ABSA MD reflects on two years in office
It is almost two years since Keabetswe Pheko-Moshagane made history, becoming the first Motswana woman to lead Absa Bank Botswana (Barclays Bank Botswana at the time of her appointment).
In this interview with Voice Money’s KABELO ADAMSON, the Absa Botswana Managing Director (MD) – a position Pheko-Moshagane has held since April 2019 – reflects on her past, present and future.
Describing her journey as ‘incredible’, it is one she hopes will inspire young Batswana, especially women, to aim for the stars.
It’s approaching two years since your appointment at Absa Bank Botswana MD. Kindly reflect on the journey so far.
It has been an incredible journey, and one I must say I wholly credit to the incredible support of our Absa team, our loyal and valued customers, and the many external stakeholders that help the bank to be the thriving business it is.
When I reflect on the last two years, I am humbled and honored at the support I have received.
Leadership is all about service and when I was appointed, I knew very well that I would not be able to lead and serve this company, and subsequently nation, without teamwork.
As MD, what does your role entail?
Absa is an African brand that celebrates our African heritage.
As the MD, it is my role to lead this proudly Botswana, proudly African business by bringing the strategic, operational, financial, human capital, and cultural pieces together.
Through service, it is my role to inspire those behind me to come together and do their best in living our Values and Purpose and executing our Strategy.
My personal motto is that a mark of excellence is found in being a good steward.
And thus as the MD, my role is to simply ensure that we leave this organisation better than it was as we create value for our shareholders and our stakeholders.
How does it feel to be the first Motswana woman to lead the bank?
Looking back, the overwhelming feeling was excitement and as I mentioned earlier, humility.
I knew at that moment that there would be a lot of other young Batswana women looking up to me in the same way I looked up to figures such as Mme Gaositwe Chiepe, who is commonly referred to as a woman of many firsts’.
I hope to continue to demonstrate that hard work and determination can work wonders to impact young Batswana, including young women to aim high and work hard towards their ambitions.
Over the years, the Bank of Botswana has advocated for the localisation of Executive Management positions in local banks. Do you think the banks are doing enough to achieve this?
Each business is different, and each leadership team is different, so it would be improper of me to speak on behalf of other institutions or about that.
I can say, however, that localisation and talent development of young Batswana is an imperative of Absa Bank Botswana, in line with our leadership development agenda.
Our internal talent development is very much attuned to this.
We have countless talented young professionals in need of guidance and support who will, I believe, if nurtured and groomed, become great captains of industry whom we can groom and nurture.
We have already seen such talent exported to other regions on the content, so I have no doubts about our potential in this regard.
Do you think Botswana has enough women in leadership positions?
I am actually quite proud of the strides we have made as a country in terms of women in leadership positions.
I think most will agree with me on the caliber of Batswana women who have risen to the occasion, in terms of leadership and are above par internationally from an experience and qualification perspective.
In February, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) released some statistics on where women are most likely to be your boss’.
Botswana came in the third position in terms of the percentage share of managers who are female for the year 2019 at 54.5 percent, after Jordan at 56 percent and Saint Lucia at 57.3 percent.
We have many women leaders, and room for even more – we certainly have many capable and qualified to make their mark, and I would welcome it, as I believe would gentlemen across industries.
I think this can only positively add to our economic diversity and strength as a country.
Tell us a bit about your journey in the banking industry.
I have been with Absa for over a decade now, initially joining the organisation as the Head of Core Banking Applications.
I have a background in IT and had been working in the consulting industry in South Africa, primarily in the telco and banking industries, and I was motivated to come home and make a difference in a field I knew I was really good at. At the time, there was a lot of focus around digitisation in the banking industry, and although I couldn’t say exactly what my destiny was, I knew for certain that I was meant to come and plug in my expertise in this area in my home country at that particular time.
The rest, as they say, is history.
From there I became Head of IT and then the Chief Operations Officer, after which I became the Managing Director of Absa Bank Botswana, which is the role I am currently in.
What were your priorities when you took over as MD?
One of my priorities was to ensure we managed to land separation from Barclays PLC seamlessly and efficiently.
In this light, the successful rollout of the new Absa brand remains one of our top most priorities.
Our priority in investing in technology means that we are not only being competitive, but we are driving an inclusive and wide-reaching agenda.
We saw an impressive double-digit increase in digital adoption by our business banking segment, indicating that the strides we are making have a real impact on our communities.
Another priority was to focus on customer-centricity and experience.
This purpose continues to be the key driver in all our strategic efforts.
To date, we have made notable strides in our continued efforts to bring possibilities to life and we look forward to many more solutions, collaborations, and partnerships with our stakeholders and community.
It’s been a year since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, how has Absa managed to steer through this difficult period?
Firstly, our focus has been on ensuring support for our people throughout – from our working environments in terms of supporting colleagues through remote working, a change in how our physical spaces operate and indeed empowering them with the strength of mind and determination to continue to work hard, take care, and deliver.
Secondly, in terms of our solutions and how we support our customers and clients, in addition to standard physical spaces being redesigned and supported with Covid-19 protocols and processes, we have worked to develop nuanced solutions for these new and unusual times, from more digital-driven products such as the Abby chatbot, chat banking, upgrading our Absa Mobile Banking App, and NovoFX App.
We also provided debt relief measures for our customers who were deeply impacted.
We are also focused on solutions designed to assist some of the harder-hit customers such as in the informal and SME sector.
Besides the pandemic, what would you say are the challenges currently facing the banking industry?
As an industry, we can never divorce ourselves from the environment in which we operate, and we are very aware of the socio-economic strain that this pandemic has put on our colleagues, customers, communities, and country.
As the Chair of the Bankers Association of Botswana, I can definitely say that the ‘New Normal’ presented us with both challenges and opportunities therefore it has influenced the way we think about the business and its long-term sustainability.
Besides the pandemic, other challenges facing the industry include the entry of agencies such as Fintechs that have disrupted the traditional banking environment by offering services that used to only be offered by banks.
But as with all challenges, this has presented strategic partnership opportunities and promoted agile ways of operations in the banking sector.
It’s exactly a year since the bank started trading as Absa Bank Botswana, reflect on this one-year anniversary for us.
As Absa Bank, we are proud of what we have achieved since our official brand name change in February 2020.
The new brand offered us the opportunity to redefine what we stand for and to be more deliberate and bold in sharing this and in proving this every day.
We are a truly African brand celebrating our African heritage, inspired by the people we serve.
We are Brave, Passionate, and Ready to serve and make Africa proud.
With a relentless African spirit, our purpose is to bring possibilities to life.