When it comes to inspiring business women, Nomkhita Nqweni, is a name you will find at the very top of the list. She is the Chief Executive of Barclays Africa’s Wealth, Investment Management and Insurance (WIMI) division, the group’s non-banking financial services business. Her role entails overseeing the Wealth Management Advice, protection of client assets and growing client investments. We chatted to Nomkhita to gain her perspective on the status quo of the Financial Sector in South Africa and how one can tackle current challenges.
How many people do you have in your team and what does it take for one to be part of your team?
Our business constitutes 10% of the Barclays Africa organisation, with 4 000 colleagues. For us a “can do” attitude is key, coupled with ability, as we are a specialist skill business. We also look for ambition. I ascribe this as “AAA DNA”. We are the custodians of people’s assets and savings and so, dedication, passion and diligence are important attributes we look for as part of our high performance culture anchored on our values.
The world of finance and insurance is traditionally white male dominated. Does this need to change? Can it change? Why is it not changing? Does our country have the requisite skills to change this?
The transformation of the Financial Sector is an imperative that has been at the forefront of many forums of the past few months which indicates that we are not transforming fast enough. Whilst we still have much to do, I think that there have been gains that we can build upon. Our focus needs to progress from perpetual training to us providing opportunities and exposure to the groundswell of talent we see rising in the sector. In the recent Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Finance, we identified that we had approximately 27% top managers, 36% senior managers, 51% middle managers and 73% junior managers in the industry sector. We need more role models who will pull others up as they climb.
Why Credit Ratings?
Credit rating agencies, such as Moody’s, Fitch and S&P, give investors insight into how safe or risky it is to lend to that country or company. A good credit rating is essential for developing countries in order to be able to borrow from investors.
Impact of Downgrade?
South Africa’s recent downgrade for instance, means that the country is now considered a more risky credit than before. This implies borrowing is going to be more expensive for the government, companies and individuals.
When interest rates rise, people that have debt end up paying more in interest. As a result, people generally cut back their spending. Companies also pull back from expanding because they are uncertain about the future. If companies and consumers spending decreases, it means that economic growth will be low and this can persist for a number of years.
The reality is that everyone is affected by the downgrade especially the poor and the youth. If investors lose faith in the economy, all citizens pay the price for this, in the form of higher prices, reduced savings, pensions and investments. The poor and young will have to contend with higher day-to-day living costs going forward, leaving them with less money to pay for goods.
While a downgrade is indeed a blow, it can also be an opportunity. Our young minds need to be bold and brave in coming up with enterprising and sustainable solutions to our challenges. Our hope lies in growing our economy, and this can be achieved largely by getting more and more young people to start and grow sustainable businesses instead of waiting to be employed. Through various programmes, as Barclays Africa, we invest a lot in young people because we believe the future of this continent is in their hands. During this youth month, we need to galvanise more of our youth towards innovating and challenging energy towards the development of sustainable enterprises that can create employment opportunities.
So, can you survive?
Even in a low-growth environment, there’s a lot that one can do to remain financially secure:
Manage debt and pay it off where possible
Stick to a budget and avoid impulse buying or imprudent credit use
Save towards an emergency fund
Keep all your insurance policies and provisions up to date
South Africans are no stranger to tough and uncertain times and have shown resilience. We need to ensure we choose prudent financial partners to help navigate these challenging times.