Written by Mzukona Mantshontsho
PwC has a purpose to build trust in society and solve important problems. PwC is a network of firms in 158 countries with more than 250,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services.
In Africa, PwC employs approximately 10,000 staff in 17 countries and some 66 offices bringing appropriate local knowledge and experience to bear and use the depth of their resources to provide clients with a professional service, specifically tailored to meet their requirements.
The South African Professional Services Academy (SAPSA) spoke to Hein Boegman, CEO for PwC Africa, about his personal, professional and entrepreneurial journey thus far.
What inspired you to become a chartered accountant?
I don’t come from a family of chartered accountants – my father, in fact, was a naval officer and a military pilot. A cousin of mine inspired me to become a CA. From a young age, I knew that the CA qualification is broad based and will give you global access.
What does it mean to you that your colleagues have entrusted you with your current position in the organisation?
It is a humbling experience to be elected by one’s 400 partners across Africa to serve in such an influential role. They are effectively putting their trust in you. Serving as Africa CEO of one of the Big – Four has been a great honour and a challenge and opportunity very few get.
What would you like to have achieved by the end of your term?
At a firm like PwC, reputation is everything – and upholding that under my watch is what keeps me awake at night. We have been reminded of this in the harshness with which you get punished if society loses trust in you. Secondly, an integrated, cloud-based platform that is a cost effective and efficient backbone for our business. As part of our digital transformation strategy, we embarked on a series of projects, such as implementing Google, Oracle Cloud, Salesforce and Workday. Technology enables us to be connected, agile and innovative in engaging the market, supporting our people, and collaborating to offer the best of our collective thinking in a seamless way.
How would you describe your management and leadership style?
As I reflect on my career progression, I can think of countless examples of people who inspired and shaped me. At the age of 27, I left the shores of Africa for the first time to go to PwC New York for two years – it was a huge experience, both professionally and personally. It probably was an inflection point in my career; understanding for the first time what it is like to interact globally. I was pleasantly surprised that as South African professionals we could compete with the rest of the world. I came back more experienced, but certainly wiser in the ways of life – and that has served me well in the 30 years since my return.
I would describe my leadership style as ‘inclusive’. Diversity and inclusion are close to my heart and I truly believe that diverse leadership teams make more balanced decisions.
I have been very fortunate to be given many opportunities to hone my skills. I have always believed that, if I have some level of personal relationship with someone, I stand a much better chance of getting the best out of them, while leveraging their particular skills sets.
What makes you tick or keeps you awake at night with respect to your position?
Our values and behaviours are critical. We strive for a culture in which our values are demonstrated through our behaviour every day. In the decisions that we make, how we have conversations, and how we serve our clients. This is what gives me the ability to sleep better at night.
It’s important to me to know what our people feel about the firm’s values, and what keeps them engaged at work. One of the ways in which we do this is through Values Surveys and our annual Global People Survey. This latter survey measures our people engagement landscape and our people’s awareness of and buy-in to our organisational purpose. The survey findings provide insights to leadership on areas of strength, as well as those requiring attention.
How have you taken part in mentoring others?
I take particular pride in mentoring others, both within and outside of the firm. I am a firm believer in promoting from within where possible, and one of the ways of achieving this is through mentoring. Our organisation is all about people. When I can help someone else and contribute to his or her success, it makes me feel good. In a people business, the biggest contribution one can make is to invest in future talent. I have been the sponsoring partner for more than 30 partner candidates. It gives me great pride to see how they have flourished in their respective careers.
If you had to relate a couple of experiences, what would be the highs and what would be the lows of your working career?
Being a CEO is often a thankless job – but also gives one a great sense of achievement. Not many get this opportunity and it is an honour. You need to motivate yourself, your partners and your people, regardless of the obstacles, and ensure the utmost integrity. The absolute highlight is to see how people develop and blossom given opportunity – in a peoples’ business there can be no greater achievement than helping someone else develop and succeed.
What notable accolades have you and your organisation achieved?
