Celebrating successful women for all their hard work and effort creates a pathway and steppingstone for aspiring women who seek guidance, motivation, and inspiration.
Gauteng Women in Insurance (GWII) recently chatted to Makhosazana Bambisa - CFO at Stangen (King Price Insurance) about her journey and career in the financial services industry, what Stangen offers and her advice for other women in the industry.
A Q&A session
Tell us a little about yourself and your career in insurance. Maybe a bit of a background on where you were born, where you grew up, your academic background… leading to your entry into the industry.
I was born in Springs.. I matriculated in 2002 at Springs Girls High School. The year 2003 was quite an interesting year for me. I got a sponsorship from Mondi a manufacturing company, which is quite big in Springs. They sponsored me to go study at a university called City Campus. I was there for a year, but after a year, I realised it was not where I wanted to be.
I wanted to be a chartered accountant (CA), so I decided to go back to a formal university. So, I joined the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). I was at Wits from 2004 to 2007, got my Bachelor of Accountancy, then joined Deloitte from 2008 to 2010 in their financial institution division, which cemented my passion for in financial services.
When I left Deloitte, I had to serve at Mondi, it was fun working on projects but the manufacturing sector was just not for me, so when the opportunity came to join ABSA I grabbed it, but for a year, then got called to Liberty and was there for 4 years. After, I worked at Hollard Life as a CFO till this year, in March.
So, that was my entrance into the insurance industry. It started there, and I have been in the insurance industry for over eight years.
In my personal space I am a wife and mother of two girls, who motivate me. That’s my intro!
Tell us something about yourself which not a lot of people know about…
I’m quite a private person. Not a lot of people know this, but I am quite active in mentoring the kids at our church and I previously used to tutor maths and accounting in KwaThema, because I’m passionate about youth upliftment. I also preach at church and youth services. I believe one must do their bit to instil hope in the youth of today. Make them believe in a better day.
What motto do you live by?
Life is a journey, not a destination. That has been the one thing that has carried me. Things are not black and white. If the path you are on does not work out, choose a different path. If you need to change the course of life, do so, success does not stop at one destination, it’s a journey on many different paths.
Name one defining moment in your career or personal life which changed the world for you and why? Perhaps a brief success story.
It was when I started my accountancy articles. I’ve always been a performer and I was tasked with looking out for an audit file from junior and senior staff. Upon deadline, I started asking for submissions and no one was responding to me. Being young and naïve, I submitted only what was relevant to me… in other words, my work. To my detriment, this got me rated down. I was told it was my responsibility to complete the file, and it was. So it taught me that you are only successful if the rest of the team succeeds. It also taught me how to work with people better.
What are your plans for the future?
In my career I have always studied. I love studying and still want to do my PHD. Growing up, you look at women rising up in the corporate world and they become executives, then they just disappear. It makes me curious, and I have done interviews about it. Many have said when you get to that point in life there is so much responsibility in terms of work and personal life, therefore, they take non-executive jobs. So, I would like to do a study on that. How can corporates balance this act and how can corporates make it better for women to succeed, while maintaining their personal life balance so that we do not loose the women who have worked so hard.
I also aspire to be an executive at a large organisation and have other females see a representation, so they can believe also that it can be done. Actually, it’s fitting that we growing at such a rapid rate, it means that the my dream is not too far from becoming a reality.
What are your plans as the current CFO at Stangen (King Price)?
One of the things that I am enjoying in my current role is the fact that it is so entrepreneurial. My plan is on how to integrate finance into the bigger company. Finance is always seen as a standalone reporting unit with people sitting on a separate floor, missing out on the action where the business is. But I have started introducing people and teams into the normal operations, so that they are integrated as a team.
Finance should be seen as value adding, and not just a reporting line.
What advice do you have for other women in the industry?
Our industry is small. Everyone knows everyone, so get involved. Join associations and networks. Our networks speak for us. Be involved in these types of spaces and become actively involved. You can learn a lot. Put your hand up and volunteer to do things. Women should speak up, and not be scared to take on hard tasks. You would be surprised at how many people are willing to teach if you are willing to learn. Get a sponsor or a mentor… it will expose you to a wider network! Approach people and take the learnings as they are. It is a point to grow and find those gaps for you to grow in the industry.
If you could change anything in the industry to uplift women, what would it be and why?
It is representation. We need more females in senior positions. Its easy to desire for more if a similar person to you already doing the job, it makes it possible, that you or me can do it too.
What is good corporate culture?
It’s bringing yourself to the office… YOU! You cannot change who you are. If the culture allows that, you can express yourself. Women wear multiple hats… we need to be comfortable to demonstrate that in our workspace.
Gender diversity and equality… why are we stuck and not moving?
There are a lot of hidden factors that are making it difficult. Women are the ones who still compromise. Society limits women to grow. I think it’s a wider than corporate task. Society needs to transform and be set up in order to promote both men and women being equal. Let’s normalise stay at home dads as much as we normalise stay at home moms.
Lastly, in your opinion, what do you wish women could do?
Feel free to actually talk about their success. We don’t like talking about our success. We contribute a lot to the insurance industry. We should be recognised for it.
Stangen (King Price Insurance)