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The Laws Of Impactful Banking

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Human rights icons such as Albie Sachs and Dulla Omar shaped the early career choices of Yasmin Masithela, the Managing Executive of Transactional Banking at Absa Corporate and Investment Banking. These human rights lawyers inspired her to pursue a career in law spurred by hope to have impact on the South African society.

Masithela chose Corporate Law and after graduating and went into private practice with Webber Wentzel Attorneys and later an Associate at Siemens in the Project and Export Finance Division. The lure of being able to self-determine would soon become great, and Masithela joined forces with professional friends to form their own law practice.

She became a founding partner at Phukubje Pierce & Masithela Attorneys, where among other roles, Masithela was Head of Mergers, Acquisitions and Project Finance.  The young and aspiring firm was idyllic and passionate about making a difference, but collectively they had little experience as entrepreneurs at the time.

READ MORE | The Evolution Of Compliance In The Banking Sector

The fine balance between survival and aspiration that most entrepreneurs struggle with quickly became their reality, topped off with the common start-up challenge of having to wear multiple hats and struggling to break through in a traditional professional services industry.

“At the time we were idealistic – all we wanted to do was support our clients to protect their businesses and to grow,” she says, “only to find ourselves bogged down in multiple other mundane tasks and responsibilities necessary to keep the lights on. It was a constant roller coaster of highs and lows, feast and famine. I learned a lot that is permanently emblazoned in my mind – small business owners need a more supportive tax regime and help with managing cash flow and establishing structure that allows them to be viable.”

Masithela took the difficult decision to leave the partnership and go back into the corporate space. Some of her partners chose to stay in the business and they have fared very well.

Masithela’s stint as a free agent was short lived – she subsequently entered the corporate sector again and joined Absa in 2011. At Absa, she rose through the executive ranks, occupying various key roles as General Counsel and Head of Compliance for the Wealth, Investment Management and Insurance business before her appointment to the Absa’s Group Executive Committee as the Chief Compliance Officer in 2014.

READ MORE | People And Culture In The Workplace

In 2018 she took on an expanded role as the Chief Executive for Group Strategic Services – a portfolio that drove the group’s strategy including digital strategy, as well as the Human Resources and Culture agenda of the enterprise. The role allowed Masithela to play a key role in embedding the group’s new strategy and a renewed focus on its corporate culture under the new brand.

In March 2019 she took on a new challenge to run a substantial P&L as the Managing Executive for Transactional Banking within Absa’s Corporate and Investment Bank (CIB) business.

Masithela admits the transition from a specialist lawyer to a “generalist leader” is never an easy one, but emphasizes that this is what enterprise leadership requires – specialists who turn into generalists, with the ability to translate the vision of the group and lead many colleagues and other specialists into executing and delivering the vision. That said, generalists still must know enough about all facets of their business in order to run the business.

“I think analytical skills and system thinking is a natural by-product of being trained in Law, and in a large way eased my journey. There is also a lot to be said about leaning into opportunity, owning your seat at the table and being very deliberate about it,” she says.

She relishes the opportunity to provide strategic input and support to the overall Absa CIB business under the leadership of Chief Executive Charles Russon. “CIB’s strategy is grounded on growing primacy, which has a large dependency on the business I am responsible for,” Masithela explains.

“Transformation and Innovation are also critical for the bank as both our corporate and retail customers rapidly adopt digital technology. I am fascinated by and focused on our digital strategy, and with keeping up with global trends in corporate banking. We see a big transition for our industry to being customer-led and I am excited about the role I can play in this space within the CIB footprint and across the continent,” she says.

Like many in the industry, Masithela is concerned about the current tough economic environment in South Africa which is the bank’s largest market. There are strong economic headwinds across the African continent in the markets where Absa operates, but she sees opportunities even in this uncertain environment, by focusing on customer centricity using what she describes as “a clear pragmatic, service oriented approach” to drive growth in Transactional Banking.

 “Transactional banking is about transforming our client’s business through products and platforms of the bank that interact seamlessly with their business in order to help them operate with flexibility across their value chains, and to grow. That is Absa’s strength. Our strong presence across the continent helps facilitate the growth ambition of many of our clients, and indeed we often even help ignite those ambitions in some cases,” Masithela says.

Outside of work, the proud mother of three says time spent with her children grounds her and is a deep sense of comfort. Masithela enjoys other personal pursuits such as long-distance running, swimming and reading.

