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Young Chartered Accountant's journey to prestigious international awards

JUNE 1, 2017
Young Chartered Accountant's journey to prestigious international awards

Defining moments change us forever. For chartered accountant [CA(SA)] and award winner Thuto Masasa, moving to Cape Town from the small kingdom of Lesotho was such a turning point. 

Masasa’s mom sent the then 15 year old Thuto to a prestigious boarding school in Cape Town. “It wasn’t just that it was a big city,” she reflects. “Moving from a rural place to a model C school, attended by very privileged children, required me to adapt on several levels.

“It was a different culture altogether. On top of this, my English wasn’t good. But the experience moulded me into an independent person.”

Today, Masasa is Head of External Audit and leads Integrated Reporting at Nkonki Incorporated, one of the largest black assurance and advisory firms in South Africa with a global reach through Kreston International.

Regarded as a leading practitioner, she advises South African organisations on the development of their Integrated Reporting, and is active on the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC).

In her thirties, Masasa is highly respected among her peers, and won the prestigious Young Accountant of the Year at the 2016 International Accounting Bulletin (IAB) and The Accountant (TA) Awards. The occasion in London was followed by an industry forum, at which Masasa chaired a session on the Global Accountancy Landscape.

The young professional’s win acknowledged her significant contribution to the industry in the 10 years since qualifying. “The award has given me a little more recognition back home,” says a modest Masasa of her accomplishment.   

Her insatiable curiosity and drive has seen her progress steadily against stiff competition.  Born with ‘the desire for self- development’, it energises her.

After completing her traineeship at Deloitte, the Big Four firm offered the newly qualified CA (SA) the opportunity of a lifetime: a secondment to London. It was Masasa’s first trip overseas, let alone working in another country.

An interviewer in London offered sage advice to the wide-eyed professional: “This is a very competitive environment. Do everything to stand out and work very hard. Everyone is smart.”  She has adopted this modus operandiever since.

But Masasa credits the late Roger Reeves, the former chief financial officer of Murray and Roberts, as instrumental in accelerating her career. “Roger mentored me. A year into management level he told me: ‘Keep a journal. Make sure you are able to write something new you have learnt monthly otherwise you are not developing’.”

The CA (SA) qualification is also an enabler and ‘allows one a seat at the table’. For all her success, Masasa has faced critical choices. “Making the decision to leave Deloitte was very emotional. The company provided me with my first job, and I’d developed good friendships and mentors after seven years there.”

She decided to take a leap of faith. “I needed to try out being a rain maker as most of my experience had been in a cost centre in my role within the learning and development department at Deloitte. I had to let the market give me feedback on my readiness for the next step.” 

Masasa landed a leadership role at Nkonki Incorporated, one of the largest black assurance and advisory firms in South Africa with a global reach through Kreston International. Nkonki Incorporated has been tracking how South African Top 100 Listed Companies and State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) are adopting integrated reporting best practice since 2011.

Credible commitment is being shown by SOEs and the Top 100 Listed Companies in preparing Integrated Reports. “This includes Transnet and Eskom by volunteering for the IIRC Pilot Program alongside listed companies like Goldfield, to contribute towards shaping the IIRC International Frameworks as released in December 2013,” explains Masasa.

“Remember that Integrated Reporting is voluntary outside of the listed companies and is designed to assist organisations to communicate a clear, concise, integrated story that explains how all their available resources and relationships are creating value for stakeholders, so this is cause for celebration for us South Africans as we have set the bar for the world.”

Masasa regards winning the International Service Line Development Award at the 2015 Kreston World conference in Rio for driving the adoption of Integrated Reporting as her most significant professional accomplishment to date.

She is animated in her explanation of Integrated Reporting’s role. “Integrated Reporting is one of the three shifts we are hearing the world talk about currently shifting from silo reporting together with inclusive capitalism and focus on long-term capital markets. Society is looking for more sustainable markets. .”

Masasa has firm opinions on South Africa’s junk status and reactions to the downgrade. Given the option to sink or swim, with her positive disposition, she chooses to swim. 

 “No one can anticipate what the impact will be at this stage. But in my view as an auditor, the operating environment is going to change.  The auditing approach will be very different, with more transparency and disclosures.”      

Masasa offers hard-earned advice to young up-and-coming CA(SAs): “Your motivation to succeed and desire for self-development is a better course of action than a focus on pure monetary reward. With this approach, the financial rewards will naturally come.”