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JSE CIO’s to-do list during COVID-19

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Hendrik Kotze, chief information officer at the JSE.
Hendrik Kotze, chief information officer at the JSE.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) is one of the organisations that have been operational since the enforcing of the nation-wide COVID-19 lockdown.

Technology is at the core of the bourse’s operations and from the onset of the lockdown, it has been business as usual at the stock exchange.

With a market cap of about R16 trillion, the JSE is the largest stock exchange in Africa.

There are several tech companies trading on the JSE, including Vodacom, MTN, Telkom, EOH, Alviva and Adapt IT.

Behind the technology at the JSE is chief information officer (CIO) Hendrik Kotze, who tells ITWeb that among the tasks which keep him busy during the lockdown is “ensuring the JSE is moved offsite and that employees are provided with appropriate technology to work effectively from remote locations”.

He adds that maintaining operational stability of the JSE technology platforms, as well as maintaining technical performance of the capital marketplace for SA, and the clearing and settlement of its transactions also formed part of his to-do list.

On top of other business continuity plans, the JSE also debuted virtual annual general meetings for shareholder engagements in March.

From a CIO perspective, Kotze strongly believes in leadership that balances the importance of people and technology in any organisation.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the first priority was to use technology and successfully migrate the JSE offsite to work remotely. That falls within the general role of CIOs.

“However, as the epidemic and lockdown became drawn out, the strain on people became more pronounced, and different pressures started to arise than those that used to be associated with IT remote production support before COVID-19.”

He explains that staff had to continue to perform their responsibilities throughout the day in remote working locations that were different.

“In many cases, the staff had children needing to be taken care of, spouses working also from home at the same time and freedom of movement being curtailed.

“These dynamics ask of the CIO to relook at his/her role as the leader of people with increased emphasis on empathy for the unique circumstances that staff are experiencing, as well as how staff should be taken care of under these trying circumstances, more so than before and definitely stretching me personally as a CIO. In short, CIOs have to become much more people-centric than before.”

IT budgets have been hugely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kotze says. “Moving offsite increased the requirements for providing remote connectivity to the JSE platforms.

“This affected telecommunications budgets. Moving offsite also changed the security posture, which required changes to the security infrastructure budgets.”

He adds that end-user computing tooling had to be extended to provide for new ways of work with commensurate budgetary implications.

“Some of these are variable and may revert to original numbers if the working mode reverts to similar models as before COVID-19. However, as the JSE has become accustomed to remote working, we will probably not return to pre-COVID-19 working models which will then result in these budgetary items becoming fixed.”

In the midst of uncertainty about what is to come, he notes, one thing is clear – the future is digital. According to Kotze, leveraging technology during this pandemic is vital to the survival of any organisation.

“It is not only necessary but inevitable. In the age of quarantining and social distancing, technology provides the opportunity to differentiate your offering from the rest of the pack. Organisations that view these technologies as critical will be able to drive faster business transformation while also creating advantages for themselves during this time.

“Charles Darwin once said, ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.’ An old adage that rings true in 2020 as the world agonises over the devastating effects of COVID-19 on business, finance and global markets.”

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