“When we were growing up, my parents kept the entire series of Encyclopaedia Britannica proudly displayed in the living room – that was our google back then. We were not allowed to say you didn’t know how to find the answer to anything – you go look it up!

This probably explains how I ended up going to law school where before the advent of digital research, we spent hundreds of hours scouring over journals and precedents. Today my reading tastes vary from cook books to autobiographies and science fiction.”

Travel is a passion she has grown to enjoy, and which gives her the opportunity to sample cuisines around the world, meet new people and experience new cultures. “I especially enjoy travel within the African continent where our history and heritage are truly rich and vibrant,” she says. Exploring new restaurants feeds her cooking passion and “guilty pleasure” of experimenting with new flavours.

“Good food need not be complex or high end … it’s the little things that make for a fantastic culinary experience: quality ingredients, technique, creativity, ambiance and value… and isn’t that a euphemism for life in general?”

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FOCUS ON Seychelles: Pioneers In Protecting The Beating Blue Heart Of The Planet

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“Our ocean is our most precious resource. We recognise not just its vast potential, but also the fragility of its ecosystems and the need to preserve it for future generations. The ocean is the beating blue heart of our planet.”

President Danny Faure

            The Republic of Seychelles is endowed with extremely rich biodiversity both on land and in its oceans. After tourism, the fisheries sector employs 17% of the Seychelles population, making it the country’s most important industry. As a result, the country has become a pioneer in Blue Economy by recognising the immense importance of protecting earth’s greatest asset.

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This year, President Danny Faure of Seychelles gave an opening speech at the Blue Economy conference in Mozambique. As a guest of honour, President Faure focused on the benefits and importance of the world’s nations coming together to achieve a collective and sustainable plan to conserve the ocean and protect the future of the earth. President Faure said, “Our ocean is our most precious resource. We recognise not just its vast potential, but also the fragility of its ecosystems and the need to preserve it for future generations. The ocean is the beating blue heart of our planet.” Currently, the Blue Economy is backed by 36 countries and growing.

            Blue Economy is an economic initiative that focuses on best practices for business while ensuring that sectors promote safe and sustainable utilisation of ocean and marine resources. The result is economic growth, job creation and improved living conditions while simultaneously protecting the health of the ocean and all relative marine ecosystems. Blue Economy permeates every sector in Seychelles, creating an entire economy that is dedicated toward protecting the ocean. This isn’t just a relevant problem for an island country like Seychelles, this initiative has inspired countries all over the world to implement better practices that have positive effects for the environment. Amb. Barry J.J. Faure, Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs and of the Blue Economy, states, “Blue Economy is the key: not only for island states and coastal states but for states that have waterways.”

In their goal to conserve the environment, Seychelles has introduced a new financial tool to raise capital from impact investors to finance marine and ocean-based projects that have positive environmental, economic and climate benefits: the blue bond. Vice President of Seychelles, Vincent Meriton, says, “The blue bond is one of the world’s most innovative financial instruments in recent years. The bond, which raised USD$15 million from international investors, demonstrates the potential for countries to harness capital markets for financing the Blue Economy.” The blue bond has helped the Seychelles’ government save over USD$8 million in interest charges over the next ten years. Meriton continues, “Mobilising private finance is a major achievement, one that could be replicated in other African nations, allowing them to protect their environment while restructuring and transforming their economy.”
            Blue Economy has an impact on almost every sector: fisheries, agriculture, renewable and tidal energy, pharmaceutical, petroleum and gas. In the tourism sector, maintenance of Seychelles’ oceans and beautiful beaches helps the Seychelles Tourism Board promote the country as a welcoming and exotic getaway for travellers. Construction and infrastructure sectors are adhering to Blue Economy, as well, where they implement eco-friendly practices in their projects. The financial sector has a large hand in Blue Economy with the blue bond, but also in the implementation of the Agriculture Development Fund, the Fisheries Development Fund and the Green Climate Development Fund, which work further to conserve these industries and ensure that they thrive. The message that these sectors are sending is that even the smallest sustainable efforts have impacted the country in a great way. As Johan Van Schalkwyk, Managing Director of Absa has stated, “If we start creating opportunities for us to add more value from what we reap in the ocean, it is an incredible thing for local ventures.” For example, a local business that cleans seaweed from the beaches not only keeps the shores pleasant for tourists but converts the collected seaweed into fertiliser for the agriculture industry, impacting multiple sectors at once. This is just one example of how dedication to Blue Economy can impact the economy in a positive way.

