Good corporate governance and compliance structures create value and provide accountability and control systems, through which risks can be monitored and managed.
Vistorina Ilonga (VI) is the Head: Governance and Compliance at Nedbank Namibia and sheds more light on the governance and compliance environment of banks in Namibia, Africa and beyond, in the interview below:
w is the governance and compliance landscape in Namibia, as it relates to banking?
The fact that the funds used by banks belong to depositors makes the bank responsible to a wide array of stakeholders which includes clients, suppliers, regulators and the community. The banking industry sits at the heart of the economic system and it has a special duty to ensure that its own governance and compliance is unimpeachable. Banking is surrounded by more laws, regulations and outside supervision than any other corporate sector.
Due to the rise of terrorism, geo-political tensions, cyber-crime, mobile phone banking, and increasing non-traditional entrants into the banking sphere, the trend in compliance is leaning towards increased regulation, increased investment into IT security, enhancement of localised capacity for customer support, heightened capital reserve requirements and a scepticism towards ultra-sophisticated financial instruments.
The failure of banks to adhere to compliance and governance regulations can therefore have a systemic impact on the whole financial system as was evident during the collapse of certain banks which led to a global financial crisis some years back.
What are some of the differences between our governance and compliance space here in Namibia, as compared to Africa and the rest of the world?
Namibia has a small population compared to other world economies which presents an opportunity for efficient regulation of the sector. The global regulatory trends are nonetheless being imposed on an international scale with laws relating to privacy, money laundering, capital reserves, bribery and corruption, sanctions and terrorism all having a bearing on the regulatory environment.
Moreover from a governance point of view, it has become non-negotiable for boards and executives to have not only an eye towards profits, but also sustainability of the environment, society and the enterprise as a whole.
How demanding is your job and how do you stay on top of your professional game?
Governance and compliance in the banking industry is extremely demanding due to the myriad laws and regulations which constitute our regulatory environment. Staying on top of your game requires an element of creativity by seeking innovative ways of communicating and implementing new regulatory developments and a lot of research and reading to keep abreast with new developments. Failure to be effective could result in regulatory fines and sanctions which have an adverse effect on the profits, reputation, share price and value of the bank.
What is your approach to leadership and management?
During my ascent of the corporate ladder, after having started as an administrator, each promotion has seen me gain valuable experience and insights into the challenges faced by entry-level or junior staff. Having been in the same shoes, I understand what they deal with and the way different operations need to coalesce.
For this reason, I avoid the heavy handed management approach, preferring to adopt a leadership style of cooperation and education which will encourage our team to deliver on their mandates proficiently and timeously, particularly in light of the fact that they are managers in their own right.
Where did you study and what qualifications do you have?
I completed my Degree in Business Administration at the University of Namibia and later pursued and completed a Postgraduate Degree in Compliance Management with the University of Johannesburg. I also attained the Ethics Officer Accreditation from the Ethics Institute of South Africa in collaboration with the University of Stellenbosch.
What do you think the face of governance and compliance within the banking industry will look like five to 10 years from now?
Banks play an important role in building stakeholder trust across society, and as a result regulators globally have increasingly identified poor compliance and governance standards as a significant factor in banking failures. Consequently, increased laws and regulations are surrounding banks. Such will require greater emphasis on compliance and thus I believe that the governance and compliance function will become even more significant in banking. The compliance teams will need to be even more versatile, courageous and tech-savvy together with a Nostradamus-type ability to predict trends and regulatory tendency.
What are your future aspirations with regards to your career?
I would like to use the depth of knowledge and experience that I have gained working in large corporates, to benefit small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and State-owned enterprises (SOEs).
Share with us some of your tips for a successful career?
I believe in constantly stretching yourself and therefore creating opportunities for expansion is what grows and keeps one at the peak of development.
You need to believe in yourself and your purpose - challenges, failures and mistakes are guaranteed in one’s journey, however, you have to remain positive and keep going. I believe in the saying that ‘Greatness is achieved in small, consistent and determined steps’.
Success comes with doing something small every day to achieve the desired long term objective.
Share with us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and grew up in Windhoek, and I completed my studies at Delta Secondary School Windhoek. After graduating from Unam, I started my career at Alexander Forbes Financial Services as a Pension Funds Administrator. I believe in living with intent and that you can choose whether to succumb to whatever happens to you, or to take an active role in directing your life. Each and every life has a contribution and life message to humanity and the world. For me, spirituality is at the core of excellence: attributing everything I do to Jesus Christ.
What do you do to relax in your spare time?
Spending quality time with my family and close friends is important to me. I’m also passionate about travelling, and do so with every opportunity.