Wife, mother, daughter and businesswoman, these are the words that describe Zola Malinga, whose business card reads: Chair of the Audit and Compliance Committee. Zola shares her story with us:
My first ‘job’ was selling rubber sandals at a Durban flea market as a Grade 11 learner earning R50 for the day. In 2000, I landed my first formal employment at Deloitte where I did my accounting articles. My first position post-qualification was at Liberty Group as a financial manager.
In hindsight, my defining moment came when I decided to study a BCom Accounting and to pursue a career as a Chartered Accountant (CA). Back in Grade 11, I had no idea what being a CA entailed. But my accounting teacher, Mrs Swift, encouraged me to pursue it as a career choice and I’m glad I listened.
Another highlight worth mentioning is joining Investec Corporate Finance in 2004. This move exposed me to the world of business; CEOs and CFOs of listed companies that I read about; influential businesspeople; boardroom dynamics and top-line negotiations. I gained incredible exposure to investment banking and deal-making. I have experienced challenges along the way, like a failed investment in a Virgin Beauty Spa but the lessons learnt from this experience have been invaluable.
After qualifying as a CA, I became an investment banker and moved into the property sector before starting my own business. My ultimate goal is ensuring that my work aligns with my passions and purpose. I run an investment company, Jade Capital Partners. I also serve as a non-executive director on select boards; implement social impact initiatives through Jade Foundation; and serve on the Property Sector Charter Council EXCO to drive transformation in the property sector.
Since then, Zola’s career has been blossoming. She tells us more about her role at Grindrod Bank:
My current role as Chair of the Audit and Compliance Committee is to ensure that the committee effectively fulfils its core mandate to provide oversight of the financial reporting process.
This role is both challenging and gratifying with all the highs and lows of operating in a highly regulated environment. The key aspects to an effective audit committee is ensuring that you have the expertise; diversity of experience and perspectives; and the independence to make the right decisions.
At Grindrod Bank, the environment requires one to keep abreast of all the regulatory changes and updates. At a personal level, I take great pride in signing off on financial statements of companies that I used to read about and admire.
Her advice to young people:
It is important to have the ability to adapt. Adapt to new leaders; new environments; new challenges; new technologies; new colleagues - this is one strength that enabled me to gain diverse exposure in a short space of time. “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best adapt to change” is one of the quotes I live by.
Knowledge is power so never underestimate the importance of investing in personal and professional development. This coupled with consistent, excellent performance in everything you do will set you apart from the rest.
For those interested in following a similar career path, remember that your greatest assets in the world of business are your reputation and your network. Your reputation is your value and your network provides guidance, referrals, connections, opportunities, inspiration and visibility.
According to Zola, these are the top three current trends in the banking industry:
- In the face of the current pandemic, liquidity will continue to be a key consideration for most companies. This will mean balance sheet restructurings; capital raising initiatives; and mergers and acquisitions as companies redefine their strategies.
- An increased demand for new technologies will accelerate growth within the fintech sector.
- And finally, the COVID experience has exposed the extent of the social problems in South Africa and going forward I expect the business environment to focus a lot more on Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) issues from a boardroom perspective, capital allocation and shareholder activism.
Fun facts about Zola:
I am fascinated by people’s life stories and journeys. We often see the end results without realising the sacrifices and hard work that go into attaining success. I recently read Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. The book is a refreshing and an honest account of an entrepreneurial journey. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** by Mark Manson was a reminder to prioritise what matters.
I often ask myself ‘How will you measure your life?’ a question inspired by Clayton M. Christensen’s book. This question continuously challenges me to think about and focus on my purpose.
I am an avid reader of the Business Day and the Financial Mail to keep me updated with what is happening in the world of business. Destiny Magazine was a regular buy especially when it featured women doing great things.
Zola goes into who inspires her the most:
I am inspired everyday by women doing great things, taking bold steps and assuming leadership positions. Dr Judy Dlamini is one of the women who inspired me from a very young age having been our family doctor in Umlazi. Her journey from medical doctor to working as an investment banker to becoming a successful businesswoman and more recently being appointed Chancellor of Wits is inspiring. It is confirmation that you can successfully pursue diverse interests and careers in your lifetime.
In 2004, I met the four founders of Peotona and knew then that one day I wanted to have my own investment company. Later I was fortunate enough to be part of their mentorship programme. What I loved most about their business model was their vision to use their investments, influence and networks to contribute to the development of women in business; transformation; and leverage opportunities for smaller enterprises and communities.
A work-life balance is vital for career driven women, Zola shares how she copes with all the pressure:
One of my mentors revealed to me that a clinical approach to a work-life balance was a myth. You cannot be the perfect employee, mother, wife, friend and daughter all at the same time. Sometimes you have to make the sacrifices whilst pursuing your dreams and goals. As a businesswoman I have the flexibility to manage my own time so that I can prioritise school activities, family and business commitments, as and when required.
I am generally a very calm person (my husband may disagree!!) and I can quickly accept what I cannot change. I focus on finding solutions as this allows me to be more in control and reduces my stress levels.