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Mano Singh

Executive Head of Insurance, Asset Management and
Fiduciary, Standard Bank, KwaZulu-Natal

Mano Singh says that she is proudly associated with the Standard Bank Group within KwaZulu-Natal. She describes herself as a perfectionist, who puts all her passion into ensuring that she delivers whatever is required with excellence.

Mano’s professional journey was driven by her desire to enter the work force. She said, “I was desperate for an opportunity to enter the work force, just waiting for that one break, that one door to open to get me started. The adage of saying that the more things change, the more they stay the same rings true even today as our youth strive to enter the world of work in an effort to earn a living. Work is essentially access to dignity. While there appears to be meaningful change, many underlying fundamentals are very much the same.”

Focus on the future

Consequently, Mano started working as a branch secretary in an insurance company within the financial services industry. Mano found that starting off her career in this position was humbling. So, after hours, in order to keep her mind busy, and to be able to have a seat and a voice at the table, Mano studied law.

“The one thing I learnt is that I had to focus on the future and studying gave me the opportunity to do a menial and tedious task during the day, but at night pursue my first love, which really was law. I was this person, like a mason chipping away at a block of stone, trying to carve a future for myself.”

The ethos to be who I am

However, by the time she had completed both of her legal degrees, she was immersed in the financial services world, and couldn’t even think of pursuing a legal career. “It would have been career suicide for me to go backwards and would have affected me financially in terms of changing paths at that moment in time.”

In reflecting on challenges that she has encountered along her career path; Mano says that this decision caused her ideological conflict. She had to decide whether to pursue a legal career, or to remain in an exciting industry that had shaped her and in which she was confident, and which had served her well over the years. She commented, “I’ve come to realise that I am really embedded in the financial services world, and it has given me the ethos to be who I am, and I have actually grown through the process in this particular world.”

While progressing through her career, Mano has headed up many specialised areas in the financial services industry, which have given her the confidence and the skills to be able to progress into senior leadership roles.

Future goals

Mano has already started working on her future goals, which are to mentor and coach young leaders. These are individuals who are at cross-roads in their career and life journeys, who she can assist in terms of fulfilling their career aspirations.

An issue very close to Mano’s heart is that of gender violence and the marginalisation of women in our society. Mano commented that the imbalance that we currently face working from home has placed a lot of the social burden on women. “Sadly, our society is a patriarchal society and when you look at the corporate world then this disposition translates into the composition of the boardroom, which in turn marginalises women further.

When you look to government there’s little progress; there has been very little social reform to actually assist and protect women, leaving them vulnerable and exposed in society.”

Creating work life balance

A solution, says Mano, in terms of creating work life balance and allowing women in the workplace to progress in their careers, is education. “One of the things that is essential in terms of validating oneself, as a woman firstly, is to be able to study. I think that education is never wasted. It is always going to give you the edge in terms of peer groups and it’s critical and pivotal that if you want to grow and aspire into leadership roles to have a fully rounded education and knowledge around critical aspects. This is especially relevant with the Fourth Industrial Revolution that commands or demands certain skills in this world for you to perform optimally.”

Staying true

Commenting on her journey, Mano says that she has always looked to individuals who have inspired her to be who she is today. “My father will always remain my inspiration, highly intelligent, but the system failed him, and so many others like him, in many ways. He taught me values that have shaped who I am today, ensuring that I always stayed true to my core, living within certain principles, especially integrity, that were not negotiable, and treating all beings on this earth with care, respect and love.

In addition, said Mano, her mother showed her the strength that she could gain from prayer – an eternal gift of love that lights the way in her darkest moments. “The third piece is that I’m married to my soul mate. My husband has been a pillar of strength in terms of supporting me and journeying with me and assisting me, lessening the burdens along my daily life, to ensure that I achieved my goals,” concluded Mano.

Mano Singh
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