Leading PwC Nam in new normal

Chantell Husselmann has taken up the position as country senior partner at PwC Namibia. Her career, spanning two decades, is the embodiment of the saying that success depends on your backbone, not your wishbone. She sat down with Business7, reflecting on her career and the future.

05 August 2020 | Business

It is important as Namibians to move forward from stages of fear to a stage of learning and eventually to a stage of growth, despite the current uncertainties.

B7: Firstly, let me congratulate you on your appointment as the new country senior partner (CSP) of PwC Namibia. How do you feel about the new challenge?

CH: A bag of emotion goes with accepting the role. I am humbled, grateful but also excited to give back to the firm and to contribute towards the future of the firm and the growth of the entire profession. We find ourselves in challenging times and so does the audit profession. I am however a positive person and a firm believer that besides my own shortcomings I will always have some form of positive contribution/impact on challenges encountered. Yes, it comes in the form of working hard and working smart, but it is worth the cause.

B7: As auditors, firms like PwC Namibia have their finger on the pulse of business. How would you describe the prevailing business landscape in Namibia, especially in view of the impact of Covid-19?

CH: Our economy did not recover from the severe impact of the last drought when the impact of Covid-19 showed first signs. This timing accelerated the severe impact on our economy with a lot of businesses unfortunately finding it either difficult or simply impossible to weather the storm.

B7: Struggling business obviously impacts on the overall economy and government's budget in terms of taxes and lower revenue in state coffers. Your thoughts, please.

CH: Yes. The 2020/21 Covid-impacted budget tabled earlier this year reflected a significant decrease in expected tax revenue collections. This is because of the expected rise in unemployment, the expected decrease in company taxes (lesser business activity/increased losses) and the expected decrease in local consumption of goods and services by me and you as final consumers (value-added tax or VAT collections).

Another challenge to be considered by government is the ability to collect on taxes due, past and current, as more individuals and businesses will find themselves in a position where having enough cash flow is a cause of concern. Not a positive picture and thus the importance that every dollar collected as tax turns into productive spending.

B7: What is your advice in business in these trying times?

CH: While the safety and well-being of workers affected by Covid-19 is a key priority, companies will also have to focus on other essentials, such as incident management and stakeholder communications. Either designed from scratch or by updating a former plan it is important to get factual and have a contingency plan.

In PwC's 2019 Global Crisis Survey, business leaders across a range of industries shared their experiences with crises. The survey reflected that reliable data underpins both crises planning and response. The results showed that three quarters of those in a better place post-crisis recognise the importance of establishing facts accurately during a crisis.

B7: How do you see your role as the new chief of PwC Namibia and how do you intend taking the firm forward?

CH: My role as country senior partner is a dual role of being focussed on the firm and our clients and markets.

From the firm’s perspective I wish to lead with confidence through the current uncertain times, to be supportive and to ensure our actions are always in the best interest of the firm and its people.

With regards my commitment to clients, I intent to continue building and forming trust relations. I intent to be available, relevant, responsive and innovative.

Globally PwC has been on a digital transformation journey the past few years, marked by key investments in technology and a focus on upskilling our people. Given the current times, we are leveraging on this drive to assist us in delivering as expected and enabling us to seize new opportunities.

B7: Your career is one of perseverance and inspiration. Tell us about your journey.

CH: I joined PwC Namibia in 1999 straight from grade 12 as a trainee accountant. I completed my degree and honours CTA degree (certificate in the theory of accounting) through distance education at Unisa. I qualified as a chartered accountant (CA) in 2005 and in the same year I transferred from our audit department to the tax department starting out as a VAT manager.

I was admitted as a VAT partner in 2010, as tax leader in 2018 and as country senior partner in 2020. I am extremely grateful for this journey of 20 years in the profession and being part of a wonderful firm such as PwC. The learning and exposure are priceless.

B7: What drives you - professionally and personally?

CH: Professionally I am driven by our purpose statement: Building trust in society and solving important problems. This drive is supported by my firm believe in our five core values: Act with integrity, work together, make a difference, care and re-imagine the possible.

On a personal note: I am motivated when assisting or inspiring any other person towards living a better life, being a better person and believing in themselves.

B7: How do you juggle your different roles?

CH: With my firm roles spread between country senior partner, tax leader, VAT and Business School partner, I prefer a structured approach where most contact sessions have an agenda, minutes are key, and actions are followed-up. I analyse my diary from a weekly perspective and ensure enough time is spent on priorities and that I am being strategic while being responsive to my staff and clients’ needs.

I also believe in empowerment, with that comes effective delegation and lastly, I prefer being forward looking which does help when the going gets tough.

On a personal note, I am not as organised. I am however blessed with an extremely supporting family and I can say in my entire journey there is no me, myself and I. It took and still takes a lot of special people carrying me and praying over me.

B7: Who is your role model and why?

CH: Professionally? They changed as I matured, but for the season that I am in, it is Indra Nooyi, former chair and CEO of PepsiCo.

Why? 1000 reasons.

She worked very hard on her way to the top, being a mother and a wife (in her own words) she “left her crown in the garage when getting home”. She is real, easy to identify with, she calls a spade a spade and she devotes so much time towards developing female talent and theories on the “leaking pipeline” where female talent exit the workforce just as they start making progress. She is indeed inspiring.

B7: What is your advice to young women aspiring to be a Chantell Husselmann?

CH: I would not necessarily say aspiring to be me, let us rephrase aspiring to be the best you.

My advice is to get to know yourself and embrace what you find. Find your own style and likings (especially career wise) and chase that dream with your feet firmly on the ground.

Various thoughts comes to mind, let me capture: When opportunity knocks, seize the moment and when you have an audience do not be afraid to speak up (timing, tone, word choice and being informed is however key) and lastly your past does not determine your future, you do.

B7: What is your message to Namibians in the new normal?

CH: Where we find ourselves, it is important as Namibians to move forward from stages of fear to a stage of learning and eventually to a stage of growth, despite the current uncertainties.

In our professional but also personal lives there is a new normal and we need a lot of intent to move along and aspire towards a stage of growth where that new normal involves us helping others, having patience, creating opportunities, being grateful and having compassion. To name a few … It is our duty and our responsibility to rise from this.

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