Zizipho Nyanga, our Independent Non-Executive Director, believes she was born to do great things, and this is where it all started for her:
My first big break was trusting my parents’ decision for me to leave my friends and change schools to pursue commercial subjects in another school. The new school put me on the path to later becoming a Chartered Accountant. One of my most defining moments was when I almost dropped out of university because my mother had died, and my father had lost his job immediately thereafter. Fortunately, I got a bursary from one of the big construction companies because I was a top student in accounting as early as high school. If it were not for that bursary and the hard work I put into my studies, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
From a corporate point of view, the decision to follow the passion I have always had for finance, entrepreneurship and making a difference in people’s lives through my work, is what drives me. At one point in my career I left the corporate environment to join a start-up company. This experience really helped me understand the challenges entrepreneurs face every day. This was invaluable and contributed meaningfully to my personal growth because when I returned to corporate and joined the IDC and later Old Mutual Masisizane Fund, I was able to relate to entrepreneurs because I had been one myself.
Zizipho describes her role at Grindrod Bank:
As a business leader my role is to bring value through practical experience, technical expertise, and strategic relationships that helps the organisation I lead thrive. In business, as you climb the corporate ladder, it is no longer about technical expertise only, it is about demonstrating the value you bring by solving real business problems. It is also about being able to pull the team along with you as you strive to achieve the strategic objectives of the business you lead.
I lead by identifying the different strengths in my teams. We are not all good at the same thing and as the saying goes, no man is an island. My role as a business leader is in establishing and driving a team approach rather than an individualistic approach and giving clarity on the task at hand. For me, it is important to know when to lead and when to follow, even though the buck stops with me at the end of the day. There is a quote by John Maxwell that says, “Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” I believe that together we can achieve more and get better results.
If I could have a parallel career, I’d be a lecturer at a business school. As a business leader, it is important for me to share my lessons and experiences as I have climbed up the corporate ladder. I subscribe to the “lift as you rise” movement.
Zizipho’s observations on current the state of investment banking:
The Covid-19 pandemic has really taught us a lot and the world will never be the same again. I believe there are huge opportunities for companies to use technology to their advantage. Things such as online platforms and digital apps will no longer be an option but a necessity, as companies will be forced to "adapt or die" during and post the pandemic. For the banking industry, acquisitions of fintech companies and online platform partnerships with companies in other sectors such as retail, is what I foresee. The banking sector will have to be innovative in taking advantage of these new trends.
Top tip for staying ahead in your field:
“It is very important that you invest in personal development and never stop learning because life never stops teaching. You must build strategic relationships both at a personal level and as a professional. Always bring your A-game to whatever you do.”
Her advice to young people:
My advice to young people is to not be too hard on yourself. Try to have clarity about what you want in life but also be flexible. Your career path will not be a straight road, it will have curves, potholes, people that help you succeed and those that may intentionally cause you to fail if you don’t have a good handle of what exactly you want and who you are. But remember this, you are the captain of your ship. You are in the driving seat of your career and you are responsible for the path you take. And know that failure is part of success, if you don’t fail it means you are not trying anything new.
Advice to young people interested in pursuing a career in my field:
“Ask yourself why you are interested in being a Chartered Accountant. Talk to people that are already in the field to clarify any questions you might have and to understand from a practical experience point of view what the profession entails. Be willing to start from the bottom and invest in your personal growth. As you climb the corporate ladder, different things are required from you, understand what those things are and what you need to achieve them. Your career path is never going to be a straight one, be flexible but have clarity of what the end goal is in your life.”
Zizipho shares her must-read business books, and her favourite publication:
It is a difficult question to answer because I read a lot, but if I were to mention a few books that made a difference in my life I’d say:
- The slight edge by Jeff Olson
- Daring greatly by Brene Brown
- Abundance now by Lisa Nichols and Janet Switzer
- Outliers by Malcom Gladwell
- The subtle art of not giving a f*ck by Mark Manson
I also love to settle down with a hot drink watch Netflix and enjoy Destiny Magazine.
The woman Zizipho admires most in business is:
“There are a number of women who inspire me in business. At a personal level as a business leader, the one woman I admire and always think of when I celebrate my successes or when faced with certain challenges is my late mother, Ivy Nomkhosi Mqwala. I have always admired her strength, determination, and character. She was very strong, her nickname was “Sterk” and she was quite adamant that one must be clear about what they want in life. She was a qualified teacher, but she was also very business minded and cultivated that in me. ”
Zizipho shares her views on coping with stress and maintaining a work-life balance:
I don’t believe it is possible to maintain a work-life balance. What works for me is to prioritise what is important for me at a particular point in time. As you climb the corporate ladder your work and your life get intertwined and the lines get blurred. However, there must be alignment between you and your family as to what is happening at any moment. If for example you need to prepare for an important meeting, your family must know and give you space to do just that. You must also strive to attend to important family events and spend time with your loved ones because this is also a priority.
For me having a support structure is important so that when I am very busy at work, I don’t feel guilty that things are falling apart at home just because I am not there. It is also important for me to schedule time for my family. They are the foundation of my being, so while I can never get the balance entirely perfect, I do my best to juggle the two.
When the going gets tough, I take a walk or jog to clear my mind. I also meditate, pray and listen to all kinds of music to dance my sorrow away. I never allow myself to sink in negativity.
But when I want to completely switch off from work mode, I like to watch movies or connect with my friends and family. I also like travelling locally and abroad. This allows me to meet new people, learn about different cultures and places around the world.