A conversation with Baronice Hans: MD: Bank Windhoek 

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LM:

My dear Sister, I’m overjoyed at the opportunity to have this leadership conversations with you, I know you will inspire many through your insights and perspectives.

BH:

Thanks very much Lincoln it is an honour to be part in this conversation.

LM:

You are the MD: of Bank Windhoek and a former Business woman of the year in Namibia, to what do you ascribe the stellar success of your professional career thus far? 

BH:

I give all Glory to God who I believe as per His word in Jeremiah 29:11 says “I know the plans I have for you “declares the Lord,” plans to prosper you and not to harm, plans to give you hope and a future.” I have also had the amazing support of a great man, my husband and my family, who form a very responsive and resilient support network around me.

Furthermore, I have been very fortunate to have been blessed with two great leaders in my life (of which you, Mr Lincoln Mali, definitely are one) who have not only mentored and guided me, but have believed in me, challenged me to grow and have allowed me to soar and spread my wings.

I probably would not have accepted the nomination for the Economist Business Woman of the Year if you had not pushed me to focus on improving my public profile and contributing more to society and the Namibian Business Community. Until then, like most women, I believed doing my job well, was enough.

These great leaders have also often asked me to pause, reflect and work on the things in my life that needed change or attention. I have also had to work hard and make sacrifices to achieve my goals.

LM:

Tell us a bit about your earlier years and your family upbringing and who were your role models? 

BH:

I started from humble beginnings, raised mainly by my grandmother, mother and aunts in Katutura , the Black neighbourhood or township of Windhoek. My mother and aunts were independent women who had careers and were therefore my main role models. They instilled a sense in me that I could be anything and do anything. I was fortunate to have been raised in such a way that I never perceived my gender and race were as limitations. I decided from a very young age that I would rise above the misery and poverty that surrounded me and that I would need to make choices that would pave my way out of there. One of these choices was in particular to focus on doing well at school and obtaining the relevant tertiary and professional qualification. I am the second Black women in the history of Namibia to have qualified as a chartered accountant.

LM:

What are the values that define you and how have these helped you in the corporate world and in your personal life?

BH:  

The values that I have lived by honesty, integrity respect. I believe they have helped me to remember that God is above all. Knowing that everything comes by the grace of God has kept me grounded and thankful. I am however not perfect and am still learning. Being teachable and continuously improving my knowledge and skills is also very important to me.

Lastly, people matter and each person has a treasure inside that needs to be revealed, people are not defined by their past or what others say about them, but by what they are willing to rise up to and be.

LM:

Some people have complaint that corporate or entrepreneurial success has made it difficult for them to stay true to their religious beliefs or spirituality. How have you kept your religion front and centre in your life? 

BH:

My Church is totally uncompromising in serving and focusing on Christ. I often have to in humility recognise that I am completely dependent on God and that has given me strength in times when I have waivered. Knowing His unconditional love carries me and has always helped me find my way back to Him.

LM:

You have invested a lot in your own personal learning has and development. What advice would you give young people about investing in their careers? 

BH:

Be teachable and never stop learning, research emerging trends and technologies, develop yourself as a leader and change behaviours that don’t work in your best interest. The things that made you successful previously are often not the things that will take you towards your next level of success further on in your career.

LM:

What are the challenges that women face in the corporate world and how should companies create an enabling environment for women to succeed? 

BH:

Women don’t in my view need special treatment, we just need fair and equal treatment. This includes opportunities to grow and be promoted as well as remuneration. Flexibility in terms of work hours also remains important. We are not always as aware of and understate the importance of what is needed to succeed at the next level where especially strong relationships, networks and a strong public profile play a significant role.

LM:

You have taken over as the MD of one of the largest and successful banks in Namibia, what are the key priorities of your organisation? 

BH:

Our organization believes that true sustainability is created when businesses exist for more than just profit and remain relevant in meeting the expectations of key stakeholders. This asks of us to be a responsible corporate citizen and even more so being relevant and positively impacting our environment and communities. Our Group purpose therefore is to be connectors of positive change. We believe that being profitable and growth in profit is important but that it is not all we are about. We want to positively impact Namibia and the Region in everything we do.

