Praxity Global Alliance, the world’s largest association of independent accounting and consulting firms, has appointed a new Chief Executive Officer.
Chartered Management Accountant and international advocacy specialist Samantha Louis will join Praxity on June 1 to become the Alliance’s first female CEO. She will formally take over from current CEO Graeme Gordon on December 31.
A leading strategist and communications expert who is passionate about equal opportunities and inclusion, Samantha takes the helm at an important moment in the Alliance’s history.
Praxity achieved record global revenues of US$7 billion in 2020, outperforming the industry with growth of 9.1%. After 14 years of consecutive growth, the Alliance now connects more than 60,000 accounting professionals who collaborate in over 100 countries to help companies overcome cross-border business challenges.
Commenting on her new appointment, Samantha said: “It’s going to be an exciting new challenge. Praxity has gone from strength to strength and is in a privileged position. It’s a very exciting time to be involved. Praxity holds the No.1 spot [in the IAB’s world table of accounting associations] and is very well respected across the world. I want to make sure I retain that No.1 spot and ensure we don’t rest on our laurels.”
Graeme Gordon, who will stay on until the end of the year to help Samantha settle into her new role, said: “We were very fortunate to have several very high calibre candidates as my successor. After a thorough selection process, I can honestly say Samantha was the individual who I and my colleagues realised was the best fit to take Praxity forward. After almost 12 years, I am proud of where I, and my team, have been able to take Praxity and it is doubly pleasing to feel that I will be leaving the Alliance in the hands of someone who can take the association on further.”
Praxity Chairman Gordon Krater said: “We are grateful to Graeme for his leadership and for building a wonderful team to serve the Praxity members. We knew Graeme would be difficult to replace but we feel fortunate that we found Samantha Louis, who brings excellent experience combined with unbridled energy and enthusiasm. We are confident Samantha will work well with the Praxity team and help us advance Praxity’s mission to empower business globally.”
Growth of the Alliance
Samantha is confident Praxity, and the alliance model in general, can continue its upward curve. “When companies trade and work globally, they need to have access to specialist business support and local expertise. That’s why alliances like Praxity are going to be more important. It’s about confidence. When you invest in a new country, you want the best advisory services you can get,” she explained.
Born and raised in South Africa, Samantha is a Chartered Global Management Accountant with an enviable track record of achievement in non-profit management, public relations, diversity, and international advocacy.
She joins Praxity after four years with the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) in London, where she was Vice President of International Advocacy.
She previously worked for the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) for 18 years, working her way up from Divisional Director to Regional Director in Johannesburg before moving to London in 2017 to become Director of Advocacy. Prior to this, she was Education Centre Manager at the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa.
Diversity and inclusion
An experienced leader who “thrives on challenges”, Samantha is an expert communicator cited in the Top 10 most influential people in public relations in 2011 and is a sought-after speaker at national and international conferences.
She has a particularly strong knowledge of multi-cultural communication and diversity management, an interest she developed while building business across Africa.
Commenting on the importance of diversity and inclusion in accountancy, she said: “The staff at Praxity Executive Office are pretty diverse, but the profession has scope to grow. We need to think about how we can build a more diverse workforce around the globe, taking into account gender, ethnicity and other differences. Coming from South Africa, diversity is very dear to my heart. My career started as South Africa opened up and transformed into the Rainbow Nation. There was huge inequality.”
Samantha believes addressing inequality requires a knowledge of cognitive diversity, the different ways people exhibit their preferred way of thinking based on factors such as where they were born and raised, and their experiences. “It starts with recruitment. How are you going to bring people into your firm to ensure diversity of thought? Gender and ethnicity will play a role in that because we all have different learned life experiences.”
Her own experiences have been transformative. She describes her proudest moment as “taking our Africa region from 2000 members and students to 25,000”, adding: “What is important is the people behind these numbers. When you are able to qualify at Chartered level in a middle to low economy country, it takes you to a completely different level in terms of opportunities.”
Sam, who is married with two children, will be based out of Praxity’s Executive Office in Epsom, just outside London. Both of her children have followed her into finance – her daughter is a chartered accountant, and her son is working in financial services – although she points out she originally trained in drama!
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Samantha is “passionate about theatre, the arts, museums and ballet”, access to which has sadly been denied during the pandemic. “It’s been incredibly challenging during the last year, especially given the unbelievable wealth of top-quality stuff we have in London,” she explained, adding: “Aqua aerobics is my other ‘go to’ activity but I can’t do that either at the moment, so I do yoga at home instead.”