In addition, Seychelles has become an ideal place for research, not only in the sense of exploring the ocean and its riches but as an experimental market. Telecom company Airtel is one such example, arriving in Seychelles for its first geographic expansion, implementing the country’s submarine cable project. The Seychelles East Africa Submarine (SEAS) cable project consisted in the establishment of the first submarine fibre optic cable for international connections from Seychelles to the African continent. After much success in this project, Airtel is now present in several African countries.

In a small country such as Seychelles, movements toward ocean conservation and sustainable development of sectors can have quick and positive results for the economy of the country. Seychelles continues to be an island getaway for tourists from all over the world, and it is obvious that Seychelles is leading by example with Blue Economy. They have positioned themselves as pioneers of Blue Economy, demonstrating to the world that sustainable development is not just a dream–it can be a reality.

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Sanlam & NASASA Launch NASASA Financial Services For Stokvels

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Sanlam and the National Stokvel Association of South Africa (NASASA) have launched NASASA Financial Services (Pty) Ltd; a brokerage catering to the financial services needs of the South African stokvel market. NASASA is a self-regulatory organisation with a database of 125 000 stokvel groups, reaching about 2.5 million individuals. The new entity will foster greater financial inclusion for all members.


Jacqui Rickson, Chief Executive: Group Benefits at Sanlam Developing Markets Limited and Board member of NASASA Financial Services says, “For South African stokvels this is an opportunity to formalise their existence without having to forego their traditions. The peace-of-mind that each member of a stokvel will be protected in their time of need is invaluable.”

“Stokvels are powerful financial services providers in their own right,” says NASASA Financial Services CEO, Mizi Mtshali “and have the potential to help grow South Africa’s economy once they enter the more formalised sector through appropriate product offerings”. Currently, there are over 800 000 stokvels in the country, aggregating an estimated R50-billion pa. They are, however, quite exposed, especially to liquidity issues that may render them unable to discharge benefits to their members, as well as scams that promise to resolve such issues. This results from a lack of accessible, relevant products that meet the needs of a more informal savings sector. 

As a result, some burial stokvels may not pay enough to cover funeral expenses in their entirety. By offering broad-based financial services to members, NASASA Financial Services will empower stokvels through greater socio-economic inclusion and security.

Jacqui Rickson says, “This venture supports our client-centric focus by allowing financial inclusion to be extended to South Africans who are on the edge of the formalised insurance structures.  Through this, we can help families recover financially following difficult, unexpected events.”

NASASA Financial Services is currently licensed as a Juristic Representative of Sanlam Developing Markets, with a long-term plan to become a Financial Services Provider (FSP).  NASASA Financial Services will distribute tailor-made products nationally via its distribution force. Sanlam as underwriter, through NASASA Financial Services, will initially offer group-based funeral benefits, tailored to each individual type of stokvel.

Products are competitively priced and start at R15 per person. Once the stokvel has selected its option, the stokvel will pay one premium for the whole group. For burial stokvels, Sanlam has designed a full product, covering up to nine family members and all products have been created in partnership with NASASA.

Currently, the product offering includes:

  • A Principal Member Only Funeral Benefit
  • An Immediate Family Funeral Benefit
  • A Principal Member Plus Up To 9 Dependents Funeral Benefit
  • Grocery and Airtime Cash Benefits

NASASA is about educating their members about wealth and more appropriately, financial health, which includes saving on the expense of premiums through aggregation and paying group rates rather than more expensive individualised rates. We’ve designed products as an extension of this; as a tangible, affordable, non-intrusive offering that seamlessly blends the required formal structures with community-based traditional structures.

Mizi Mtshali, NASASA CEO, adds, “The research conducted during the build-up of our product launch saw the solution being entirely built by participating stovels. As a result, we deliver unmatched value by buiding a solution briefed in by our constituency. Amongst the majority of South Africans, funeral insurance fulfils an unmistakable need. While many are excluded from the formal financial system, those who do interface with the sector largely feel inadequately serviced. Burial Societies are formed as providers of such services and have developed systems around the real needs of their members. There are roughly 200 000 active Burial Societies in South Africa, with the majority being self-underwritten.

Because such groups rely on their collective savings to discharge their benefit to members, they often face liquidity problems that may lead to their disbandment. This brings about the need for an underwriter who will take on the risk on behalf of the group, as well as offer a set of products and services built around the group’s needs. NASASA is tasked by its members to solve this problem, and we have identified Sanlam as the most suitable partner in this regard.”

