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Aneesa Razack Article


Meet the CEO who’s harnessing thinkers, not doers, for tomorrow  

Aneesa Razack, CEO of Share Investing at FNB, is not only a senior executive, but a visionary leader in the South African banking industry. “I don’t want to harness doers. I want to harness thinkers,” she says as we join her in the heart of Sandton for an interview in the midst of the FNB Joburg Art Fair 2018.

Like the annual art fair, Aneesa is celebrating her 11th year at FNB after starting there as a business development manager in 2007. While rich artworks and captivating sculptures fill the corridors of the otherwise corporate First National Bank building, Aneesa shares how her career unfolded and more.

Having worked at FNB for 11 years in counting, can you tell us a little bit about your journey?  

My journey’s been incredible! What’s been incredible is that, for the last 11 years, I’ve always been at the forefront of trying to solve customer’s financial needs. It’s been good to connect what I do to this higher purpose of helping people improve their futures. If I can’t connect what I do to a higher purpose, I don’t think I could succeed.

You started as a consultant at Investec in 2004 and became CEO of Share Investing at FNB in 2015. If you look back over those ten years, to which three things would attribute your growth? 

Firstly, humility. I never focused on what’s next in my career because I was never deliberate about what the next phase was going to be – I just stumbled upon it. But I think that same humility also made me put up my hand for when the next thing came. Whether it was a new project or strategy that the bank or my business unit was embarking on, I was always at the forefront saying, ‘I want to help!’

The second thing would be focus. Whenever you’re embarking on something that’s new or untapped you need to focus, put your head down and know you’re going to deliver. Which brings me to the last attribute: being deliberate about results.

How has FNB created a platform for you to grow and develop your career?  

I think the one reason why I’ve stuck around for so long is because I don’t find myself in a box at FNB. Innovation is core to our culture and core to our values and I think that’s been the springboard of my career journey. Just because I’m doing this job, as the CEO of Share investing, doesn’t mean I can’t get involved on a technology piece around interactions management for example. That’s really been the foundation that the bank has created.

What excites you about current trends in the financial sector?  

If you look from a customer perspective, the customer is evolving quite fast. If you have to wait for a customer to phone or even email you with a question, it’s cluttered. Instead of waiting for the customer to say they have a need, we need to be able to proactively say, “We know that this might be on the cards for you and have you considered x, y and z.” As a bank we are looking at themes like these in terms of AI and robotics. By using technology and trends, we can transform whole processes from reactive to proactive.

Can you tell us how you introduced online shares at FNB? 

I’m not going to take that accolade in terms of introducing online share trading. However, when I was in the product house and online shares was still a baby, Robert Keip, who introduced online share trading to FNB, was the guy who hired me. He’s a big mentor of mine and an incredible strategist. So, I might not have been at the forefront of introducing online shares at FNB, but I’m at the forefront now of making sure more people get it.

With increasing interest from young women who are securing their financial independence, what advice would you give them when starting an investment portfolio?   

My advice would be to start early, don’t deviate from your goals and be deliberate in them. If you have long term goals, it’s better to start investing as early as possible. Einstein coined compounded interest as the seventh wonder of the world. So, it’s not about your timing in the market but about your time in the market.

What major challenges have you faced as a woman in the largely male dominated corporate finance industry?  

I’m agnostic to it actually – it hasn’t been a barrier in my path. I think that FNB is incredibly deliberate in women empowerment and gender transformation and I’ve never felt inferior to male counterparts. On the contrary, I feel that there’s a unique characteristic that female leaders bring by creating a shared purpose and vision. I’ve had male and female counterparts alike that I’ve looked to for help or who I’ve helped.

You manage to rock the cradle and the boardroom with your full-time career and raising a baby. How do you do it?  

As a mom, the best thing that’s happened to me is my boy. He’s three years old now and he’s made me a better person. When I go home, I surrender to the wonders of motherhood. I was absolutely nervous about becoming a mom because up until then I think I was incredibly self-centred. But motherhood teaches you selflessness like nothing else. That’s beautiful because when I’m with Ayaan my mind is clear. It’s a therapy that I’ve never had.

What advice would you give aspirant women in the financial sector who hope to climb the corporate ladder in the future? 

Firstly, believe that you can! Whatever you set out to do is possible, but it doesn’t come without hard work and a plan of action. My other piece of advice would be to not be afraid to fail.