion.

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