Head of Prestige Banking for Standard Bank
Nicky Thompson has had a long career with Standard Bank. After leaving school, Nicky joined Standard Bank in 1982, so 2022 will be her 40-year milestone with the bank.
”I joined the bank 40 years ago. I had just finished school and, financially, university was not an option at that time. As the bank has always been considered a very reputable organisation to work for, I remember my dad saying, ‘go and get a job in the bank’. I have been really blessed to work for Standard Bank and they have supported my growth and development.”
Determination and hard work
In her later thirties, Nicky was afforded the opportunity to study and qualify through the bank. “This provided a platform for my strategic development, and I was fortunate to continue my studies through Standard Bank’s continued support and investment in me,” explains Nicky. She built a solid foundation of both financial and operational skills, working through various banking roles and found her passion for people and leadership. Through determination and hard work, Nicky moved into managerial leadership roles at an early age.
Following various branch manager roles, she was appointed the first female on the KwaZulu-Natal Executive in the early 2000s, as an area manager responsible for Personal and Small Enterprise across various metro regions in KwaZulu-Natal. In 2007, Nicky moved into a more specialist role of Business Support and was accountable for Sales and Service management. However, she says her leadership calling took her back to leading and managing large teams. In 2017, she was appointed as Head Personal and Business Banking for the Dolphin Coast and eThekwini areas and then moved into her current role in affluent markets as Head Prestige for KwaZulu-Natal.
Nicky says that she has had an incredible journey. “I really have witnessed the digital transformation of banking and how it’s evolved over many years, and I can honestly say I have never ever been bored. I’ve always been challenged, and I am still open to learning new things. Banking has changed drastically over the years, so I think building the future ready skills that we are doing now and continuing the digital journey has been very exciting for me.”
However, Nicky’s career has not been without its challenges. Being one of the first women on the KwaZulu-Natal Standard Bank Executive was very difficult as this was mostly unchartered territory in a male dominated industry at the time. She said, “Back in those days, the bank was a very male dominated environment, and it was a bit of a boy’s club. So, as a woman, it was very tough to be taken seriously, but when I reflect on those years, I’m thankful because they made me very determined and resilient, they made me really persevere and work hard to be able to prove myself. I think that’s where I adopted two different types of leadership styles. My natural leadership style is supportive and nurturing, so learning to be a bit tough in that environment brought through an assertive leadership style in me. I still, to this day, use both when necessary.”
In reflecting what has motivated her career, Nicky says that it is ‘people and leading people to success’. “I am energised by learning and sharing my knowledge; helping others build their own unique brand. My passion is developing and growing individuals, especially female talent. It is encouraging to see how Standard Bank has transformed and I am proud to work for a company that now strives to drive gender diversity and female empowerment.”
Nicky has often worked closely with the teams and individuals that show potential. She commented. ‘You have worked with them, you have coached them, you’ve given them those opportunities and to see them grow and achieve success is particularly rewarding for me.” This success, says Nicky, is especially poignant when the individuals have come back, many years later and they’ve said, ‘Thank you so much for the support or the encouragement or believing in me back then’.
Her advice to young women following in her path is to take ownership of your own development. “Don’t wait for others to do it, just be confident in yourself. Be prepared to stretch and test yourself, to take yourself outside of your comfort zone and just be resilient and be fierce.”
Great customer service
Commenting on the demands of her role, Nicky believes that for her great customer service really is about treating the customers as individuals and not as numbers; really understanding what their needs are and what matters to them. “That is very important, and I think to treat every single customer with respect and dignity regardless of their appearance or their status.” In addition, Nicky says it is necessary to keep customers up to date, and to provide them with feedback, to avoid their frustration.
She notes that businesses and individuals need to be able to be agile, to make sure that they are building those future ready skills so that they remain relevant to the industry, they remain relevant to customer demands, and adapt to the changes in the environment.
Nicky is the proud mother of two lovely daughters, and she has a supportive husband who has encouraged her every step of the way. She concludes, “Standard Bank is an amazing company to work for, not only for their investment in my personal growth and development but also in recognising and rewarding my success through various Top Performers awards and incentive trips to travel to Greece, Turkey, France and Spain. My family have been truly blessed through the opportunities created and provided.”