PwC’s brand is important for its growth and sustainability. The Brand Health Index (BHI) compares the strength of the PwC brand with that of its competitors across territories and lines of service. The BHI is commissioned by PwC and conducted by a third-party research agency. PwC South Africa was placed first in the most recent BHI results. We invest significantly in formal and experiential learning and development initiatives with a focus on the development of ACI staff. For the past five years, ABASA has recognised PwC for qualifying the largest number of historically disadvantaged CAs annually.
How has the firm fared in terms of achieving its business growth?
PwC continues to grow globally and now employs more than 250,000 people. For the financial year ended 30 June 2018, the firm achieved impressive growth in global revenue of 7%. Revenues were up across all PwC’s operations, boosted by continued significant investments in quality, new technologies, services and talent. The increasing complexity of business, the emergence of new technologies, the regulatory environment and increasing stakeholder interest have driven demand for our broader assurance services, particularly in areas such as cyber security and privacy, advanced data analytics, as well as enterprise systems solutions. Companies are seeking broader digital solutions and insights to address governance, risk and compliance.
Through what means does the organisation ensure that the firm maintains high levels of ethics and integrity?
Our Governing Board and leadership teams set the ethical tone from the top. It is a role we take very seriously, particularly in the current global and local operating environment, which has seen trust being eroded. Trust underpins everything we do at PwC. Our reputation is one of our greatest assets, and we can never sacrifice this for short-term gains.
Is transformation considered a key objective at the firm, and if so, how is it attended to?
Transformation is a key strategic priority and goes beyond legislative and social compliance – it is our social licence to do business and the absolutely right thing to do. As a part of the PwC global network, PwC South Africa is responsible for helping to empower all the people of our country, starting with our staff. We strive to be a transformed firm that represents the demographics of South Africa and to create an environment that will enable growth and economic empowerment for all our people. We monitor and discuss performance against agreed objectives with oversight by a dedicated Transformation Committee, which is a key sub-committee of our Governing Board.
We continue to make good progress in our transformation journey across all pillars of the transformation charter. In addition, we are a Level 1, AAA+B-BEE contributor. This top rating places PwC in a strong position to offer clients added value. The firm is also involved in several initiatives to drive transformation in the profession and grow the number of CAs in the broader economy. Despite sluggish growth in university graduate numbers, we have approached an average intake of 60% ACI graduates for the past two years. The firm has also invested in several initiatives to nurture future leaders. Our dedicated Consulting, Deals, Forensics and Risk Assurance Graduate Programmes expose a wide range of talented young graduates from various disciplines to various operational disciplines within our business and provide them with opportunities to be mentored by senior managers, directors and partners.
Highlight some recent contributions by the firm to the community and to the relevant profession your professionals are part of.
PwC has significantly invested in a number of corporate responsibility initiatives as a component of promoting socioeconomic development. Some of the highlights of our corporate responsibility initiatives include the Faranani Rural Women’s Training Programme, PwC’s Leadership Development Programme and the support we lend to the Business Skills for South Africa Foundation. We also contribute to the education sector by supporting schools and their surrounding areas in disadvantaged and rural communities. We have a payroll-giving initiative – Umbono – that provides our employees with an opportunity to initiate and support charitable projects by enabling them to donate money directly from their salaries. Respecting the environment is a key responsibility for our firm and we are excited by all the energy, water, lighting and recycling innovations that have been included in our existing buildings, in particular at our new efficiency trend-setting Gauteng office in Waterfall City.
How does the firm ensure that professionalism and good customer service are upheld?
It is important that we maintain the highest quality standards and that our level of integrity remains above reproach. Without the trust of our clients and other stakeholders, we would not be a sustainable firm. The last two years have seen our profession come under unprecedented scrutiny by the media and other stakeholders. This media coverage has resulted in some uncertainty in the market. One of our core values is ‘act with integrity’, and we are committed to living this through our robust governance structures and systems. These enable us to manage the risk associated with new client acceptances, and the continuance of existing clients.
What values do you hold dear and why?
To me, integrity and trust are critical values. By leading through living these values, I can espouse and enact integrity that will hopefully make its contribution in building lasting trust.