Meet Thandi Ngwane, Head of Strategic Markets at Allan Gray. Part of her job is to think about how more South Africans can have the opportunity to participate in their own wealth creation and to make engaging with large financial services firms less daunting.
What did you study and what has been your career path thus far?
I studied a Bachelor of Social Science majoring in political science and legal studies. It was the strange combination of watching too many law television series and a keen interest in jurisprudence that ultimately led to me studying for my Bachelor of Law. After having qualified as an attorney, I joined a financial services firm as legal advisor, and gradually moved to more functional management. It was during this time that I got my Certified Financial Planner designation.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
My days vary, but I spend most of my time thinking about how we can sustainably improve our impact with clients who are new to investing. This includes thinking about our productivity strategy, how to deepen our relationship with clients and how we can better serve our new clients.
What would you say the highlight of your job is?
There’s a perception that investing is for the very wealthy, and as a result many South Africans still view large investment firms as inaccessible. Part of my job is to think about how more South Africans can have the opportunity to participate in their own wealth creation and to make engaging with large financial services firms less daunting.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that’s helped you in your career?
There have been times when aspects of my job didn’t leave me particularly inspired, but I pushed through those times in order to advance my career. So, whether it’s the mundane administrative tasks that just need to get done, or having to deal with tough over-bearing personalities, the two things I’ve learned are that hard work doesn’t adapt to circumstance and shouldn’t wane just because you are uninspired - so do your best work all the time. You never know who is watching. The advice I’ve had on dealing with tough personalities is that they are often an invitation for personal growth and can challenge you to shift your own perspective.
What would you say it takes to succeed as a woman in finance?
In this competitive sector, I often find that it’s easier to default to being my biggest critic than it is to be my own cheerleader. I realise that I choose this, so I try to choose differently every day. I think it’s important to understand what problem you’re trying to solve, and then not to let thoughts of limitation enter your mind. Success starts in the mind; we have the ability to create it and sustain it through the way we think and through having a good attitude. Those thoughts are then made manifest through hard work, the drive to see a positive impact, and the courage to face the discomfort that this may bring - as a woman in finance, you won’t go unchallenged!
There is a perception that the finance sector can be a bit of a "boys club" - would you say you have experienced this stereotype to be true in any way in your career?
There have been times in my career where I was always expected to take minutes in meetings and experienced constantly being spoken over by male colleagues. I’ve come to learn that there is no shortage of stereotypes that creep into any corporate environment and these can be along gender, racial or cultural lines. The challenge, however, is that what might appear as a gender-related stereotype can be overlaid with a whole host of biases. And so yes, I would say I have experienced many biases in my career. At times they manifest themselves quite subtly.
What tips would you give to those looking to enter the finance world?
Understand what options are available to you, and raise your hand when opportunities arise.
- Master the skills required in order to succeed in your area of specialisation.
- Be conscious of how you come across to others.
- Performance matters, but so do your relationships with people.
WANT MORE ’FEMMES IN FINANCE’? READ HERE:
Economist At Citibank - Gina Schoeman | Technical Analyst - Moxima Gama | Client Manager at Incompass Financial Solutions - Anja Du Plessis | Retail Client Service Consultant at Coronation Fund Managers - Kylie Janse van Vuuren | Equity Analyst at Avior Capital Markets - Janine van Wyk | Fund Analyst and Investment Specialist at Amity Wealth - Roné Venter | Private Wealth Manager at NFB Private Wealth Management - Mikayla Collins
Nicole Cameron is a features writer with over twelve years’ experience, focusing primarily on the business market with a niche focus on entrepreneurship. She has written on a variety of topics for Sharenet and is excited to be focusing on women in finance in her new monthly column "Femmes in Finance". She holds a Business Science degree from UCT and is passionate about reporting on the events and people that make up the local business landscape.