New era of focused growth for board of directors
A SOUND and experienced board of directors is critical for any business.
When considered against the backdrop of what is fast becoming a global recession because of Covid-19 (that C-word), then the onus on those tasked with oversight and guidance exponentially increases. This also places additional importance on the selection of board members.
Taking current events into account, JSE-listed African Equity Empowerment Investments (AEEI) recently announced a series of changes and additions to its board of directors.
The appointments not only reinforce the group’s corporate governance credentials, but also signal a new era of focused growth for the organisation as it looks to unlock its considerable balance sheet with a series of targeted investments, while safeguarding its existing interests.
Leading the pack, Valentine Dzvova, who has been acting chief executive since March 12, was appointed as chief executive effective July 1.
She is already beginning to stamp her mark on the organisation, with a fresh vision for the diversified investment group she has been tasked with steering from its operational management roots to that of a fully-fledged investment holding company.
Dzvova, a chartered accountant, is said to be someone who not only gets the job done, but well, and is now joined in her quest to grow AEEI’s portfolio and output, by Jowayne van Wyk, who will replace outgoing chief financial officer Chantelle Ah Sing. Sing will leave the group at the end of July to focus on furthering her studies and pursuing other personal interests.
Van Wyk is no stranger to AEEI though, having formerly chaired the AEEI audit and risk committee and acted as a non-executive director since September 2019.
AEEI has also appointed Bongikhaya
Qama as a non-executive director. He has served as chairperson in many community empowerment boards and currently serves as the provincial chairperson of the South African National Civic Organisation.
Rounding out the latest board newcomers is Wils Raubenheimer. He will serve as an independent non-executive director on the AEEI board of directors. He has also been appointed as the chairperson of the AEEI Audit and Risk Committee, as well as the lead independent director of the company. He is a qualified chartered accountant who brings a wealth of accounting expertise to AEEI, having previously been a partner at Mazars Chartered Accountants, as well as being financial director of several companies in the UK.
Currently the chief executive of Hertz Rent A Car, Southern Africa, Raubenheimer, on joining the AEEI board, said: “I am looking forward to adding value to the team as a result of my years of experience in audit, consulting and retail, and to further strengthen independent oversight of the company’s financials to satisfy ever-increasingly stringent compliance requirements.”
Of taking up the challenge to lead the group during what can only be termed as challenging times, Dzvova said: “The road ahead requires a steady commitment to ensuring the sustainability of AEEI – for all its stakeholders – and I am dedicated to that cause. AEEI is a solid business and with the support of our chairperson, board of directors and our very loyal and resilient staff, we are well poised to weather the storm and transition to our next phase of growth.”
That next phase of growth includes looking at further investments in the tech space to respond to the new digital world that the world has been thrust into, and ultimately bolster the group’s investments with the aim of further increasing value for all stakeholders.
The AEEI board also shares five key principles for dealing with the fallout from Covid-19 and economic lockdowns that help to guide their current decisions that are setting the group up for a secure and sustainable future:
◆ Speed boat driver not ocean liner captain – the flexibility and adaptability principle should not be ignored by businesses anymore. Covid-19 delivers challenges, but also opportunities, and businesses that are nimble and able to adapt quickly, and that innovate, will be better able to ride out the storm and change direction to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. Quick and decisive decision making is also a must.
◆ Commitment to the ubuntu principle – a business that takes care of its communities in times of deep economic difficulty will be remembered long after the pandemic is over. It should take ownership of social upliftment and support the vulnerable in the communities they do business in. ◆ Cash is king – it is important for businesses to buckle up and preserve cash right now. Make a realistic review of “nice to have” and “must have” expenditure. Be measured in making investments.
◆ Communicate – the value of maintaining strong relationships and communication with stakeholders at all levels cannot be under-estimated. Most, if not all, businesses have had to negotiate longer payment terms with creditors, encourage quicker payments from debtors, seek capital injection from shareholders, relief from the government, and the buy-in of employees as they took pay cuts, etc. In a communications void, people make up their own mind, and it’s usually the wrong picture. Those organisations who had adopted an engaged and open approach with all stakeholders are the ones who will fare the best.
Life and business, are all about relationships.
◆ Embrace the digital future now – Covid-19 has accelerated the uptake of the 4IR. Ignore this at your peril. Businesses that do not have a strategy in place to transition to a fully immersed digital future, will be left behind and be the casualties of this economic war we are all currently fighting. This includes trusting employees to work remotely with the same productivity, effectiveness and outcome as in the office.
I am looking forward to adding value to the team. Wils Raubenheimer NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR