Fundi CEO is carv­ing out a new in­dus­try

CityPress - - Business - GLENDA WIL­LIAMS busi­ness@city­

Amasi Mwela has a rather con­sid­er­able long-term goal for his com­pany. “I want Fundi to be­come a one-stop shop for all things education.”

He has al­ready made sig­nif­i­cant in­roads into carv­ing out that blue­print.

For­merly Edu­loan, Fundi is a pri­vate en­ter­prise that has pro­vided more than 800 000 stu­dent loans over its 20 years of op­er­a­tion – the value of that is R5 bil­lion. But it is no longer just a loan provider. Over the past 13 months, the com­pany has re­branded and re­built its sys­tems, launched new so­lu­tions and opened a con­cept store.

It has also de­vel­oped and pro­vided a stu­dent cash card.

Fundi’s pre­vi­ous CEO, Tot­sie Memela, poached Mwela, the for­mer act­ing head of op­er­a­tions at Old Mu­tual iWYZE, the fi­nan­cial ser­vices group’s in­sur­ance busi­ness.

“I had just re­ceived a pro­mo­tion at Old Mu­tual, but I truly be­lieve that education is Africa’s an­swer to its many prob­lems, so it was an easy de­ci­sion,” Mwela said.

A mere four months af­ter join­ing as Fundi’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer in 2015, and 14 days short of his 35th birthday, the charis­matic Mwela was Fundi’s CEO, ready to put his stamp on the education space.

“Education for me is quite per­sonal. I have seen the dif­fer­ence it makes.”

Mwela is re­fer­ring to his fa­ther, the only one of 10 sib­lings to re­ceive a for­mal education.

As a re­sult, the stan­dard of liv­ing he was able to pro­vide for his own fam­ily was very dif­fer­ent to that of his sib­lings and their fam­i­lies.

Since tak­ing over the reins as CEO, Mwela has rad­i­cally trans­formed the com­pany.

No longer just a loan provider, the com­pany now pro­vides education ser­vices and re­sources from Grade 8 to MBA stage.

It’s an A-Z so­lu­tion, both on­line and on the ground, that in­cludes tu­ition, text­book and lap­top fund­ing to univer­sity reg­is­tra­tion.

Rein­vent­ing the com­pany ne­ces­si­tated its re­brand­ing from Edu­loan to Fundi.

“The Edu­loan name didn’t re­flect what we now did. Pre­dom­i­nantly, Edu­loan pro­vided loans to civil ser­vice par­ents and guardians of stu­dents,” says Mwela.

“I wanted to cre­ate an or­gan­i­sa­tion with heart. If a per­son passes, we want to know, and, if they don’t, we want to know what help they need,” he says.

In de­vel­op­ing its new model, the com­pany bought two young IT star­tups: Stoogle (re­branded to EduOne) and a di­vi­sion of LIV. “Some of the plat­forms were com­pleted within three months. Tra­di­tion­ally, that can take years. But these [21-year-old] ‘kids’ don’t sleep; they just get it done,” says Mwela.

Fundi’s new on­line plat­form, EduOne, now Mwela has a BComm from Bond Univer­sity and holds an MBA from Mil­park Busi­ness School.

Best busi­ness ad­vice:

“No mat­ter how se­nior you are in an or­gan­i­sa­tion, you don’t have all the an­swers.” Mwela is no fig­ure­head, manag­ing by “walk­ing around” and in­ter­act­ing with his team. En­dowed with a quirky sense of hu­mour and an en­dear­ing mod­esty, he is quick to laugh and equally quick to give credit where it is due. Team of Teams by Gen­eral

Man­age­ment style: Cur­rently read­ing:

Stan­ley McChrys­tal pro­vides the sup­port and re­sources needed to help stu­dents on their education jour­ney.

Among the of­fer­ings on the on­line por­tal are sub­ject choice in­for­ma­tion, ca­reer ad­vice, course-match­ing tools, univer­sity qual­i­fy­ing guide­lines, fund­ing ap­pli­ca­tions and bur­sary in­for­ma­tion.

The tech­nol­ogy also an­chors Fundi’s loan busi­ness as well as its R1.5 bil­lion bur­sary-man­age­ment busi­ness, in­tro­duced a few years back.

Apart from tak­ing on the ad­min­is­tra­tion that comes with manag­ing bur­saries for the en­ti­ties that pro­vide them, Fundi de­vel­oped in­no­va­tive card tech­nol­ogy with cat­e­gory “pock­ets” that bur­sary stu­dents use to man­age spend­ing.

Over 200 000 bur­sary stu­dents now use the Fundi card at over 2 500 se­lected mer­chants coun­try­wide. Apart from teach­ing stu­dents how to bud­get, the tech­nol­ogy pro­vides on­line vis­i­bil­ity of stu­dent spend for bur­sary providers.

With this level of ac­count­abil­ity and vis­i­bil­ity, the bur­sary ad­min­is­tra­tion por­tion is grow­ing, cur­rently ac­count­ing for 40% of Fundi’s busi­ness.

Mak­ing up the other 60% is the loan busi­ness, where stu­dents or their spon­sors re­ceive a pref­er­en­tial rate for tu­ition, lap­tops and books. The com­pany col­lects 98% of its loans. In ad­di­tion to its on­line pres­ence, Fundi boasts 48 branches, lo­cated mostly on univer­sity cam­puses. Now, though, there’s a move to stores lo­cated in ma­jor cities.

Its new con­cept store in Polok­wane with its self-ser­vice por­tal, univer­sity reg­is­tra­tion fa­cil­ity and in-store lap­tops, is an ex­am­ple of this.

“The goal is to have one of these stores in ev­ery ma­jor city across the coun­try in the next 18 months,” says Mwela.

Fundi re­cently pi­loted its cash­less school so­lu­tion in two schools where stu­dents trans­act us­ing a wrist­band pre­loaded with cash.

The com­pany plans to roll out this cash­less so­lu­tion to at least 10 ad­di­tional schools dur­ing the fi­nan­cial year.

To re­alise his goal of tak­ing stu­dents from Grade 8 all the way into the work­ing en­vi­ron­ment, Mwela’s vi­sion ex­pands to build­ing or part­ner­ing in a jobs por­tal.

The com­pany is al­ready in dis­cus­sions with var­i­ous part­ners.

– Fin­week

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