Be kind to yourself. Spend more time discovering your purpose, your passions and what makes you happy
VICTORIA NGWENYA credits her father for his role in her success. "From an early age, my father instilled in me an appreciation of the value of a great education and a strong work ethic. I wouldn't be where I am today without having either of these and, of course, lots of luck."
As head of Retail and Business Banking in KwaZulu-Natal, Victoria is responsible for overseeing operations across the personal and business banking segments including the bank's extensive branch network, ATMs, private banking suites and small and medium enterprises. It's been a journey, and she's had to work hard to earn her stripes in the corporate world, but she's had some impressive role models. "Admittedly, it's been a great help and source of inspiration to have phenomenal leadership in banking today."
Changing the narrative
"Financial services is a tough industry," she says, "and one that, in the past, marginalised a lot of black people, particularly women. But there's a wave of incredible executives, both women and men, that are deliberate about and committed to changing the narrative. I draw lot of inspiration and courage from these leaders for their resoluteness."
"Our very own, Sim Tshabalala CEO of Standard Bank, is an absolute icon, and Funeka Montjane, our Chief Executive of Personal and Business Banking, is a remarkable visionary and leader. She started out in banking very young and has had a long impressive career."
Victoria also singles out Raisibe Morathi, CFO of Nedbank. "Raisibe has played a critical role in my personal growth and in my career development. She's been very instrumental as a mentor and has taken a keen interest in me and selflessly guided me up the corporate ladder."
Since joining Standard Bank, Victoria says she's also very fortunate to work with a very inspiring leader, Imraan Noorbhai. "He's taken a very hands-on approach to immerse me in the retail business. My previous experience is in corporate and investment banking, and retail banking is quite different - this is a people business and it is driven by volume. It's fantastic and a great privilege to work with Imraan who has a wealth of knowledge in this business."
Invest in yourself and your career
A firm believer in continually investing in yourself and your career, Victoria is inspired by phenomenal women. "Women have always been marginalised, and we need to work a lot harder to earn our place at the table than men do. That's the reality of the corporate journey. It has certainly changed somewhat over the last few years," she concedes, "but we still have to do ten times more than men to succeed. We need a stronger work ethic and more flexibility than men."
There's still a lot to be done
Victoria considers herself fortunate to work for an organisation that appreciates, supports and promotes talent, especially black female talent, but she points out that young male black talent is often sidelined as well.
"The talent that young black women bring to the boardroom table is all too often undermined," says Victoria, "and corporate South Africa is missing out on what they have to offer. I'm proud of what I've accomplished. I've come a long way as a woman executive in banking. But the road remains hard and long, and there's a lot more that needs to be done; women are still under-represented at executive level in most corporates globally. We need to lift each other up and be deliberate about getting more women into executive seats. That's how we'll make the biggest change."
When asked about work-life balance, Victoria shakes her head. "That's the biggest myth ever for a woman." But she also points out that she's extremely lucky to have a supportive partner whose also her biggest cheerleader and a very active and involved parent. "Without him, I wouldn't be able to work the long hours and do all the travelling my job requires of me."
Victoria is also fortunate to have a great support structure in the form of family and friends who are always ready to step in when they're needed. "So no, I don't have a great work-life balance, but I prioritise. It's important for me to have time for myself, doing things that refuel me - be it gym or meditation. Equally important is time with my family and friends. And I also find time to plan how I want to give back to other young women. It can't just be about me; true success for me is about the power of the collective."
Victoria points out that women tend to be very hard on themselves, and if she could give one piece of advice to her younger self it would be this: "Be kind to yourself. Spend more time discovering your purpose, your passions and what makes you happy. Own your interests and make time for them while you're young."
As head of Retail and Business Banking in KwaZulu-Natal, Victoria is responsible for overseeing operations across the personal and business banking segments including the bank's extensive branch network, ATMs, private banking suites and small and medium enterprises