Helping CFOs grow, learn and flourish was the topic for the final panel discussion at the CFO South Africa Summit on 9 March.

EY partner Sean Berrington shared how his recent move from CFO of Standard Bank’s group engineering division to a passion-led technology leader helped him evolve into a leader of the future.

Sean, who says he has always had a passion for technology developments, said he saw the value of being a technology leader with a finance background appealing. “ Over the years at Standard Bank I had developed a passion for tech, and I decided that I would follow my heart. My past experience as a CFO brings different values and conversations to my current role.”

Addressing the audience of finance executives, Sean said technology, and the ability to evaluate its customer value proposition, is now an integral part of any executive role. “As technology shifts, changes and scales, we need to assess what we need to adopt and scale in our businesses.”

Tech-savvy tips

He gave two tips to those in attendance about being agile and adaptive with regards to technology.

Firstly, he said leaders need to clearly identify the problem that needs to be solved through the implementation of technology. Once that is done then move the focus away from the technology itself and more towards the business value. “Ideally leaders should move away from focusing on just the technology itself but also look at the value it adds to an organisation and how it is going to contribute to and benefit your customers and employees.”

His second piece of advice was to never shy away from asking questions when faced with content of a technical nature. “There is no such thing as a stupid question. Yes it may be awkward but in the end it will really help you to truly understand tech. If you can’t understand the value of the tech to your organisation, maybe there isn’t any. “

Keep on learning

SAP Africa CFO Sandi de Souza, who’s journey panned out differently said she believes a balance between theoretical teachings and practical learning in the workplace is what hones leaders. “Embarking on my MBA after a few years in corporate opened my eyes on leadership styles. The theory and content learnt during the modules was great but the biggest takeaway [for me] was a change in personal development and thought process. The balance between the two allows one to approach issues differently.” Sandi encouraged attendees to not shy away from learning and to be adaptive.

By the end of the discussion, all those in attendance agreed that agility, curiosity and willingness to learn are key qualities that leaders need to thrive in their roles.

This article first appeared on CFO South Africa.