A conversation with Patience Rolls – Senior Manager: Cash & ATM’s Standard Bank

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PR:

My Leader, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to engage with you on a number key issues 

LM:

I hope our conversation will illuminate some issues for many young leaders. 

PR:

Digital revolution opens new windows of opportunity in areas of Artificial Intelligence, big data, robotics etc. How can leaders create interest and increase participation of women in this area? 

LM:

This is an exciting change in our lives that will change the world of work, how societies are organized and how people will interact. This creates new opportunities for women to leapfrog from the current patriarchy-oriented world to a different world democratized by technology. More excitingly for me, these technologies have great capacity to solve some of society’s most intractable problems. We need to devote more time to inform, educate and enlighten women about the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the amazing opportunities it offers and invite them to be on the forefront of this revolution. We have to do it from the schools, to universities and in the corporate world as well. In addition to this, we must have a bias to give more learning and development opportunities to women to pursue studies and other learning opportunities in this area of the development of technology. 

PR:

IT is still male dominated in our organisation especially in senior roles, is this the same in the other parts of the world that you have been too? 

LM:

I think it varies across the world, I think that South Africa and the African continent is still a laggard in this regard. I have seen some amazing developments in China and in Silicon Valley where great strides are being made. My view is that Standard bank and those companies that are trailing behind across Africa have to take deliberate steps to address this. In my career, I’ve always used the same methodology and approach to address the poor representation of women in key roles. This approach involves the following steps;

  • I usually conduct a detailed skilled audit of women’s skills, qualifications and experience across the areas I’m responsible for by asking very uncomfortable questions. Most of the time, these exercises have unearthed much better talent and potential than is usually shared with me in the beginning. The reason for this is that most of the time our managers and HC practioners are sometimes more conservative in their view of women talent, skills and experience; 
  • I then request a list of all vacancies across the area from junior, middle and senior manager roles and executive roles. I then challenge my colleagues to match the skills audit to the vacancies and to see why we can’t prioritize the women in our skills, expertise and experience audit to the opportunities identified with the vacancies. I am usually told of the development gaps women have, and I normally push back to say, show me the development plans that have been undertaken to close the gaps. Through debate, dialogue, education and persuasion, we start to appoint women in those roles, we then identify those development points and hone in on them either as we appoint the women or develop them for the next vacancies. I have found that because of past practices, sometimes women themselves have given up on the next opportunities, may have believed they are not worth the effort or sometimes managers had ingrained the conservative view on women. Part of the answers I get is the popular saying, “I don’t want to set her up for failure “, but when I point out to a male colleague, with less skill and experience than the women colleague, I find that the main differentiator was the confidence of the male colleague. Through education and persuasion, I help people develop new lens through which to see women as talent. 
  • Beyond the initial phase I’ve always persuaded our teams to adopt pro women policies and this starts with prioritizing the employment, empowerment and leadership of women. The practical implications are that in following the bank’s policy, the laws of the country and the constitution, women are prioritized in: 
  • the filling of any vacancy; 
  • promotions 
  • learning and development opportunities; 
  • recruitments; 
  • succession planning and 
  • talent management 

Lastly, it’s not enough to increase the number of women in key positions, we as leaders

then have to tackle all the other things that preclude women from succeeding in our     corporates, this means addressing: 

    • the gap in pay because of gender; 
    • corporate culture that makes it difficult for women to succeed at work and at home; 
    • define acceptable norms for conduct and how we deal with sexual discrimination and sexual harassment; 
    • review our corporate culture in terms of any roles and practices against women and most importantly 
    • enable women to find their voice within our team, and 
    • help managers to know how to support women going through a divorce, an abusive relationship, a miscarriage, who has a child with learning disability etc 

