Bank­ing on home loans

Funeka Mon­t­jane, CEO of per­sonal and busi­ness bank­ing at Stan­dard Bank SA, has led a team that turned around the bank’s home loans divi­sion from a loss of R1 bil­lion to a profit of R100 mil­lion in a sin­gle year, writes Sue Grant-Mar­shall

CityPress - - Business -

Funeka Mon­t­jane has not only bro­ken through the glass ceil­ing at Stan­dard Bank SA’s mas­sively glassed, ul­tra­mod­ern head of­fice in Rose­bank, Jo­han­nes­burg – she’s si­mul­ta­ne­ously smashed all the stereo­types about women in busi­ness.

She heads per­sonal and busi­ness bank­ing, a divi­sion that em­ploys around 20 000 peo­ple and ser­vices over 11 mil­lion cus­tomers.

It’s the kind of po­si­tion you ex­pect some­one drip­ping with sever­ity to hold.

Yet, the supremely pro­fes­sional and con­fi­dent Mon­t­jane pro­jects warmth, a team ap­proach and joy­ful­ness.

Yes, joy­ful­ness, for that is a word she em­ploys through­out our in­ter­view as she ex­plains her rea­sons for be­ing where she is to­day.

It goes to­gether with her goal to help im­prove peo­ple’s lives.

The char­tered ac­coun­tant, who grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand with a BCom cum laude, was at­tracted to the bank by the no­tion that she could change South Africans’ lives for the bet­ter.

She had been made a part­ner at PwC when aged only 27.

Two years later, in 2008, Stan­dard Bank of­fered her the po­si­tion of chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer of per­sonal and busi­ness bank­ing.

“It came at a time when I was in­creas­ingly feel­ing that I wanted to make a dif­fer­ence. The bank’s CEO, Sim Tsha­bal­ala, af­firmed this, ex­plain­ing that the bank’s for­tunes were linked to those of South Africa and of the African con­ti­nent.

She be­came Tsha­bal­ala’s fi­nan­cial di­rec­tor and then when he was pro­moted to group CEO, his suc­ces­sor, Peter Sch­le­busch, head of per­sonal and busi­ness bank­ing for the group, “be­came my fairy god­fa­ther”.

“He men­tioned one day that the bank was mak­ing a loss of R1 bil­lion in home loans.”

The prob­lem clearly needed fix­ing.

Sch­le­busch sug­gested she tackle the chal­lenge.

Mon­t­jane em­ployed un­con­ven­tional meth­ods.

“Our mort­gage book at the time was sit­ting at R250 bil­lion. If a bond is not re­paid, we should by law re­pos­sess the house and sell it on auc­tion.

“We nor­mally get only 50% of its value, which is not good for the client or for us,” she ex­plains.

In a huge re­struc­tur­ing pro­gramme that Mon­t­jane worked out with her team, var­i­ous cre­ative new op­tions are now of­fered to de­fault­ing clients.

“All of us recog­nised that for us to be suc­cess­ful, our cus­tomers have to be al­right. Ev­ery­body wants a house, for many it is their only wealth,” says Mon­t­jane, who grew up in the im­pov­er­ished home­land of Vlak­laagte (the for­mer KwaNde­bele).

To­day, the home loans divi­sion of the bank “is prob­a­bly our most suc­cess­ful busi­ness line”.

Mon­t­jane’s divi­sion han­dles in­di­vid­ual bank­ing as well as that of 400 000 small busi­nesses and about 25 000 medi­um­sized busi­nesses.

Life was not al­ways this good.

She was raised by her grand­par­ents in ab­ject poverty and, at the age of five, de­cided she would break out of it.

At 11, she set her sights on be­com­ing a char­tered ac­coun­tant, and her re­doubtable grand­moth­ers en­sured she con­cen­trated on maths.

Her maths teacher at Fred Nor­man High School in En­nerdale had such faith in the young­ster that she paid her daily trans­port costs and took lunch to school for her.

“I stud­ied by can­dle­light at Or­ange Farm and slept only four hours a night,” she re­calls.

She got 96% for ac­count­ing in ma­tric.

It was that, plus her de­ter­mi­na­tion and bub­bly, en­dear­ing per­son­al­ity, that helped se­cure her a full schol­ar­ship from PwC.

But at a time when Mon­t­jane thought she had it all: a home, a car, a great job, a hus­band, “the hal­lelu­jah mo­ment never came and I re­alised I was de­pressed”.

She was di­ag­nosed with clin­i­cal de­pres­sion and went into ther­apy.

“That is when I dis­cov­ered my spir­i­tual side.”

That “con­scious­ness”, as she calls it, in­fects both her busi­ness and per­sonal life. She re­mar­ried in 2006. “If you want a great ca­reer, you need a great hus­band and Le­bo­gang is just that.”

Mon­t­jane’s pas­sion to­day is to cre­ate “soul­ful work­ing en­vi­ron­ments. Tech­nol­ogy en­ables us to be cre­ative and that only comes in a space that cul­ti­vates wis­dom”.

Mon­t­jane points out that busi­ness in the past con­cen­trated on IQ, then EQ, “and right now con­scious­ness is a big driver in or­gan­i­sa­tions”.

It’s a trib­ute to her big per­son­al­ity that she’s tak­ing bank­ing, tra­di­tion­ally re­garded as a num­bers busi­ness, to a dif­fer­ent place.

“It’s about peo­ple with hopes and fears.”

PHOTO: BUSI MBUYIA

PER­FORMER Funeka Mon­t­jane

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