Stefan de Bruin, CFO of Paratus Group, approaches his role much like an adventurer preparing for an epic journey. Just as an adventurer meticulously plans his/her route, ensures the equipment is top-notch, and is always ready for the unexpected, Stefan ensures that the company’s financial engine is finely tuned, always fuelled, and prepared for growth. Stefan is a highly experienced financial executive who has helped to guide the company through a complex transformation process, as well as raise capital for its ambitious expansion plans. He brings a disciplined and strategic approach to Paratus, making him an integral part of the company’s success.
Stefan has been with Paratus for the past six years. He joined when the pan-African telco had individual operating companies in multiple markets. He was involved in the complex process of unifying the group under one holding company and introducing a more formal management and budgeting structure along with new shareholding for the group structure, which injected much-needed capital into the group. It was a necessary step in the Group’s advancement towards its ambitious goals of transforming Africa through exceptional infrastructure and service. “As we embark on this massive expansion programme”, explains Stefan, “you need the backbone and company structure to cope with the growth.”
Stefan strongly believes in financial discipline, which he applies in the corporate world and his personal life. He sees financial discipline as a critical ingredient in any successful business’s growth journey, forming the backbone of the organisation’s operations. Strong financial discipline includes robust internal controls and processes, accurate and timely monthly financial reports, optimal capital structure with a healthy balance between debt and equity, well-prepared budgets and cash flow forecasts, and project viabilities with accompanying funding methodologies.
Raising capital for the expansion programme has also been a very important feature of Stefan’s work for Paratus and one in which he’s had great success. Before joining Paratus, he was CEO of Oryx Properties Ltd, a listed commercial property fund. He initially worked as CFO for Oryx Properties, where he sharpened his financial skills in coordinating and securing loan and equity funding due to the large capital appetite of the business. After leaving Oryx Properties, Stefan embarked on a six-month sabbatical which took him across the Karoo on his motorcycle “With no emails, WhatsApps, or pressure of any sort, I was able to clear my head and regenerate my focus. I found it enormously energising and cathartic.”
“And now I enjoy working for Paratus – my colleagues are professional and enthusiastic. I love the raw honesty here – and how everyone just gets on with what needs to be done. I believe this is at the core of the Group’s success and what is especially gratifying is that office politics do not bind us.”
Stefan is bound however, by a volume of different reporting processes and obligations – for the Namibian company listed on the Namibia stock exchange and the greater Paratus group… “In addition to the day-to-day responsibilities, I participate in the Investment Committee, Risk Audit and Compliance Committee, Remuneration and Nominations Committee meetings and formal board meetings.”
Fortunately, Stefan has a capable team supporting him. He has added to his financial staffing complement for the operating companies and the Group. “Because of the shareholding in the Group structure, we need to comply with International Financial Reporting Standards, which presents a set of inherent challenges in Africa. However, it keeps us all on our toes and ensures that there’s never a dull moment.”
Empowering employees and taking responsibility for their actions is a principal Stefan firmly believes in. He believes this approach ensures employees learn from their mistakes and accelerates the development of skills and experience required to be a successful leader in any financial and operational role. Furthermore, he ensures that suitable candidates with appropriate skills and a cultural fit are appointed to the financial department, which forms the organisation’s backbone.
Stefan’s appetite for adventure knows no bounds. He refuses to let boredom creep into any aspect of his life, and when he’s not hard at work, he enjoys running with his Weimaraner, Leila, cycling, and exploring the Namibian outdoors with his family while planning his next motorcycle foray into the unknown. “I was born in South Africa, so I’ve always been drawn to the Karoo, but I don’t know the north of Namibia that well and I would like to explore that part of our beautiful country – just a holiday, not a long sabbatical because I find nowadays that I have the right balance in life and that’s something for which I have Paratus to thank.”