Over time, through deliberate efforts, we have changed different teams with the support of some amazing women like Itumeleng Monale, Ethel Nyembe, Hannah Sadiki, Angela Mhlanga, Mita Koebe, Khanyi Chaba, Indira Bhagaloo, Sue Wishart, Michele De Waal, Amanda Sebolai, Portia Nondo, Pindie Nyandoro, Gwen Mwaba, Joyce Uredi, Baronice Hans, Yande Sikazwe Mothoa, Mercia Bloem, Aishah Ahmad, Claudia Vienna, Sylvianne Bungane and many other leaders. These leaders taught me so much about leadership, about nurturing and about leading with the heart. Unfortunately, many of these brilliant leaders left the bank, they are doing amazing things outside the bank, whilst those who stayed, are playing a big role within the bank. 

I know the leadership of IT, under Alpheus Mangale is well aware of the challenges ahead. At Group level, Sim Tshabalala, has committed the Group to very stiff targets to reach by 2022. 

PR:

As organizations increase the need for automation, it is a given that the workforce that exists today will reduce significantly what is the one advice you would give women that have been retrenched? How can we encourage/develop women in the bank to become great entrepreneurs in the future?

LM:

A retrenchment process scares people for life, whether you are retrenched, or you do the consultations as a manager or you watch your friends, colleagues and family members being retrenched. A retrenchment is a no-fault termination of employment- there is nothing that a person has done to be retrenched, neither is there anything a person could have done not to be retrenched. 

All of us who are bread winners, who have families to look after have to go through the anxiety and uncertainty that arises with the advent of new technologies that replace people. The pace of these technologies, the savings they make in costs, the benefits that clients expect from these technologies mean that over time, these technologies will replace a lot of jobs. As time goes on we will have a healthy yet tense relationship between people and technology. 

It will take time for this message to sink in, but over time, the women who have been retrenched will do one of the following things: 

  • they will actively look for opportunities in a tough economic environment; 
  • some may decide to take time off to spend with their children as they contemplate the future; 
  • others will move from full time employment to provide services as a party time consultant; and 
  • while others will look at opportunities as entrepreneurs. 

All these are difficult choices, people will move from denial and anger through to acceptance in different ways and at different times. The current leadership and HC processes are aimed at giving people different options, things will be clearer over time. 

PR:

Digital technologies enable us to do so much more, like work from home or from different locations what is your take around flexible working arrangements?

LM:

I think that flexible working arrangements are very progressive steps to improve the lives of our employees. I have always believed that those who do not have to be in the office or who do not have to meet clients in a branch or a voice branch may work from home or another location by agreement with their superiors. In my specific case, I do not have an office, all I need is a place to sit and my phone, and I deliberately spend about 80% of my time with staff and customers across Africa. I think that we, as leaders, should enable more self-managed, multidisciplinary teams that can work remotely, using the latest technologies to connect and interact.  

PR:

What advice would you give to a woman who was recently promoted into an Executive role?

LM:

I have been consistent in my message to newly promoted women Executives in my team and the rest of the bank. The core message is that you are in this job because you deserve to be in it, you are suitably qualified, and you have all the potential and capability to do an amazing job. Please accept that there may be people who see things differently, who may cast aspersions on your competence, on how you were appointed, who May have questions about why you were appointed to this role. Regardless of these views, those who appointed you believe in you, will support you, will defend you and will do everything in our power to make you succeed. Please remember, all of us have been in this position you are in before, we also had our doubts, we also battled with confidence at some point, but there were always people there to support us through such difficult times, reach out to us, anytime to bounce off ideas, to express frustrations or sometimes to just vent. Lastly, but probably most importantly, be your best genuine and authentic self, do not adopt a male persona, do not be a bully, bring your full self to work. Keep the best traits of being you and help is change this organisation to be more caring, more sensitive, more diverse and more women friendly. 

PR:

Single parenting is on the rise, are we doing enough within the organisation especially with women on how to save for retirement? 

LM:

I must say it is sad that our own staff members do not have enough knowledge of our financial service products. We must do better to alert our staff about the broad range of financial services products for savings, investments, insurance etc. We must use all the opportunities we have to get our staff to undertake and appreciate all our products and services. 

