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Dealing with digital disruption in banking

CORRESPONDENT
Faith Valentine
As the Head of Local Corporate of the Bank, my role entails driving strategic management for all areas across the segment to ensure its sustainable growth by identifying business growth opportunities (new markets, new products and new services) and delivering those through the design of the most cost-effective delivery channel appropriate to my segment.

Tell us more about your role at FNB Botswana

This involves, amongst other things;

Formulating, implementing and driving the sub-segment and broader FNB Botswana strategy;

Country-wide client management; day to day client services, and expectations

Product and service development and implementation through effective engagement with key internal product houses;

Governance, control and reporting thereon

Team leadership, management, staff training and mentoring.

How do you think the corporate banking landscape has evolved ever since you joined the industry? 

Having joined the industry more than a decade ago, a lot has changed in the domestic financial services industry. Ten years ago, Botswana’s top four banks (also called Tier 1/ First Class) controlled majority (over 90% of the market) leaving the remaining 10% to smaller players that had no hope of breaking through this dominion.

However, there has been a major fundamental business and operating model disruption stemming mainly from digitisation, unprecedented innovation and a swarm of new entrants, both banking and non-banking institutions, threatening the traditional way of banking in Botswana – from new customer channels and propositions through to new back office technologies and automation. 

Digital technology began reshaping retail banking years ago, but has been much slower to shake up the corporate space. Digital disruption has finally come to corporate banking and bankers now find themselves under substantial pressure to act, and I am happy to say FNB has always been in the forefront when it comes to digitisation and innovation in both the retail and the corporate space. 

With digitisation changing the competitive landscape and the economics of corporate banking business models, corporate clients are rapidly digitising their operations and ways of working, and they expect to interact with banks accordingly. Powerful new digital tools are constantly emerging.

Think robotics, big data, Artificial Intelligence, and blockchain, but only digitally enabled organisations, like FNB, can put them to use. Just like everything in the world, digitisation also has its own pitfalls for the banking industry, for example, the more digitisation begins to break up the traditional banking value chain, the more cracks appear for new players and new business models, like fintech firms which are flooded with funding and talent, accelerating change and innovation and placing substantial competitive pressure on banks.

 How do you think you have grown as an individual due to your responsibilities at FNBB? 

Having worked for FNBB straight from university, I can safely say this bank, through the leadership programmes, colleagues’ interactions, industry programmes (such as the Banking Programme) and the networks and platforms it has presented me with over the last decade, has built and groomed me into the person I am today.

As a major in Sociology and Environmental Science degree holder, I never thought I will be in the financial industry today, but as the saying goes ‘you make plans and God laughs’. My different roles at the bank have helped to strengthen my patience and build my appreciation for different personalities that I work with.

Working for one of the biggest banks in the country means dealing with hundreds of people and for one to survive and thrive, you need to learn to work with all the different personalities that you come across to deliver the bank’s mandate whilst providing the right solutions for the clients.

How has your role at FNBB impacted/influenced your journey as a business professional?

My roles at FNB over the last decade have been instrumental in building very powerful networks in the financial

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services industry whilst creating lifetime bonds with both colleagues and clients alike.

What is your key emphasis when leading a team?

I strongly believe that every interaction is an opportunity to learn something new so I am always open and inviting to new ideas and opinions from team members.

Taking the time to listen sends the message that people are valued and respected. Being open and inviting ideas from others increase empowerment in team dynamics and a buy-in in the organisation and in this case, departmental strategy.

I also strongly believe in developing young talent, as I believe developing team members sends a message that employees are valued and the organisation is willing to invest in them as people/individuals.

Recognition, rewards and encouragement are also extremely important elements of leading a ‘winning team’ as those things that are rewarded are almost always repeated.

Empowerment requires team members to make some effort and take some risks and therefore, leaders who recognise and encourage employees when they see extra effort or risk-taking, get more of that behaviour in the future.

Last but not least, a positive work environment is also crucial for employees to deliver on set targets as we spend most of our time at work than anywhere else.  When the work environment is positive, and people feel valued and respected, empowerment and performance is always higher.

What have been the main challenges you have faced as a financial institution in the industry?

As a leader in digitisation and innovation in the domestic market, FNB, like all the first movers in other markets, have faced digital-transformation challenges such as complexity, legacy IT systems, cultural resistance, and substantial required investments.

Digital transformation involves tackling organisational and cultural change, thus, instilling a digital mindset into a traditional banking culture can be challenging and the need to manage two cultures during the transition can be complex.

We have managed to succeed in rolling our digital transformation because we have a highly engaged senior leadership that is committed to radically changing the organisation.

The bank has ensured that digital transformation is a clearly articulated strategic priority, supported by appropriate funding, talent recruitment, openness to new agile ways of working, and a willingness to take risks. 

Who do you look up to in the industry?

This will probably sound a bit cliché but in this industry, I look up to my sister Carol-Jean Harward. She might be younger than me but trusts me; she is a force to reckon with.

Having worked for some of the best asset management firms in Botswana, she has amassed deep knowledge of, not only the financial services industry, but most sectors in Botswana. At the young age of 25, she was managing one of the largest domestic investment portfolios in the market and by 29 she was heading the Loan Structuring (debt) portfolio for one of the big local banks in Botswana.

She recently jumped into the entrepreneurial wagon and is currently working with the investment team at the World Bank. Her work ethic, integrity, understanding and knowledge of the Botswana and Regional/Global financial services industry is something I have always admired and looked up to.

Besides her, there are several powerful industry titans who have been instrumental (both directly and indirectly) in shaping my career in this industry and are still my sounding board to this day.

Faith Valentine, First National Bank Botswana’s Head of Local Corporate speaks on her role, the market and trends



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