Lwazi Bam became CEO of Deloitte Southern Africa on June 1 after securing more than 75 percent of the vote of over 250 partners at the auditing and professional services firm.
Bam has been at the helm of Deloitte – one of the “big four” auditing and professional services firms – for only three months, but has been with the firm for 18 years. In 2003 he became a partner. In 2006, he became leader of Deloitte’s corporate finance division. This saw him also become an executive committee member, looking after the public sector and responsible for the firm’s integration in East and West Africa.
Soon to be 41, he is one of the youngest CEOs in the industry. But he comes in as head of the firm in one of the most trying economic times in recent history. The world economy is still trying to shake off the effects of the global financial crisis and is now dealing with the euro zone economic situation – both have affected the SA economy and businesses.
Deloitte last year lost a big chunk of business with the lucrative Transnet contract having to go out to tender, and it being precluded from bidding as part of a mandatory process.
But Bam said he and the Deloitte leadership were up for the challenge to still grow in a tough economic situation and increasingly competitive environment.
“We need to continue to grow to retain and attract top talent… There is also an expectation from staff to make partner. And for that to happen, we need to grow our business. I understand we are operating in extremely tough market conditions and can only really grow when our clients are growing.
“To help our clients to grow, we need to align our performance with the businesses we work with and advise. We will grow through innovating to help them find new markets and services. An increasingly growing part of our business is through advisory services to corporate and public-sector clients. We are not just an auditing firm. Now there is about a 50/50 split between business coming from the auditing and the professional advisory sides of our business.”
Bam said about becoming CEO: “It was not expected… Things like this are never expected. I was part of the executive team and anyone of us was eligible for the position. I am glad the partners had the confidence in me, with 75 percent of them voting me in as CEO.
“Since my appointment, it has been an extremely exciting process at Deloitte of redefining our strategy. We are looking closer at issues like: How do we grow and engage with our clients better and how do we differentiate ourselves for talent attraction in the market?”
Bam acquired his BCom and CA through Unisa and the former University of Natal. He is a member of the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants and president of the Association for the Advancement of Accountants in Southern Africa, a body that promotes blacks in the accounting profession.
Bam was born in the Eastern Cape, but said he spent much of his formative years growing up in Newcastle, before moving to Joburg. He also represents the “big-four” firms on the CA Empowerment Charter Council and is chairman of the Africa Children’s Feeding Scheme.
Bam said Deloitte had bought into the concept of transformation in SA business a long time ago and was a leader in the industry.
“We have had the belief from early on that transformation is ultimately good for business and the country, as opposed to a mere compliance issue. Deloitte started its transformation efforts long before the charter and today have a level 2 BEE rating with over 28 percent black ownership.
“We have gone beyond what is required by the charter. If you look at the big-four firms, the other three are on the first black CEO, but I will be Deloitte’s third. We also had the first black female chairwoman and 50 percent of our staff are black.”