“There is no one more you-er than you” and the secret to happiness with Standard Bank’s Shimoné Pretorius.

Fiona Wakelin

When Shimoné joined Standard Bank SA  14 years ago she was completely new to banking and, having come from a regulatory environment, this was a major adjustment. At the time she was thrown into the deep end by having to assist with the implementation of the National Credit Act across Standard Bank SA (SBSA) – a huge learning curve and an amazing experience. We asked her about some of her major highlights with the Bank over nearly one-and-a-half decades.

Each one of my role changes has been a highlight.  With each change I received more and more exposure. Being fortunate enough to form part of Isabel Lawrence’s Exco team and at the same time joining Funeka Montjane’s Exco was like having the best of both worlds.  Being led by two such dynamic female leaders who are respected through the entire organisation, is a growth opportunity that you cannot find anywhere else.  I have the privilege of getting involved in the client centricity journey and assisting the teams in making a real difference to the lives of our clients.

I was part of the VUKA experience and it was an absolute eye opener for me personally.  It taught me compassion.  It taught me to look at the person as a human being and not just someone I work with. I also had the privilege of attending the immersion in Ghana – that experience was priceless and changed my outlook on life forever.  It was the one single experience that had the biggest impact on my life.  It really showed me what it means to be happy and content and that old cliché of “happiness isn’t getting what you want, it is being content and satisfied with what you have” became real for me.

What do you see as the greatest challenges and benefits of your role?

We are still in a male dominated environment and it will take time to get to a position where equal work and equal reward becomes a reality.  As women we will for a long time continue to feel that we must work harder than our male counterparts to get the same recognition.  This is not an Standard Bank challenge, it is a country wide challenge. Having said that, Standard Bank has made big changes from a gender equality perspective.  Men are encouraged to partake in the “HeforShe” campaign, and they do, because they have the best role model in Sim Tshabalala.  Sim doesn’t only talk the talk, he also walks the walk and you can see from his actions that he is dedicated to this campaign.  It is refreshing to see a leader of such a big organisation putting his heart and soul into this.

On a more personal level it has been a challenging journey.  I walked into the Bank at a time when Compliance was a small element of something we did.  It has grown to become a focus area across the entire Group.  My initial challenges were to win the trust of the Business, to build relationships and convince them that Compliance is not a handbrake, but rather an enabler and we want to walk the path with them.  We want to be part of their business and we also care about their income statements and our clients.  After 14 years I can honestly say that we have accomplished this.  We form an integral part of the day to day operations of the Business.  They respect our views and they know we understand their products, challenges and clients. I also had some major challenges in my personal life and the support from my leader and my team got me through it and ensured that I remained focused.

The benefits to this role are endless.  I get to interact with the most amazing people.  I get to be part of the end result of actions and products that impact the lives of our clients.  I get to see how my input adds value and that my knowledge is appreciated.  Standard Bank has created an environment for me to grow and enjoy what I do on a daily basis.

In your current life journey, what parts of your experiences are unique to you and give you a valuable perspective when it comes being a female leader and imparting your knowledge to the next generation?

I wouldn’t brand it as completely unique, but I am a single mom with two lovely daughters.  This in itself is challenging and like every other person, balancing work and life becomes a continuous effort. It has however taught me to have more compassion and empathy with other people and in particular women.  We are the backbone of society and it is important that we see each other as human beings before we see the person in their role as an employee.

As women we must support each other and aim to grow each other rather than to criticise.  I always try to look at individuals knowing that I don’t know their personal situation.  I don’t know what happens at home and how they are stretched in their family life. I do attempt to bring the personal and human element into my team and invite the women to share their heartbreak and happy moments, if not in an open team, then in a one-on-one with me.

 In your view, how can we increase the number of young women taking STEM (science technology engineering and math) subjects at tertiary level?

Women who have already cracked industries where these subjects are critical to their roles, should get close to young girls at school level and mentor them.  The stigma around these subjects being male dominated must be removed.  It is also important that we teach our girls from a young age that there is nothing they cannot do.  Men can become top chefs, women can become top engineers and scientists.  There is no limit to what women can do.  Your gender does not determine your abilities or your future.  This message must be made clear to girls from a very young age.

How did you celebrate Women’s Month?

By looking after myself.  I also joined a few of the webinars the bank set up.  But it was important to me to focus on me in this month and to make sure I am in a position to care for others.  It is so easy to let yourself go.  But it is so dangerous.  If you speak to some of the female leaders in the bank you will quickly realise that the stress factor that comes with the position is huge.  It has a negative impact on your health and you need to be aware of this.  Long hours and stressful situations are the issues we are confronted with as women every day and it is important that we are given the correct tools to deal with those.

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who assisted other women to reach their full potential and be the best they could be.  As a caring person who looked beyond the exterior and focused on the inner happiness of people.

The Top Women 2020 “Brave Conversation” narrative is aimed at showcasing a culture reset within the women empowerment space, where Standard Bank is challenging the status quo and how the role of women in society is viewed – As a leader and a Standard Bank Top Women, what does resetting the culture for women mean for you? What are some of the changes that still need to happen?

Standard Bank has demonstrated that they care about women and uplift them not only in the workplace but also in society.  If you look at the new Board created by Sim you can see that.

Obviously, it is a journey and not a sprint.  Women are unique and should be treated as such.  I believe a workplace should cater for that uniqueness without side-lining our male colleagues.

Women want to grow not only in their careers but also as people – and focusing on that will assist greatly.  We are individuals before we are mothers, wives, leaders, employees.  If you uplift women in their society and personal environment, it will show in their careers.  The impact on a household of having meetings which last until 7pm at night is different when you are a woman compared to your male counter parts in that same meeting.

What exciting plans do you have for the future?

I’m looking forward to seeing how my 2 daughters grow up, find their purpose in life and flourish.  I enjoy travelling and would like to travel more with my mother.

From a career perspective I am excited about the new venture that Sim has created with the introduction of the new architecture.  I think we are going to enjoy the new challenges and we are going to be given an opportunity to really make a difference in people’s lives.

Do you have a message for young women entrepreneurs out there struggling to survive?

YOU’VE GOT THIS.

Never give up.  Keep your chin up so that your crown stays on.

Always show up.  No matter how bad things are, get up, put your lipstick on, and show up.

Be yourself.  As Dr Zeus said, “nobody is more you-er than you”.

One of the most inspirational quotes I have ever seen is “Here’s to women, may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them”.

For me personally the most important thing you can do is to look after yourself.  You cannot look after anyone else if you are not ok.

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