WINDHOEK – New Era’s Senior Journalist for Business & Economics, Edgar Brandt (NE), sat down with new Chief Executive of Standard Bank Namibia Vetumbuavi Junius Mungunda (VJM) who took over from Mpumzi Pupuma on 1 April. Mungunda, a chartered accountant, was previously with Deloitte & Touche for 18 years of which 12 years he served as a partner and the remaining seven as a managing partner overseeing work in Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
NE: There have been reports that Southern Africa – Namibia and South Africa in particular – have some of the highest bank charges in the world. What is your opinion on this statistic and how do you feel commercial banks can reduce their bank fees?
VJM: The issue of bank charges is quite a sensitive topic. But in general, the small population in Namibia, plus great distances between towns add to the relatively high cost of doing business. Therefore it is important that we approach this topic without emotions and look at the facts of what is happening on the ground. However, in my opinion, we have done our best to play a part in addressing this issue. For example, during 2013, Standard Bank did not increase its transactional and current account fees for 2013. These fees included ATM charges and internet and mobile banking payments.
NE: What innovative measures can commercial banks employ to provide banking services to many of the Namibians who are under- and unbanked?
VJM: The issue of unbanked or under banked Namibians is a major concern. Financial inclusion has been recognised by key stakeholders in the financial services sector as a vehicle for sustainable and inclusive growth and development. Our government has undertaken a number of initiatives to accelerate financial inclusion, including the development of the Financial Sector Action Plan. Latest Finscope survey statistics show that only 62 percent of Namibians are banked. And this is quite disheartening in this day and age where technology has aided banking in a positive light. However, in adherence to the Bank of Namibia regulation, Standard Bank has played its part in addressing this concern through the launching of products that talk to inclusiveness in the banking fraternity.
NE: The skills shortage is a major issue so please tell us how Standard Bank Namibia addresses skills development amongst its employees?
VJM: There are a number of reasons for uncertainty today. The global and Namibian economies are not growing at a pace that would absorb all the people looking for jobs. This means a number of young people will not have an immediate opportunity to put their learning into practice and obtain new skills. I also see a misalignment between the skills required in the economy and those being produced by our institutions of learning. This obviously puts additional burden on industry to take the skills being made available, and then through additional training and on-the-job experience transform them into skills that are valuable to the business. This does add to the cost of doing business in the country. However, it should be no excuse to any company or any of us not to look for local skills. I believe that it is our responsibility to train and develop people, and we need to do this because we are committed to growing people.
As we envisage ourselves to become an employer of choice and in order to deliver into our vision as a bank we need to have the best team all fully engaged and going in the same direction. At the end of the day people are the only real key differentiator. We need to ensure that all of us are engaged, inspired and come to work every day ready to delight our customers. In order to do this we want to continue to work at making our bank the best bank to work for through inspired leadership. We want to continue to create an inviting work environment where our people are excited about coming to work, clear about what they have to deliver and are held accountable to deliver, have access to skills development and training, career growth opportunities and are competitively remunerated. The reality is that there is huge talent in our bank, and it is for us to have trust in them and develop and hone those skills, and through well thought-through learning and development programmes we can take raw talent as a base to develop from.
Let everyone of us as leaders have the courage and determination to do what we know we have to do to make a success of our country.
NE: How would you currently describe Standard Bank Namibia’s relationship with the workers’ unions?
VJM: Standard Bank has an existing and sound relationship with the Bank Workers’ Union of Namibia (BAWON), for many years now. In fact, Standard Bank has recognised BAWON as an exclusive bargaining agent on behalf of our employees ever since 1994. Based on our Recognition and Procedural Agreement signed with BAWON on 15 July 2013 – we have continuously shared a mutually beneficial agreement and partnership with our union stakeholders. This healthy relationship is essentially based on mutual trust and respect. With this agreement our employees are given the assurance that their interests are protected and driven by a representative body that will strive to create the best possible conditions, whilst recognizing the need for sound labour relations and enhance a relationship of trust with its employer.