Money masters: Finance titans unleash nuggets of wisdom

Rottok Chesaina

KC Rottok Chesaina and his book ‘Masters of Money’. 

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The author interviews 31 chief financial officers with varied backgrounds on their journey to the top.
  • He also seeks to find out how they have remained perched at the zenith and strategies for success.

Imagine being holed up in a boardroom full of corporate titans in the finance world picking nuggets of wisdom from their experience? This is what Masters of Money, a book by KC Rottok Chesaina, a chartered accountant, offers in hardcover.

The metaphorically titled book, published in 2022, is a fascinating compilation of wide-ranging interviews of seasoned financial leaders, the heartbeats of South Africa’s top financial institutions, some boasting decades of experience in the financial world.

The author interviews 31 chief financial officers (CFOs) with varied backgrounds on their journey to the top, how they have remained perched at the zenith and more importantly, strategies for success.

With a background in the financial sector himself, Chesaina deftly weaves together the interviews with the captains of industry, conducted between 2020 and 2021, to come up with captivating and illuminating stories packed with invaluable lessons in the world of business.

MTN South Africa, Nando’s, Mr Price, Old Mutual, Liberty, Discovery, Nedbank, Investec, Sanlam, FirstRand, Capitec, Kumba Iron Ore and Massmart, among others, are just some of the top companies featured in the book.

Rather than just bore the reader with numbers, the Bloomberg Media Initiative fellow taps into his media experience to knit a riveting story having his way with words like a seasoned author.

He not only offers a glimpse of faces of the number crunchers of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)-listed firms but also traces their journey up the career ladder, recounting how some of them have faced the hard task of resuscitating dying firms.

The financial reporting adviser at nimbly interweaves the stories with the common sub-plot centring on humble beginnings of the financial gurus as they wade through lows and highs to the top.

He does not only focus on the successes, which are easy to see, but goes beneath the iceberg, to reveal the struggles, challenges and how they were overcome to birth the successes people see.

Battling global financial crunches, dealing with crippling economic disruptions created by Covid-19 pandemic, having to make hard decisions like restructuring and letting go employees; steering firms through the tough times dominate most of the interviews as he tries to uncover the financial leaders’ strategies to rise to the top.

The 246-page book opens with an interview of Old Mutual’s CFO Casper Troskie, who shares his journey leading top financial institutions becoming a CFO at a young age of 33.

Mr Troskie shares the challenges he faced leading different organisations, how he navigated them and attendant lessons learnt.

As is with other interviews, Chesaina makes sure that he brings out achievements, applicable leadership lessons learnt, crisis management and strategies as well as advice for professionals in the financial sector and beyond.

An interesting story within a story captures an exciting recollection by Andre Du Plessis, Capitec’s CFO, who narrates how the bug of entrepreneurship saw him successfully initiate the sale of his father’s car as a grade one boy. Du Plessis preaches flexibility saying that though he harboured ambitions of studying forestry, he chanced upon chartered accountancy in the ninth grade and his career path was sealed. Interestingly, he describes himself as an entrepreneur rather than an accountant as he always wants to understand the businesses work.

MTN’s Dineo Molefe advocates for a purpose-driven life guided by values, whether in career or personal life.

“Once we have scaled the corporate heights, made the money we were to make and held the positions we wanted to hold, it will all boil down to whether we have made a difference to humanity or not,” says Molefe.

The book comes in handy for those aspiring to venture into the world of business and also with aspirations to climb the corporate ladder as it offers, at a go, priceless lessons that one can only learn in a lifetime.

But even to individuals outside the world of business, the book is also invaluable as it contains lessons on how to manage employees, rise above organisational challenges and, more importantly, how to remain perched at the top.

But even for life in general, the book has lessons on life, especially for employees starting out in their careers. FirstRand’s Harry Kellan advices that climbing that career ladder is sometimes about luck, being in the right place at the right time, adding that the universe has multiple paths to success and missing one train is not the be-all and end-all.


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