Meet the leading lady changing the way we bank
With her background in mathematics and her knack for problem solving, Emma Mer is shedding new light on banking possibilities in SA.
Emma, the CEO of Loans at FNB, has been behind some of the most innovative features that FNB has launched over the past few years such as fuel rewards with eBucks and digital loan applications. With her heart firmly rooted in customer centricity and her head in the game of digital solutions, there is no stopping this future focused entrepreneur.
From a fresh graduate to CEO in ten years
Emma’s career at FNB started in 2008 when she took her first job after finishing her honours in mathematics. Logic, the ability to solve problems and the ability to work through complex challenges are a few of the things that Emma says a background in maths instilled.
Fast forward to 2018 and the same fresh math graduate is making waves as the CEO of FNB Loans. Emma attributes her growth in the industry over the last ten years to three things: the support of those around her, a strong work ethic of delivery and the ability to identify gaps and white spaces that can create opportunities that didn’t exist previously.
“I wouldn’t say that I’ve followed a very linear career trajectory but there’s been the space and freedom to carve out spaces and leverage the incredible capabilities within FNB,” she explains.
Emma has had to step up to various roles that presented themselves throughout her career and says her biggest learning curve came from the willingness to take on a challenge that was broader than previous roles. About her latest role as CEO she says, “The biggest challenge was the breadth of the role but that was also what really excited me about the job and what gave me the variety and diversity that I craved.”
Cultivating innovation in the financial industry
Staying on top of the latest technological trends is usually a good idea, but according to Emma it’s non-negotiable and essential for big organisations like FNB. “If you don’t disintermediate yourself, you will end up being disintermediated by new players in the market,” Emma says.
But what really excites Emma about current trends in the financial industry is that everything is becoming more and more customer centric. When she was previously the Head of Rewards and New Business Development at FNB Core Banking, she was part of the team that revamped FNB’s eBucks reward programme. They basically re-shaped FNB’s reward system to make sure the focus was purely on rewarding customers for doing what’s in their best interest.
And from customer centricity to digital innovation, Emma’s next big challenge is to make loans quickly and easily accessible across FNB’s range of channels. “I think if we can make credit available to customers through any channel that they prefer to interact with, it really makes the experience such a pleasant one,” the now CEO of FNB Loans explains.
“We are at the point where customers can literally go through the process of taking up a loan in the space of a few minutes on a digital channel 24/7. It removes a lot of the anxiety around being uncertain about what you’ll be able to get ”
But before you take out a loan, here is some advice from Emma on how to become credit smart:
- “The first piece of advice that I would give is to keep your finances in order. Manage your expenses well so that your monthly income is always more than your expenses.”
- “The second piece of advice would be to take credit from a reputable lender”
- “Thirdly, I would say start small and manageable. Make sure you don’t take up more than what you can handle and use credit for the right reasons e.g. to further your studies.”
Standing tall as a woman in the workplace
Emma navigates herself daily in a largely male dominated industry, but despite her reality she says she’s never felt like she’s voiceless, and has greatly appreciated the mentorship, respect and support that she has received throughout her career at FNB. She highlights that the biggest challenge for many women is often having the confidence to swim slightly against the stream and step up into leadership roles. “I have found that if you’re willing to sit at the table and have confidence in yourself your environment generally will allow for that.”
Balance, efficiency and straddling strategic thinking and execution are the three key things that Emma attributes her personal success in the industry to. “What I find is that it’s important to manage your energy, surround yourself with people you trust and find a groove that allows you to balance your personal and work life,” she says.
Looking back on a successful ten years as a businesswomen and entrepreneur, Emma says that if she could give her 18-year-old self some advice, she’d tell her to be confident in her abilities. “You don’t always necessarily have to follow a typical career path or a typical path of studies. I think that you can find spaces that play into your strengths and your abilities,” Emma explains.
The same advice translates to aspirant female entrepreneurs and businesswomen who want to climb the corporate ladder. For those bold young women, Emma’s advice is simple – be confident in your abilities, take opportunities, and do what you do well!