These two firms indentified the need to create a single entity with the resources, capacity and expertise to provide good governance through specialised internal audit services, external audits, forensic services and business consulting to the private, public and institutional sectors. The Afropolitan speaks to the Chief Executive Officer of SekelaXabiso, Lindani Dhlamini, the founding member and former Chief Executive Officer of Xabiso Chartered Accountants about their merger and company’s vision.
Can you please give us some background to your careers?
I obtained my Bachelor of Sciences Degree in Computer Science from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and got a job thereafter. During that time I was inspired by my, now former, boss to become a chartered accountant so I went back to UCT and completed a conversion course to acquire a Bachelor of Commerce. After completion of my studies I joined Deloitte as an articles clerk and then worked at Deloitte Corporate Finance for three years, gaining valuable experience in transaction support services.
The merger of the two highly successful auditing firms, Sekela Consulting and Xabiso Chartered Accountants to form SekelaXabiso has brought into being one of the country’s second largest black-owned firm.
My business partner Abel (Abel Dlamini, former Executive Chairman of Sekela Consulting and now Chairman of SekelaXabiso) is a member of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Institute of Internal Auditors as well as the Public Accountants and Auditors Board. He’s a founding member of Sekela Consulting and has since grown his entity to a staff compliment of more than 180 professionals over the past nine years.
What events led to the merger between Xabiso Chartered Accountants and Sekela Consulting?
We identified a gap in the market and we wanted to close it. As can be expected and history shows South African corporations in particular want the assurances that bigger firms can provide. So our objective in deciding to merge was to expand and enable us to focus strongly on the one area that we excel in and that is internal auditing.
How did you develop a love for accounting and entrepreneurship?
I wanted to do something different with my life and at the time I noticed there were very few black Chartered Accountants in the country; and as I mentioned I was inspired by my first boss who was a Chartered Accountant. He encouraged me to go down this path.
How well did you and Abel know each other before your merger?
Since the inception of our companies, mine in 2003 an Abel’s in 2004, we have worked together on various projects. This merger comes as a response to the markets’ need for consolidation and capacity. I guess after nine years there is no way that you cannot have a personal relationship with someone whom you have known for so long.
SekelaXabiso is now the second largest black-owned accounting firm in the country, what does this achievement mean to you?
I believe this achievement sends a strong message out to the corporate world to say we need to be taken seriously as black professionals and entrepreneurs. We have the right skills and expertise to respond to what the market is demanding.
As black professionals and entrepreneurs in a white-dominated sector, what challenges have you experienced?
To be quite honest our challenges have not been any different to other entrepreneurs out there. But a major problem we are still facing in this sector is a legacy issue. Corporate South Africa is still reluctant to appoint black companies like ours due to lack of trust. The sector is also dominated by international companies who have the majority of the business.
What were the biggest assignments or contracts that you have worked on?
There are too many – in the public sector our client list includes Transnet, Eskom, SABC, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, various government departments and Royal Bafokeng. The new firm’s aim is to extend its reach in the public sector as well as to enter into the private sector as a significant and trusted provider.
How is SekelaXabiso different to other auditing firms in terms of services offered?
We pride ourselves on our main strength which is internal auditing. However, we also do forensic services and business consulting, Information Technology audits and external audits.
What business values and principles does your new organisation embody?
We are people of integrity, highly professional and we offer excellence service to our clients.
In your opinion, why is the financial and accounting sector still dominated by white people?
It’s a legacy issue. We know black people were previously denied an opportunity to participate in the mainstream economy by the apartheid government, which is why we see this gap. It will take some time and a concerted effort to close it and that is exactly what we are doing. Remember it takes a full seven years to be a qualified chartered accountant if you’re an excellent performing student. This means it can take more than that for average students and this comes with a high cost which prejudices many black students who may not be able to afford it.
According to the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants there is an insufficient number of black accountants in the country, with less than 2 000 black Africans out of a total 34 000 chartered accountants. How can this sector reach racial transformation?
The main problem starts early. In school there is a need for proper career guidance which must be focused with efforts to improve maths literacy. The profiling of chartered accounting professionals also helps to expose and attract learners to this career opportunity.
We are also doing our bit by sponsoring previously disadvantaged black African learners through the Thuthuka Bursary Fund where the company identifies a number of learners, enrols them in universities and contributes 50% of their tuition fees until completion.
What is your vision and goal for SekelaXabiso?
We want to be a profitable company that attracts the right staff and retains them. Our vision for 2020 is to achieve a R1 billion turnover. SekelaXabiso also intends to redefine the role that internal audit has to play in securing good governance in South Africa and beyond.