3 years ago

Blue Chip Journal - October 2019 edition

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WOMEN IN FINANCE The creed of wealth creation Uplifting women through financial planning From being a stockbroker in a boutique stockbroking firm in Johannesburg 10 years ago, Gugu Sidaki has soared to the heights of wealth management, servicing high net-worth individuals and ultimately, with Palesa Dube, founding Wealth Creed, where she serves as director and wealth manager. Sidaki has an impressive string of qualifications behind her name, including a BCom Economics degree from the University of Pretoria, BCom Honours degree in Investments Management from the University of Johannesburg and a Post- Graduate Diploma in Financial Planning from the University of the Free State. She is also a member of the FPI. We spoke to her about her passionate journey as a black woman in financial services and the ongoing transformation of the industry itself. Sidaki entered wealth management at the suggestion of one of the women running the wealth management team in the boutique firm where she was working as a stockbroker. “She thought I would fit in well. I hadn’t considered wealth management until that point. I made the transition and literally have been doing that ever since,” says Sidaki. When the business was bought out by FirstRand, Sidaki became a wealth manager for RMB, where she stayed until founding Wealth Creed in 2017. Reflecting on her experience as a woman in a maledominated industry, she says, “For the vast majority of my time as a wealth manager there have been fewer female financial advisors compared to male. It really makes a difference because if you have a lot of the same group of individuals within the Gugu Sidaki, Wealth Manager and Co-Founder of Wealth Creed business, that’s what sets the tone. It’s neither a good or a bad thing, but you do need a good mix of different kinds of individuals to bring in different kinds of skills sets.” For Sidaki, lack of diversity can affect performance. “It manifests in so many different ways that we cannot deny that it does not affect us. For example, not being a male and being a mom in particular means I am not going to be joining the boys every other night when they take out clients for drinks or whatever the case is, because it would be impractical, and if I miss out on that, I miss out on a very good opportunity to bond with team members.” The same holds true from a client perspective. “I have found myself bonding a lot deeper with certain clients because I brought what they needed. Women are better listeners, not to say that men don’t listen, but women have a better way to connect with individuals. Of course there are clients who really couldn’t care less what your gender and what your race is as long as you get the job done, but in certain instances I know that I have progressed more with specific clients because of my femininity, because I am a woman, because I bring a different skills set to the table,” shares Sidaki. Adding another layer is the fact of race. “Not only are there few female wealth managers, but there are even fewer black females or black advisors in general, which creates a whole different dimension. I have not been victimised or treated differently because for being black and female – on the contrary, I have been privileged and fortunate enough to work for an organisation that has been quite progressive in treating individuals such as myself – but whenever I go to industry functions or events, I am always one of two or three black females in that room. Ultimately it does get a little exhausting to have to over-extend myself in a particular way to get people to understand me a little bit more because of my background,” Sidaki says. Transformation from the ground up Given that wealth has been largely in white male hands historically, it makes sense why the industry looks the way it does. Nonetheless, says Sidaki, the industry is changing: “I have been seeing a lot more people needing advice who are not male, who are not white, and who have extensive wealth. To a large extent, that is going to drive the change in the industry.” Sidaki elaborates: “Our primary (but not exclusive) target is black females. The more 24

WOMEN IN FINANCE interaction we have with black women, the more we understand that they too require people like us to join the industry. We get to delve deeper into issues that affect black women in particular that they normally ordinarily struggle to get across with other advisors. It’s not to say that these kind of clients are literally and only requiring individuals that look like me, but the fact that they now have access to people who look like me enables them to expand more on issues that they hadn’t necessarily been able to in the past. A recurrent topic is the issue of so-called black tax – we prefer 'family responsibility' – and how to navigate it if you’re wanting the best for not just immediate but also extended family and you have the financial ability to do so.” Family responsibility opens up new financial planning pathways. “We are facilitating family meetings, for example, where we chat to clients about how to navigate their family responsibility and chat to extended family members about the limitations and the resources that are available. It’s about women learning how to tell extended family members that there is somebody to help, but it doesn’t mean that it is an unlimited resource – they too need to come to the party and be responsible on their end when they’re receiving income. It can get touchy. On one occasion I told a client that a couple of the people they support will have to try a little harder to look for employment to help out with the situation. Sometimes you do come across as quite cold. However, it’s a conversation that needs to happen, and it’s quite fruitful when we start having those engagements,” says Sidaki. These encounters entail a lot a financial coaching. “Often it’s a client’s first encounter with a financial advisor, so we’re having to do a lot of financial educational programmes covering the basics. We are constantly trying to direct behaviour. We want individuals to not only get invested but stay invested too. We are encouraging clients to consider opening investment accounts for extended family members too,” says Sidaki. Financial belief system Wealth Creed’s financial planning interventions are helping to relieve the stress experienced by women who support extended families. “All of a sudden they are not dealing with ad hoc requests. If you are able to build a kitty for that specific purpose and that kitty is invested in a clever way, the stress or the burden is released or lessened to a large extent. Our role is to devise strategies to help individuals manage family responsibility.” Women to whom financial planning was quite alien are now embracing it with a will. Sidaki refers to an illustrative case: “One particular client I had to deal with has two siblings who are working but the biggest responsibility of funding the rest of the family lies with her. When I spoke to her, I said, the request is coming – you know you will have to fork out some money for your parents at some point, whether it’s to fix a leaking roof or whatever the case is. Why don’t we get your siblings around the table to let everyone contribute to a kitty in a way that they are able to match? Suddenly the entire family got involved proactively and her burden was greatly reduced.” Financial planning as a tool for social transformation and empowerment is integral to Wealth Creed’s approach. Sidaki explains: “Our logo is the Tree of Life, representing the individuals that we are advising: the breadwinners footing the lion’s share of family responsibility. The ‘creed’ is the belief system we are creating for our clients. Previously ignored by the financial services sector, these individuals are now coming into money – we want to help them manage it and build a legacy for their loved ones.” In this regard, education is key. “Financial literacy initiatives are what can change this industry in order to bring everybody into the fold, if you will – to include as many people as possible in the process of financial planning. Everyone deserves a financial planner, whether you make R500 a month or whether you make a million. There is definitely huge scope for many more financial advisors.” For women and anyone else interested in furthering their careers in the industry, Sidaki advises: “Reach out to people who are already doing what you are doing. People are always willing to share information. When my business partner and I embarked on this journey, every time we knocked on a door for information or help, people were willing. We often reciprocate in turn. You would be surprised what help is at hand when you actually ask.” Sidaki enthusiastically recommends the FPI as the go-to forum for people wanting more information about the industry. She is also an active member of the Women in Finance Network:“Kim Potgieter started it a few years ago because she also felt the need to bring women in the finance sector together. We meet every quarter to talk about the challenges that women are facing in a male-dominated environment and to create a safe space for women to share and understand what it takes to succeed as a woman.” • Greg Penfold 25

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