Head, Private Clients (Non-Metro) within Consumer &
High Net Worth Clients (CHNW), Msunduzi Area, KZN
Portia Mthembu has been in the employ of Standard Bank for the past 17 years. During this time Portia has fulfilled various roles within the bank and successfully led big Standard Bank branches in KwaZulu-Natal and has ensured their financial growth and sustainability. In 2019, Portia was recognised with a ‘Mark of Excellence’ trip to Brazil, which was a true testament to hard work and persistence. She previously worked as a distribution manager for the Dolphin Coast area and has recently been promoted to Head, Private Clients (Non-Metro) within CHNW, Msunduzi Area.
Portia’s entry into banking started while working for a broker. She was the company representative at a small business enterprise exhibition and the Standard Bank senior manager alongside her stand, was really impressed at her interactions with customers. Portia said, “He offered me a job and asked me if I could come for an interview on Monday, so I did, and it’s been a very successful and enjoyable past 17 years of my life.”
Consistent hard work
Commenting on her professional journey, Portia says that she got to where she is today because of hard work. “It’s been consistent hard work, commitment to the journey, and consistent in how I do my work for myself within the organisation as a brand.”
However, she says that she has been blessed by the support she has received throughout her years in Standard Bank. This includes continuous mentoring and coaching that enables Portia to do her work at the best of her ability. “The bank is committed to invest in my ongoing development at a personal and business level,” explains Portia.
“I have taken a lot of people along with me on my journey. I have identified gaps that needed change, and I have been advocating change, but more than anything, bring fresh perspective, ensuring that people understand the purpose of what we do, where it’s bigger than just a job working for the bank, we are touching people’s lives and that must be a memorable experience every single day.”
My best foot forward
In reflecting on the people that have inspired her journey, Portia says that they are the women that have paved the way for her to be sitting where she is today and be afforded the opportunities to showcase her abilities. Portia is also inspired by the provincial leadership of Standard Bank in KZN. “The leadership believes in me more than I thought is possible and I truly then strive to always put my best foot forward in honour of the faith that they have in me.”
Lastly, she is inspired by Funeka Montjane, the Standard Bank’s CEO of Consumer High Net Worth clients. “She is a phenomenal and dynamic woman who has changed the narrative of banking, which is now more personal. It’s now offering our customers a service more than just a transaction between a banker and a customer. Funeka has also taken other women with her on her journey, which is what I’ve been admiring. I can confidently say I’m standing on the shoulders of giants, and I also boldly press forward to not disappoint.”
Changing the narrative
However, there have been many challenges for Portia in her career. A pivotal point was when she was appointed as a manager in a community which had stereotypes about black women’s abilities. “I had two things in mind; firstly, I had to honour the bank’s faith placed in me in that environment and secondly; I had to change the narrative of how the community perceived a black woman. What was comforting was that I had a very supportive leadership around me, and I was constantly coached on how to deal with such complexities and on the bank’s processes of handling such matters. I was also reminded of my own rights as a human being.”
Portia said that she had to invest in herself aggressively because she needed to show up confidently and be knowledgeable in order to prove that she had what it takes to fulfil that role. “That experience shaped me to be the confident and diverse leader that I am today. It also addressed my own stereotypes that I didn’t know existed. I had to unlearn things for me to be relevant in the community in which I operated in; I’m truly grateful for that experience.”
Her future goals are to add more value within the organisation. Portia believes that she can fulfil other senior roles where she will make a significant impact. One of her goals is to groom more black women in any environment that she operates in. She would like to do more work honouring the women she spoke of which is also her passion. Portia would like to continue to partner with her leaders to grow more people, identify more talent, and enable them to thrive within the bank.
“I would say to women following in my role; firstly, you need to identify a career path that is in-line with who you are, that ignites passion in you as well as purpose and then you will certainly excel in your work. Secondly, to earn a space at the table, you need to believe in yourself, which talks to building confidence in your abilities, loving your personality, your perspective, and experiences, so that you can show up confidently, and gain credibility and respect from people around you. Thereafter, the biggest key is consistency, in terms of always putting your best foot forward.”
Aspire to add value
Further to her career, Portia is the proud mother of three beautiful children and has a loving and supportive husband.
Portia concluded, “I aspire to add value and excel in any environment with which I have been entrusted. I have been blessed to be part of the Standard Bank family; my blood is blue, and I am proud of it.”