When he retires from corporate life eventually, Lionel Matthews, the managing director of Nedbank Namibia, plans on taking up a plumbing course. This is because the vocational trade, he says, is one area that Namibians at all levels need to take ownership of so as to create wealth and economic opportunities.
“The mindset many young people hold today that the only career they can build is through working for the government or working in an office needs to change. Instead, we need to be looking towards embracing trades within the vocational field.
“If you can learn how to bake bread or a cake, how to fix a tap, or how to make a table, then you have the potential to create wealth. The question is, how do we bring vocational trades into the mainstream as dignified professions that have the potential to create economic opportunities, put food on the table for families and at the same time create wealth and enable Namibians out of poverty for generations to come?” he said.
Policy framework, he adds, is important, but government cannot be expected to eradicate poverty through policy, because this is an effort that will require Namibians at all levels to take hands.
“Eradicating poverty needs small things that hopefully can make a much bigger impact in our society. We need to take ownership of creating wealth in our spheres of influence, starting in our households, and then extending that onto our communities, because hopefully the accumulative effect of that will reduce inequality and poverty. Otherwise it will remain a challenge,” he said.
Earlier years and
Lionel was born in Somerset West in the Western Cape, South Africa and oved to Namibia in 1984 at the age of 19 and has been living here since.
“I was quite active as a child and engaged in all sorts of sports, particularly athletics, I played rugby, tennis, cricket and I was into drama. I was also part of a big school choir. I was very ambitious from a young age already and my dream was to become a lawyer and drive a Jaguar. While I’m neither a lawyer nor do I drive a Jaguar today, I eventually went on to become a chartered accountant, a banker and I drive other cars,” he says.
Doing drama at a young age has helped him to be a confident communicator in today’s difficult business world. “I think that doing drama as a young scholar has helped me to communicate better in business today,” he remarked.
Through part-time studies, Lionel obtained his B. Compt. Honours (UNISA), whilst training to become a chartered accountant at EY NAMIBIA. He also holds an Executive Masters in Business Administration (EMBA) from the Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town and plans to pursue his PhD studies in 2018/19.
Describing finance and accounting as his passion, Lionel says his first exposure to banking was some 30 years ago when he was a young man, part of an audit team doing an audit for a bank called Swabank at the time. Swabank eventually became Nedbank Namibia.
“In a very interesting way, 30 years on I’m in a bank where I actually got my first exposure as an audit clerk through Swabank. I’ve always wanted to be in finance, I find it quite rewarding and I don’t think I want to do anything else. In August this year, I will be making four years as the managing director of Nedbank Namibia, and one thing that I’ve learned is that when you come into a big organisation like Nedbank, especially looking at the size of Nedbank beyond Namibia, it’s important to put your aspirations and the ambitions you have for your business that you lead up on a board somewhere.
“What I have learned is also that sometimes you need to make peace with the fact that some of the stuff that you thought you could be doing faster won’t happen as fast and that perhaps there is a lot to learn in going slower. Making ambiguity your friend and being comfortable with uncertainty and imperfect information is critical in an ever-increasing complex environment,” he says.
Leading Nedbank and unlocking inequalities
Nedbank employs over 700 people across Namibia and has a continental footprint across the African region, with operations in countries such as Swaziland, Malawi, Angola, Zambia, and many others.
Currently, the bank is going through a brand repositioning exercise where the focus is on empowering staff to experience continuous growth, enhance customer experience, and provide competitive banking products and services to meet the needs of all Namibians.
“My vision for Nedbank is to create an organization where all employees are in positions to grow and they in return have a passion to contribute towards the overall wellbeing of Nedbank. The consequence of which is that we in turn serve our customers with passion.
With the rebranding exercise of ‘see money differently’, we are transforming our mindsets and consciously deciding that we are waking up every morning to make a difference in people’s lives through what we do and offer,” he said.