A South African CFO finds growth and purpose in an American startup | Jobs Recent


“If you want to grow, you need to stretch to do something else and learn new skills.”

When Brett Tromp stepped down as chief financial officer of Africa’s largest health insurer to join his longtime friend’s tech start-up in the United States, he went from one culture to another in many ways.

While the Tromp family of five adapted to the lifestyle and cultural differences between Johannesburg, South Africa and Austin, Texas (read part one of the story here), the former chief financial officer of public company Discovery Health faced a radically different workplace in Medici as well.

“There are 8,000 people working at our headquarters in South Africa. There was such a constant flow of people. Now, when I walk into our small office with 200 people spread over several locations, it’s different,” said Tromp, who joined Medici in April as head of partnerships before being appointed chief financial officer in June.

Much less staff also means less internal support. “At a large company like Discovery, you have plenty of resources and generally more people to do the work. There is comfort in that,” said Tromp.

However, any bit of reluctance to give it up was outweighed by the attractiveness of the opportunities for professional and personal development at Medici. Joining a dynamic, more agile organization would expose Tromp to many more business aspects than if he remained CFO of such a large company.

“There is some pain in having to do more manual work yourself, but there is also the excitement of being involved in every major decision,” he said. Tromp currently leads a six-person finance team; previously managed a staff of nearly 40 people.

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Brett Tromp, left, and Clinton Phillips, Medici founder and school friend.

His new employer’s mission also gives the South African the opportunity to broaden his experience in the healthcare industry beyond insurance. Founded six years ago by Tromp’s high school classmate Clinton Phillips, Medici is an innovative virtual healthcare system that aims to transform healthcare delivery with mobile technology to connect physicians and patients more quickly and more frequently. Initially focused on testing the model in Texas, it now offers services in five other states.

Jack of all trades

Working with a much smaller executive team than before, Tromp feels like an “all-rounder” as he attends meetings on topics that were beyond his previous remit. He is involved in discussions on topics ranging from marketing strategies to how Medici can increase patient engagement.

There is some pain in doing more manual work on your own, but there is also the excitement of being involved in every major decision.

“It’s very exciting to be able to really dive into the business and be a part of operations and strategy and formulate direction for our products and business, rather than working as a support function as is usual with most organizations,” he said.

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Brett Tromp

Tromp is particularly pleased with his role on the product development team – and not just because it allows him to bring new concepts from Johannesburg to Austin. It’s the ability to contribute more than he’s used to that energizes him.

“The CFO of a large company does not design products. This is happening with sales, marketing and product teams, and an army of people are doing it. Here I can be a part of innovation, strategy and decision-making, sharing what I have learned abroad and I love it,” said Tromp.

Development leads to change

Moving to a more entrepreneurial organization will also allow the finance leader to gain experience in implementing significant process changes in human resources (HR) and finance to accommodate rapid growth. With the business forecast for 2023 growing significantly, Tromp knows it needs to initiate and lead a full HR and financial system implementation to support them.

This is another opportunity for him to grow and develop. While Tromp was involved in a similar initiative at Discovery Health, he wasn’t leading a project that involved nearly 200 people. “This time I will be in charge of the whole process. Few CFOs can say they’ve done a full end-to-end HR and Finance implementation, so it’s going to be exciting to gain that kind of experience,” he said.

That’s why I’ve always been involved in healthcare. I have always believed that it plays such an important role in people’s lives.

Perhaps one of the less tangible changes for Tromp in adjusting to the startup environment is one that played a significant role in his family’s decision to move to a new country: the opportunity to join a friend in changing healthcare in a way that makes a positive difference in people’s lives. Noting that “it’s something spiritual we feel,” Tromp says being able to contribute is important to him. “That’s why I’ve always been involved in healthcare. I’ve always believed it plays such a vital role in people’s lives,” he said, adding, “Building a company to improve lives is a noble cause.”

Now that he’s been immersed in a startup environment for eight months, does that fit well?

“It’s different and challenging, but it’s also exciting. Both career options have pros and cons, but I’m enjoying it and especially being stretched like never before,” he said.

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This is the second article in a three-part series about Brett Tromp’s career as CFO. You can find part one here.



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