Mtshali says this venture will also facilitate job creation, which is key to socioeconomic inclusion, “For South Africans, this opportunity provides meaningful employment particularly in the township economy. Not only is this a step towards financial inclusion, but a giant leap towards societal transformation”

Down the line, NASASA Financial Services is aiming to extend its offering to include life cover as well as short-term products like household insurance and is investigating the potential of integrating other banking products.

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SPONSORED: RISING WOMAN – A Celebration Of Women

Advertorial BY STRATEGY BUSINESS GROUP

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A celebration of women, thought leaders, innovators, thinkers, problem solvers, and drivers of growth and development who are contributing to the Rising Africa Story.


ABENA BRIGIDI

CEO Nimed Capital, Ghana

Nimed Capital’s Managing Director and CEO demonstrated a flair for finance early in her professional career. She quickly rose through the ranks at Zenith Bank from a customer service advisor to a relationship manager and head of customer service. Her expertise in corporate finance, funds and investment management, as well as investment research, has effectively paired with her entrepreneurial drive to create one of Ghana’s leading investment banks. Today, the investment analyst, author, and speaker is a passionate advocate for empowering women through recognition and promotion of the efforts and successes of women in various industries.

Brigidi herself was recognized as one of the Woman Rising’s 100 Most Outstanding Women Entrepreneurs in Ghana in 2017 and adjudged the Emerging Woman Entrepreneur of the Year.


YOADAN TILAHUN

CEO Flawless Events, Ethiopia

Running seamless, perfect – flawless – events was a vision of Ethiopian-born Yoadan Tilahun.

Initially launched in Washington, DC and transplanted to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Flawless Events has worked tirelessly to earn its well-deserved reputation for innovation and creativity. As a result, it has achieved substantial growth in its 15 years of operation.

Tilahun is known for instituting exceptionally high work standards and always doing business with integrity and honesty.

Tilahun is also an enthusiastic advocate for professionalizing the MICE industry in East Africa and is an active member of the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA). In 2018, she was named Seasoned Entrepreneur of the Year by Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW).


MICHELLE TAKON

Founder Narnia Events, Nigeria

What advice would you give young women entrepreneurs?

Firstly, young women entrepreneurs need to understand the business they’d like to go into; the business environment, target market, and then ensure that their business ideas will solve a problem before they embark on their entrepreneurial journey.

I would also tell them to make sure that whatever they choose to do, should be borne out of passion and not based on what other people are doing or how much money others are making.


DR. IBILOLA AMAO

STEM Specialist & CEO Lonadek, Nigeria

Dr. Amao established Lonadek with a greater purpose than just providing technical consultancy to ensure that local and indigenous companies utilized established systems, processes and procedures to deliver quality goods and services. She envisioned a company that could continually develop the capacity of young Africans in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Dr. Amao also mentors young professionals and engages with Junior Engineers, Technicians, and Scientists (JETS) clubs. Over the last 25 years, Lonadek has successfully trained over 5,000 certified engineers, designers, and cost consultants in the utilization of engineering software and information technology.


QUEEN OHAMARA

Founder, Qmara Vie Planners, Nigeria

Qmara Vie Planners is a boutique events management company based in Abuja, Nigeria and founded by Queen Ohamara. The company emphasizes adding luxury and sophistication to their client’s event while maintaining a sense of modernity.

Qmara Vie Planner is comprised of a young, vibrant team that is constantly innovating and pushing themselves to creatively turning dreams into reality. The company prides itself on curating unique once in a lifetime experiences. That is why her company bears all the stress of planning an event so clients can enjoy their special day.


ADAMA AMANDA NDIAYE

Adama Paris, Senegal

Adama Amanda Ndiay is a Senegalese fashion designer born in Kinshasa, Zaire. She epitomizes the multicultural fashion designer of the new millennium.

Adama is also the founder and producer of many fashion events such as Dakar Fashion Week, the Afrika Fashion Awards, also known as the Trophies of African Fashion (TMA), and the Black Fashion Week in Prague, Paris, Bahia, and Montreal since 2010. Adama and her team also launched the first Fashion Africa Channel in 2014. She is a passionate advocate for the promotion of women entrepreneurship throughout Africa.


TANG SAU MUOI

CEO of ILCI Business School & IESIG Management School, France

As I ran from war and emigrated to France, I never had the chance to finish my education. I was certain that the only way to succeed was to be well-educated. The benefit of a good education was exemplified by my children; all five attained Master’s degrees and have good jobs.

I wanted to give the same chance to children from abroad, to benefit from a good education. I established the IESIG School and ILCI Business School with the main focus of offering programs that align with future employment needs.

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