1 year ago

Blue Chip Issue 83

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Blue Chip Journal is the official publication of the Financial Planning Institute of Southern Africa NPC (FPI), effective from the January 2020 edition. Blue Chip is a quarterly journal for the financial planning industry. Blue Chip publishes contributions from FPI and other leading industry figures, covering all aspects of the financial planning industry. Visit Blue Chip Digital:


BLUE CHIP NETWORKING THE WOMEN IN SA FINANCIAL SERVICES NETWORK The recently launched Women in SA Financial Services Network aims to give South African women, who work in the financial services industry, a safe forum to meet and share experiences as well as mentor each other. Blue Chip speaks to Carolyn Erasmus, Nqobile Kubeka and Georgina Smith about the network. The launch of the SA Financial Services Network is led by Bravura Solutions and supported by representatives from various financial services organisations including Stanlib, INN8, Altus Consulting and Morningstar Research. Why was the Women in South African Financial Services Network formed? Carolyn Erasmus: There are three objectives that we would like to achieve from this network: a safe space for women to connect, share their expertise, successes and failures, as well as provide support to each other through communication. Secondly, the community will facilitate mentorship for women looking to develop their leadership skills. Lastly, it is about networking. The key point is that, whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it very difficult for women to move ahead. It’s about giving everybody the same opportunities. Bravura Solutions (UK) started this initiative, which has become a massive success in the UK industry. We felt this was something that could be valuable in the South African market. Georgina Smith: I think we underestimate how “closed” this industry can feel to somebody new to it. It can be difficult to have your voice heard, whether that is to raise an opinion or ask questions. There has traditionally been quite a fixed mindset as opposed to a growth mindset, where you’re required to “prove yourself” before being taken seriously. This affects everybody new to the industry but does disproportionately affect women. I believe the safe space to ask clarifying questions is just not yet available. We hope that this network will create that safe space to allow people to share experiences of how they have overcome similar situations. Structured “networking” opportunities can feel unnatural and just as “closed” – we need a natural and comfortable space to speak freely. Please discuss your experience as a woman in the finance sector. Nqobile Kubeka: Entering the financial services industry as a young woman directly from university was initially quite tough, Carolyn Erasmus, SA Country Head, Bravura Solutions especially coming into such a traditionally male-dominated industry. Working in such a large organisation, I quickly realised that there was a gap in terms of building those connections and opportunities to network and socialise, not only among my direct peers but also more broadly. To counter this, we formed a women in technology network at my company, which has been an immense success, and has provided that area of connection. A key learning has been in 52

NETWORKING BLUE CHIP realising the importance of having your voice heard and having the mindset and determination in standing your ground. Networking and having a supporting structure in place are key elements of that. Georgina Smith: I have been incredibly well supported by all factions of the financial services industry. I have been blessed to be surrounded by some strong women who I have been able to learn from in terms of how they have handled themselves in heated situations. Diversity in any boardroom must be encouraged to get a much more rounded view as to how to approach issues. Where a man would be called “passionate” – a positive thing – a woman is labelled “emotional”. There is that unconscious bias that I have observed and it is not just financial services, it is everywhere. I think that it is starting to be called out but the diversity of thought that women and all races and ages, can bring to organisations has to be embraced. In the future, companies will need to embrace diversity if they are to thrive. I see Covid as a bit of an accelerator. I had a few giggles when I saw fathers manage home-schooling, a child screaming for their attention and simultaneously trying to focus on a work call. I believe that there is a lot more appreciation for how much we have had to juggle being a mother and wife, while keeping focused on career growth, and proving that we are good at what we do. Please tell us about the scale of diversity within the South African finance sector. Carolyn Erasmus: Bravura Solutions' corporate values stand strongly behind this type of initiative, which supports an inclusive culture. I feel very fortunate to be working for a company where my values are closely aligned with. We have noticed within the Bravura Solutions' Diversity and Inclusiveness (D&I) global community, that each region has its own hurdles to overcome. By understanding each region’s respective Georgina Smith, Head of Distribution and Client Services, Stanlib and INN8 Carolyn Erasmus: Like Nqobile, I realised quickly that being a female in the industry could hold me back. Men got asked their opinions and women had to fight to get their voices heard. I had to work harder to prove myself. It is those types of scenarios that I reflect on, which makes me realise how far we have come. The industry is becoming more outspoken around diversity and inclusiveness. People are more actively breaking that bias that we all refer to. Nqobile Kubeka, Financial Services Industry challenges you can tackle them quite sensitively and differently as an organisation if you actively want to make improvements. Solving D&I in any industry requires ongoing focus and action by everyone and that’s why these types of initiatives will gain momentum and evolve as they pass through the hands of industry members. Georgina Smith: It’s about diversity of mindset, experience and background, and this means equality across gender, age and 53

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