Sulette van Graan: Success story of a female CFO

Sulette van Graan - Bigen Group CFO

After seven years as Chief Financial Officer of Bigen, Sulette van Graan, has more than proven her ability to help safeguard the Group’s bottom line through supporting the board in crucial strategic financial and business decision making.

Combining financial expertise with analytical and strategic skills, she has consistently added value for the Group by ensuring the agility of the Finance department and the compilation of insightful financial reports to guide the board in making key strategic business decisions.

An innovative, results-proven professional with an impeccable work ethic, she leads by continuously instilling financial probity and accountability throughout the Group. Her invaluable contribution to Bigen’s financial health is widely respected and acknowledged.

Although there is plenty of evidence showing improved profitability for businesses with women at the top – according to Donna Rachelson, author and CEO of a South African brand growth company – in South Africa, the barriers to the top appointments are often still in place. Ironically, this situation prevents women from proving that they are capable of filling male shoes. Because Bigen is passionate about women empowerment and gender equity is a priority, the Group’s employee training and fast-tracking programmes have enabled it to appoint women in senior positions. After Sulette joined Bigen as Internal Auditor in 2008, she completed the Executive Development Programme at Stellenbosch University in 2011 and was selected as a fast-track management candidate in 2012, resulting in her being promoted to Financial Manager and then Financial Officer.

“My philosophy in life is that if you work hard, you will reap the benefits later,” she says. “What drives me is my desire to deliver results. My advice to young people is to work hard – do what you love doing, keep developing your skills and be an expert in your field of choice. Always keep your focus and have a sound strategy.”

Dedicated to supporting Bigen in helping the continent of Africa achieve its sustainable development goals by 2030, she plays a key role in ensuring the Group’s constant growth and healthy earnings. She is responsible for establishing its robust business model and sound financial performance, even in difficult times, such as the 2019 recession. Time after time, she successfully overcame complex business challenges and made high-stake decisions using experience-backed judgment.

Prior to joining Bigen, she completed her articles with Ernst & Young and also spent some time with Africon International Engineering (Pty) Ltd and Samcor. Her vast experience includes finance and accounting, investments, auditing and taxation, gleaned from exposure in diverse industries such as manufacturing, engineering consulting and auditing. She is well versed in providing clients with professional services and advice on sector reform and private sector participation and privatisation, as well as investment assessment, infrastructure and utility costing and pricing and utility management.

At present, besides being responsible for strategic financial planning, execution and reporting functions at Bigen, she also has to address the immense financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to re-establish the Group in the post-lockdown era and ensure its long-term success. Like countless other finance chiefs across the globe, she now faces an unprecedented challenge which will tax her analytical and strategic skills to the utmost. However, with her proven ability to improve operations, impact business growth and create high-level revenue-building strategies, this visionary strategist and tactician is indisputably up to the challenge.