PR:

Today in our organisation we have teams that are busy with client journeys/ labs. The work that the different teams are running with, in your opinion will it give us market edge or are we just playing catch-up (levelling the playing field).

LM:

Organisations choose different strategies to compete. We are faced with fierce competition from FNB, Nedbank, ABSA and Capitec, whilst we now have new banks that are joining the fray. Each of these banks has to have the best value proposition for clients and deliver those value propositions in the best way possible. It would be arrogant to assume that our chosen strategy will give us the market edge, given the competitive landscape we face. My caution is that we are currently so inwardly focused that we may not be competing at the level required; in addition to this, the right to invest in the future depends on the performance of the current franchise. My other caution is that we must never elevate any approach to be the killer strategy that will eliminate the competition, each of our strategies must stand the test of time, deliver real results and give you a competitive edge that may be overtaken as competitors respond. 

PR:

What is your views around our governance process when we introduce change? 

LM:

I think we can get much better on the governance process on change. I fear that we currently have two dangerous extremes- on

The one hand you have business people who put the bank at risk through bypassing the governance processes; on the other hand, we have risk people whose actions and the approach to governance stifles progress and innovation. My strong view is that we have 2 or 3 competitors who have come to the market with new ideas and new products and services that dies during our governance processes. We need a huge mindset shift at the leadership level to ensure that business and risk people create a conducive environment for innovation within an acceptable risk framework. When we look at the scoreboard, we have been scoring less and less victories and when a new risk arises, we go into risk overdrive with devastating consequences. Everyone points out to these challenges, but we continue to commit the same mistakes. 

PR:

What advice can you give to the teams who has been tasked to shape the bank? 

LM:

Humility, Humility and more Humility – please accept that you are one part of a large organisation, take the whole organisation with you. When people feel that you are special or think of yourselves as better than others, resentment sets in, buy in becomes harder to get and polarization ensues. We need more integrators who can articulate the case for change, sell it honestly to others, even those likely to be adversely affected by such change, and build a coalition of change. This is the responsibility of true change agents. 

PR:

FinTech’s help us deliver faster. When selecting vendors /fintech’s as part of the due diligence do we look at the number of women in strategic /senior positions? Board participation where the bank has strategic partnerships (e.g. eccentric; Greystone; SBV) –Are we doing enough to have women from SBSA participate on the boards where the bank is required? 

LM:

The simple answer is No, we have not done enough. The comments I have made earlier on women leadership and participation within the bank clearly will cloud how we see women’s growth outside the bank in key Boards. This is a mindset issue that we must confront. In my own area, we have recently appointed Yolisa Khoza to the Board of Directors of Diners; Ethel Nyembe to the Advisory Board of Diners International; Carolina Reddy to the International Advisory Board of Mastercard for Security and Cybercrime. Much more needs to be done and all our executives have to think about the need to give more women Board appointments. 

PR:

Reward and Recognition of teams iro individuals – Today we are seeing more teams collaborating to deliver pieces of work for the organisation, yet we recognize the project managers /leaders which causes discomfort to teams. What is you view /thoughts around team goals, team recognition and team reward? 

LM:

The bank is evolving towards this direction. If you think of the Group’s core focus areas, namely Client Centricity; Digitisation; and Integration, these already drive is towards better collaboration and teamwork. There is currently work being done at Group level to deal with these issues. I know we will have some announcements in the next few months about these possible changes. We have discussed it in various leadership engagements I’ve participated in within PBB. I think the organization will create a new performance management paradigm that takes into account more team work and team goals. 

PR:

Thank you so much My Leader, these were very detailed answers, thank you for your consistent voice within the organization. 

LM:

My pleasure My Leader, I hope we can illuminate some key things to other young leaders during these difficult times, may God be with all our staff and our beloved bank through these trying times. 

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