CEO and CFO at FindanAccountant.co.za, Chris Preen, has never strayed far from the finance field in his career. At university he studied for a B.Comm degree with majors in Accountancy and Economics.

“Most of my employment has been in self-established entrepreneurial ventures and although a lot of management functions are able to be delegated, I’ve always kept my own hand on the reins when it comes to financial management.”  Preen says on a day to day basis, the biggest issues he faces are usually IT related.

“Integrating data from proprietary databases, to accounting software packages, to bank interfaces and back again can be challenging, especially with all parties continually tweaking their own interfaces.”

But, as always, problems also generate opportunities.

“I believe there is a lot of scope for finance managers to come up with improved data systems and procedures even if only on an internal level.”

 On the changing role of finance managers:

Preen says although it is true that “software has been eating the world” for the past 20 years, the degree to which it is enmeshed with every part of today’s enterprise (especially on the financial side) means that every year the CFO has to have stronger IT skills too.

 “Business processes, data integrity, IT costings and future proofing are just some of the things that can no longer be done without some solid basic IT know-how. This trend will increase as we go forward with no immediate end in sight. All departments of the modern organisation have obviously been affected by this trend but the CFO often sits at the crux of it.”

He foresees massive disruption just around the corner for the finance industry.

“On the global level I see massive opportunities (and disruption) coming in the form of blockchain and digital currencies. The recently invented blockchain platform is essentially a new decentralised ledger system and as a ledger system it sits squarely in the domain of the accountancy field.”

 He says blockchain technology has the potential to do to the Fintech industry what Uber has done to traditional taxis.

“I believe there is a lot of scope for finance managers to come up with improved data systems and procedures even if only on an internal level.”

“It’s not limited to banking – inventory management, accounting systems, asset registers and contractual transactions could all be revolutionised. Already the big four accounting firms have seen this coming and are scrambling to get up to speed. The future CFO and accountant will need to be well grounded in these new blockchain systems which once again will require considerable IT savvy.”

 On South Africa’s role in the global financial world:

Preen says he believes South Africa is uniquely positioned in the geo-political world.

“Unlike many other parts of the world, South Africa does not seem to have many foreign enemies at the moment and I think as fractures seem to be spreading, and tensions ratcheting up all over the rest of the world this will become increasingly valuable. We are the perfect gateway to Africa where much of the potential for growth for the coming decades surely lies. We are still rich in resources, located far away from most natural disaster zones (think earthquakes, typhoons etc.) which are only going to increase in coming years and we have incredible human talent. Our potential lies ahead of us.”

He says political risks have constantly been a factor with South Africa, but that South Africans have always managed to pull through.

“The results of the recent local elections were extremely promising revealing a far more sophisticated electorate that are now voting on real issues as opposed to past ideologies and affinities. As this trend continues any future government of South Africa is going to have to improve delivery or risk losing the majority vote (a situation that was not immediately obvious only a couple of years ago).”

According to Preen the opportunities for healthy growth are definitely there for the right companies if they do the right things right. “For international companies we also provide an opportunity to diversify an existing international portfolio. As already mentioned South Africa is a unique market and offers something different to traditional developed markets and just lumping us in the “emerging market” category does not credit us for our unique offerings.”

He thinks that regardless of the industry, from a pure investment and diversification viewpoint international companies can only enrich their portfolios by participating in South Africa’s unique situation.