Our priorities are to drive our strategic objectives which include being responsible corporate citizens, a caring organization that makes a difference, but at the same time we don’t ever want to lose the entrepreneurial spirit that has fuelled the growth of Bank Windhoek and the Capricorn Group.

LM:

How do you think banks will cope with the competition from Fintechs, Telcos has large platforms such as Amazon? 

BH:

Banks will need to find ways of incorporating the above into their business models. These are adjacent industries that provide services that banks and their customers consume. Banks can also learn from these companies. Banking and payments of the future are embedded in what customers do and it is not something they think about separately. Banking in future happens mostly as clients go about their lives.

LM:

Should corporates play a role in addressing socio economic challenges such as inequality, poverty and underdevelopment, or should they only focus on meeting shareholder expectations? 

BH:

Absolutely, conscious capitalism has become a requirement. We must do well financially in order to do good in the world around us.

LM:

Africa needs growth and development, what should our leaders prioritize to ensure that she takes her place among nations? 

BH:

Firstly, I believe we need to stop seeing ourselves as victims and also stop waiting to be rescued. We as Africans are capable of writing our own success stories and changing the legacy we leave for future generations. It starts with not accepting and tolerating leaders who do not take us where we need to go. Corruption is often identified as the main problem; however, it is an outcome of what leaders allow. These are often the very leaders we as Africans tolerate and even re-elect. The price we are paying for this is much too high, it not only the cost of corruption but the opportunity cost of lack of progress which sets us back for decades.  The time has come for us to take a definitive stand against this. Everything stands and falls by the quality of our leaders.

LM:

What role has husband played in supporting you in your personal and professional journey?

BH:

My husband Bolle has been my pillar of strength. There is no way I would have been able to do it without him. He has always cheered me on, believed in me, and has been a very honest soundboard. Many times, he has had to attend solely to all the logistical needs of our three children.  He lets me be and do what I love and he is an outstandingly humble and grounded human being.

LM:

What are the key features of your leadership style? 

BH:

I always try to empower people as much as possible and I firmly believe that in giving them space to grow, however I do remain close enough to support. I also apply different leadership styles to varying situations and people. I believe in keeping a sense of humour and having fun as a team, but that there is also a place and time for tough conversations. With the onset of the digital revolution, executive leaders, I am convinced, must have clear line of sight and a deep understanding of their markets, people, products, distribution and execution of business strategy, while at the same time remaining focused on the vision and creating the future they desire. 

I read a leadership quote recently that really inspired me” Be what you want to teach”, that really sums it up for me.

LM:

What fond memories do you have of your selection as Namibia’s Economist Business Woman of the year, 2015? 

BH:

Goodness, where do I start. I remember the initial sense of surprise and also just seeing the hand of God at work. It was one of the greatest honours of my life. I was really touched by the number of young women that I encountered as part of the award, who crave opportunities to engage and network. It felt good to in a small way touch their lives. As part of the award I mentored a young lady, seeing her grow from a girl who had never left Namibia to representing her organization in India was more than what I could ever ask for, I am so proud of her.

My paths crossed with so many women who inspired me and made me realise that our time as women has come! As part of the award I attended the Global Summit of Women which was held in Warsaw, Poland. It was absolutely amazing and attended by women from all over the world, including women who are/were Heads of State.

LM:

What were the lowest moments in either your personal or professional life, and how did you pull through those times? 

BH:

There were many both personally and professionally but through it all, God’s grace carried me and it made me so much stronger, wiser. I was also forced to focus on what really matters in life. Every time I went the a trial professionally as hard and soul numbing as it was, on the other side of it was always something better. Looking back, it was as though I was being prepared for something more, my character was being strengthened and moulded. Often to be more capable leaders we have to become less and let others become more.

LM:

You have already accomplished so much at such a young age, what are the things still on your Bucket List? 

BH:

The financial services industry has really grown on me, I am interested in playing a more regional leadership role eventually but also getting into Digital Banking/Business which I find completely fascinating because it requires that we can design businesses on a clean slate, without legacy. This enables disruptive customer experiences and disruptive business design.

LM:

What a riveting conversation My Leader, I’m blessed to have worked with you in my career. I know my readers will be grateful for your generosity with your time, knowledge and ideas. 

BH: 

Thank you, Lincoln, I am honoured to have been invited to participate and I commend you on creating a platform where we can learn from each other as leaders…

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