Chantell Husselmann became the Country Senior Partner at auditing firm PwC at the beginning of July 2020. Husselmann solidly established herself as the firm’s tax leader since 2018, in which role she focused on a distinctive culture that attracts, develops and retains top talent, builds trust in society, solves complex client problems and has a positive impact on society.
She is a chartered accountant and has spent more than 20 years at PwC between the assurance and the tax service lines. She is also an indirect tax expert, specialising in Value Added Tax and Customs and Excise consulting for the past 15 years.
She says she is passionate about developing others, knowledge sharing and is also the leading PwC business school partner.
Husselmann is a past president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Namibia (ICAN) and a former board member of the Public Accountants and Auditors Board (PAAB).
Our Senior Business Journalist, Edgar Brandt, recently interviewed Husselmann on her career as a chartered accountant and on her new role at the helm of one of the biggest auditing firms in the country.
Q: Where were you born and how would you describe your early schooling years?
A: I was born in Rehoboth, completed my grade one to 10 in Rehoboth and I am a proud alumna of Origo Primary School and Dr Lemmer High School. I have fond memories of my early school years where it was safe to walk to school, we played in the streets with all kids, playing netball, travelling to Windhoek for chess competitions and playing piano at school concerts. Lots of fun indeed.
Q: When did you decide you wanted to become a chartered accountant and how did you pursue this goal?
A: Since grade eight I leaned towards Commerce subjects like Maths, Accounting, Business Studies and Economics. These subjects kept me interested and throughout my secondary school grades, I found the increased complexity a good challenge.
Being Jnr. Dux Student grade 10 at Dr Lemmer High School and grade 12 Dux Student at Jan Mohr High School, I knew I found my field of tertiary studies. During my grade 12 year, I read a lot on different careers in the Commerce field but I still did not have a good understanding of how Auditing as a career differs from an accountant and I had limited knowledge on other areas of specialisation like internal audit, forensic auditing or a tax specialist.
With limited funding available for full-time studies in South Africa, where my siblings were fortunate to attend, I applied for a trainee accountant position at PwC (then still Coopers&Lybrand). My application was successful and my auditing career kicked-off at age 19.
Q: What were some of the challenges you experienced while qualifying to become a chartered accountant and how did you overcome obstacles?
A: Whilst working as a trainee accountant and completing my article years, I enrolled at the University of South Africa (UNISA) for my accounting degree.
I also completed my accounting honours CTA degree through distance education at UNISA before entering and completing my CA board exams.
After seven years of distance studies, like many other UNISA alumni, I can write the book on working and studying.
There are a lot of benefits to this approach for example, the cost-saving and convenient learning at your own pace but it does come with some challenges.
Those years we had to wait for our study material via post, I experienced a lack of fellow student interaction and then there was the challenge of balancing assignment due dates with the due dates of my day job.
However, with a double dose of self-discipline, a lot of prayers and with the help and support of my husband and my family I managed.
Q: How were you received by your peers once you entered the chartered accountant profession?
A: With Namibia not having enough CAs, every Namibian qualifying receives a warm welcome to the profession and so did I.
We used to get our board exam results in a sealed envelope and opening the envelope while everybody was waiting to celebrate did create some anxiety but I survived.
I qualified in 2005 and in the same year, I opted to explore a career in our tax department. I transferred from audit and 15 years later I am still hooked on tax consulting.
Q: How would you describe the current status of and what do you expect for the future of the chartered accountant profession in Namibia?
A: It is a road of many years of studying to qualify as a CA. At present not all the post-graduate qualifications can be done on a full-time basis in Namibia and this is a big challenge to our Namibian accounting graduates.
However, once qualified the technical knowledge combined with the practical experience ensures our CAs are relevant and sought after. In terms of the future of the profession; Commerce and Industry, the audit profession, the public sector, tax practises and local universities are and will always be in need of Namibian CAs.
Making it a relevant qualification and a solid foundation to many areas of specialisation. With the right mind-set, opportunities are plenty. I am of the view that more and more CAs of the future will venture into the role of a business advisor, making high-level strategic decisions, aimed at driving business, improving profit margins, increasing market share for their clients.
And many CAs may also use their expertise to form their own businesses, becoming highly successful entrepreneurs.
Q: What do you intend to place emphasis on for clients and staff as you assume the reigns of PwC Namibia?
A: I am extremely humbled by this opportunity and I am forever grateful to be part of an organisation where our values define who we are, what we stand for and how we behave. In my tenure as CSP, I commit to our clients that the trust placed in us by them and communities and our high standard of ethical behaviour will continue to be fundamental to everything we do.
Our staff sets us aside and creates unmatched value for our clients. I commit to support our staff in their continuous efforts in the development of leadership skills, growing their careers and living up to the PwC purpose of creating trust and solving problems.
Q: What are some of the most important tax issues in Namibia that you feel need particular attention from both government and the private sector?
A: Given the current state of the Namibia economy and the outlook of the 2020/21 national budget, the government is extremely exposed on tax revenue realisation.
Time and effort should be directed towards the ease of registration as a taxpayer and also paying taxes.
This would ensure that foreign investors and new businesses find it easier to comply and the existing taxpayer base finds it easier to stay compliant.
Government should also ensure that businesses are not harmed by the waiting time to receive an undisputed VAT refund as this same business must stay afloat to contribute in the form of corporate taxes, indirectly contribute Individual taxes via its employees and contribute to the Namibian economy.
Q: Would you encourage young Namibians become chartered accountants, if so, why?
A: That is a definite yes, especially scholars with an interest in Accounting and other business subjects.
Being a CA and a former president of the Institute of chartered accountants I’ve spent a lot of time with scholars at school events and career fairs and I commit to still spend a lot of time at these interventions in person or virtually because our country is in need of more CAs.
To our upcoming talent - it’s a qualification that guarantees opportunity, has good earning potential, has flexibility, diversity of fields to specialise in and is globally recognised.
As they say when you tackle Big Daddy dune in Sossusvlei, ... the climb is steep but the view is awesome and rewarding...
Q: What do you like doing in your spare time?
A: I support my husband with his part-time farming, I like playing board games and just spending time with my amazing three children. I am a keen reader (cannot put down a good book).
With lockdown, I discovered the art of (1) making a Tik-Tok video and (2) watching Netflix on my phone (lol) and more often than not I need some “me time” as oil to my lamp.