CFO Misheck Sithole has his finger on the pulse of the entire enterprise

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When Misheck Sithole initially arrived in Dar es Salaam in October 2021 to assume the position of CFO at Grand Reinsurance Tanzania, adjusting to the new environment proved to be, well, quite interesting.

"I went to a restaurant to have a drink, and the waitress could not understand English. She took me by the hand and walked me to the bar to show her what I wanted. She wasn’t going to allow the language barrier to make her lose a customer," he recalls.

Hailing from the significantly cooler Zimbabwe, Misheck still grapples with adapting to the hot and humid weather of the coastal city. Sleeping with the air conditioning on remains an experience he finds peculiar. Nevertheless, he appreciates the warmth and hospitality of the locals. In an effort to connect better with his finance team, he is learning Swahili and can now crack a few jokes in the East African language.
Misheck is a fellow member of the ACCA and also holds qualifications from the Institute of Certified Tax Accountants of Zimbabwe. Before joining Grand Reinsurance in Harare in 2018, he spent six years at the listed property investment company Mashonaland Holdings. One of his career highlights was securing a US$1.2 million tax refund.

"It is a highlight for me because as a group accounting assistant, I was not in the operations of the business where my colleagues were generating revenue. To see money in the bank as a result of my efforts was heartwarming. It was a testament to the lessons I learned from the book Never split the difference: Negotiating as if your life depended on it. Nothing is static; even if we had paid the tax in the past, there is still a present opportunity to secure value," he explains.

Grand Reinsurance, registered in 2005 in Zimbabwe, has established itself as a leading insurance solutions company. To navigate foreign exchange challenges in Zimbabwe, the company expanded to Botswana and opened an office in Tanzania in 2021 to tap into business in the greater East African region.

Creativity

"When I was asked to move to Tanzania, it was not an easy decision. When I spoke to my wife about it, she reminded me that I had always wanted to experience working in a different country, and we decided as a family to make the move," he says.

Aside from relocating, Misheck has had to adjust his working style. Admitting to being an introvert, he had to come out of his shell to lead his team.

"I take it upon myself to empower those who work with me. Other than salaries, which are confidential, we have no secrets as I try to keep them well-informed and well-resourced to do more than what their job description says," Misheck says.

As a present-day CFO, he observes that heading a finance function is evolving. Previously focused on number crunching and report writing, today's effective CFO engages in business partnering as automation takes over much of the routine work.

"CFOs need to engage with business leaders and shareholders, so good communication skills have become a prerequisite for effectiveness. There is also a need for creative thinking as CFOs turn data into actionable insight. In addition, I feel we need to be aware of all the cogs in the organisation to be impactful," Misheck explains.

"All facets of the business will impact profitability and cash flow, so the CFO needs to have a finger on the pulse of the entire enterprise. The challenge for me has been being flexible in my personality traits, from being naturally introverted, which is suitable for report generation, to being extroverted, which is necessary for engagement with various stakeholders," he concludes.

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