Russel Ngobeni is an accountant to his core. His real passion is training under-privileged youth in the beauty of accounting as a way to make sense of the world of numbers and transactions.
He is an admitted sports fanatic who played provincial cricket for Limpopo before deciding to get serious about a career in accounting. He moved from Limpopo to Gauteng to study financial information systems at the Tshwane University of Technology, where he graduated with a national diploma in 2009.
He quickly found out that having a diploma or qualification was no guarantee of success, as he found himself out of work for nine months. He decided to apply to join a workplace readiness programme being run by Guarantee Trust (GT), with the promise of being placed in employment at the end of the training programme.
“I had a dream of becoming a CA, but put that on hold as I was more interested in getting others, especially rural and disadvantaged youth, into the accounting profession,” says Russel.
Once finished with the GT training programme, his talent for accounting – and teaching – was evident. He went on to become a lecturer in accounting at Sandton Technical College, then Victory Training College, before returning to GT as a staff member. He went on to complete a Bachelor of Accounting Science at Unisa in 2015, while simultaneously passing on his hard-won skills to the new intake of students at GT.
He is also a member of the SA Institute for Business Accountants (Saiba) and has earned the BAP (SA) or Business Accountant in Practice designation.
“I started to realise my dream of developing others in the accounting profession. In 2013, I opened a branch of GT in Bloemfontein branch and managed that for a few years. I then became an independent trainer with my own company and I am still doing that. My training academy started with 26 commerce graduates in Bloemfontein but has grown to deliver training and skills development programmes for youth across the entire Free State province, Northern Cape, and Eastern Cape. Our main office is now in Pretoria and our plan is to grow even more and change lives across South Africa.”
To date, Russel has trained 795 students from disadvantaged backgrounds and every single one of them was placed in full-time employment. “Some of my programme graduates are today professional and business accountants registered with various professional bodies in the accounting sector. Many are still serving their articles.”
Work readiness training is more than just the technical side of accounting. The students learn softer skills such as communication and ethics, how to study, how to write an email to a colleague or a boss. They learn basic office functions such as filing, dress codes and office etiquette. All this, says Russel, is designed to make a fully rounded employee who is immediately able to add value to the employer’s business.
Today, Russel is still lecturing. He specialises in a number of areas, including regulatory changes as they affect accountants. He imparts his knowledge through regular webinars offered by SA Accounting Academy and Saiba, which are attended by all types of accountants from CAs to tax specialists and company advisors.
“I keep a close eye on any changes to regulations and the law, since this is an area where accountants can quickly fall behind. I have to stay on top of the changes that happen every month, and the rate at which regulations and laws are changing in SA has become quite staggering. Most of the changes we cover in our webinars cover regulatory compliance, VAT and practice management issues.”
Some of the recent changes include a revision of Section 45 of the Companies Act, which requires public companies to disclose remuneration paid to directors and public officers, and Section 33, which requires all companies to submit annual returns to CIPC (Companies and Intellectual Property Commission) in a certain format and within prescribed time frames.
Today, Russel runs and manages three different entities dealing with the training of accountants, and consulting to companies. “What really excites me about consulting is when you get that jaw-dropping reaction from clients when, for example, you explain how they can save on tax or pay themselves a dividend. I love those moments. I like working together with my clients to build their businesses and make sure they are legally and tax compliant. I also love teaching young people from disadvantaged backgrounds about the subject I love the most – accounting.”
Russel has gone from Limpopo cricketer to a scion of the South African accounting profession in 10 years. And he is just getting started. He is a trainer, a consultant and an entrepreneur.
Some notable achievements:
- Russel is nominated for the 2019 Tällberg/Eliasson Global Leadership Awards. He was selected from over 1600 nominations from across 150 countries. Previous award winners include Professor Thuli Madonsela – the former public protector.
- In May 2019, we was co-opted onto the Saiba board as one of their youngest bright future leaders to assist move the profession forward.
- 2016 – Won 1st Runner Up at the Free State Youth Chamber of Commerce and Industry Awards
- 2016 – Nominated as one of best 12 young entrepreneurs at the Free State Macufe Trade Bridge Awards
Where does he see himself in 10 years? “I will be doing much the same as I am doing now, only I’ll be a lot bigger and by that time I hope to have trained thousands more young accountants. With the digital age at our doorstep or already inside our houses and offices, future accountants need to be trained more on their soft skills so they are able to work along these systems and not be replaced by them.
The need for our training programs become even more relevant now. Accountants need to be trained to be leaders, ethical leaders, good communicators, analysts and advisors of what the systems produce. Therefore, it is imperative for me to look for more unemployed youth, find them, train them and thereafter link them with employers in the sector”
Lastly, at the moment I have a number of small and medium business people including their staff that I am mentoring and wish for this go grow even bigger and bigger.
You can reach Russel at Russel@sgconline.co.za.