'Believe you can bring something unique'
WOMEN'S MONTH PROFILE
Ncumisa Madinda is Gauteng regional director at Absa Wealth and Investment Management. Personal Finance asked her about her career and her advice to women.
How did you get to where you are today?
I was recruited by Absa in late 2004, in my last year of university at the University of Port Elizabeth (now Nelson Mandela University), to join the Absa management trainee programme. The programme was meant to take 24 months but I was spotted as being ready at six months and promoted to a branch manager position in Port Elizabeth.
My readiness was first based on the leadership characteristics that I demonstrated, which included:
- the ability to persuade and influence others;
- the ability to coordinate resources and people to get things done; and
- the ability to navigate and mobilise teams through uncertainty or new projects.
Second was the speed at which I was able to learn the operational side of the business.
I spent almost four years at Absa. However, in 2008 I was affected by a restructuring brought about by the global recession. I then left the financial services industry to join South African Breweries (SAB).
My curiosity and eagerness to learn helped me to enjoy the time I spent at SAB and grow as an aspirant business leader. The organisation had no tolerance for non-performance. This made me a better person in driving sales and working well under pressure.
I later moved into the insurance industry, where I managed sales teams. Since then I have been leading sales teams. Some of the organisations that massively contributed to my successful career as a leader, strategist and a strong sales executive were Sanlam and Old Mutual, where I worked as a regional general manager. Insurance is where I spent a greater part of my 13 years of working experience.
With all the experience acquired in the banking industry, fast moving consumer goods, insurance and investment industries, it made perfect sense for me to re-join Absa as a regional executive for wealth management. Here I look after wealth banking, fiduciary services, onshore and offshore investment solutions, underpinned by a superior service model that is designed to also support the complex needs of high-net-worth and ultra-high net-worth clients.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
I took up a leadership role at the age of 22, straight out of university. I had to deal with challenges around my age, gender and race. These challenges were not only presented by my fellow employees but also by customers. Often customers at the time I was a branch manager would refuse to engage with me when they had problems and ask for someone senior to me.
Has it been tough working in the “man’s world” of finance?
Yes and no. Yes, because it is true that a woman needs to work twice as hard to prove that she can do what men can do. You walk into your job with many who are watching you having a pre-conceived idea that you will not survive. That on its own puts unnecessary pressure on you, because you constantly have to prove people otherwise. It can also be a waste of time and energy.
On the other hand, I have used my ability to connect with all people in a way that matters to them; taking the time to understand what motivates them and the things that will get them to deliver. I appreciate each individual and recognise the value each one brings to the table.
What advice would you give to other women wanting to make a career in finance?
Be comfortable and confident in who you are and your abilities. Do not allow self-doubt to get you down. You must truly believe that you bring or can bring something unique to the organisation. Second, learn as much as you can about the industry and what it is that you want to do. Lastly, create the necessary networks to guide and support you.
Women’s buying power in SA: what should the financial industry be doing?
In my view, the financial industry has not fully taken advantage of the huge buying power of women in South Africa. I believe there is still a lot to be done. The financial services industry can start by educating women about finances, ensuring that it is pitched at all levels - from the most basic level up to the advanced and more complex topics. Second, if you want a solution for women in South Africa today, you need to understand their lives, including challenges of juggling careers and running businesses in order to provide for themselves and their families, raising children, being a wife, being a single parent, supporting (elderly) parents, being a sibling and supporting extended family, so that you may truly understand their needs. Then the industry can help by offering holistic financial planning and wealth creation for different stages in a woman’s life.
Best money tip?
Save first and spend later. Wealth creation is about having the discipline to make sacrifices today and enjoying the benefits later.