By Fiona Wakelin
Italia Mabula, Head of Brand & Marketing, BCC, Standard Bank Group, studied Chemical Engineering after high school but did not enjoy it as a career –she decided to leave the industry to find her passion and completed post-graduate studies in Strategic Planning and Brand Management. After graduating, Italia entered the world of advertising as a strategist. Having worked at a few agencies, she decided to move into corporate, and worked for a few retail companies as a classical marketer before joining Standard Bank at the end of 2009. Italia has worked in several divisions at the Bank, including Group Strategic Marketing, Commercial Business Banking (Africa), Personal & Business Banking (SA), Corporate & Investment Banking (Global and SA), and most recently, Business & Commercial Clients (Group). She has also had the opportunity to complete an MBA (Wits), an International Executive Development Program (Duke CE) through BankSeta and a certificate in Digital Marketing (Kellogg Northwestern) while at the Bank.
We asked Italia to take us on her journey – and share with us how she powered through to #RiseAboveTheNoise:
How long have you been in this role and what are some of your defining moments?
I have been in this role for almost a year, having started in Business & Commercial Clients on 13 September 2021.
It has been exciting to learn about this business over the past year. I am fortunate to work with a talented and hard-working team of marketers who are passionate about clients and their needs, elevating Business & Commercial Clients and our solutions across the markets in which we operate and producing measurable results. Collaborating with our business partners is also key to ensuring alignment in how we plan and deliver strategic initiatives in the market.
How would you best describe what it means to you to be the Head of Brand & Marketing BCC at Standard Bank Group?
Working for Business & Commercial Clients is a privilege, and I am grateful every day for the opportunity. I am also fortunate to work for a business with a purpose that aligns with my personal purpose. Standard Bank Group’s purpose is “Africa is our home. We drive her growth”. BCC’s purpose, in delivering to the Group purpose, is to nurture Africa’s businesses for sustainable growth. My personal purpose is to uplift others just as I was uplifted. Working for a business that resonates with my personal purpose enables me to bring my full self, heart and mind to the work I deliver, every day.
What excites you about what you do? What is your “why”?
What I find exciting about what I do is the team of individuals I am fortunate to work with, who are talented and creative and have a great passion for the business. I am also excited by our ability to explore new approaches to how we deliver, especially when it comes to driving marketing initiatives and related solutions that deliver on the needs of our clients.
Standard Bank has been partnering with Topco for 12 years. What attracted you to the Top Women brand so you could head up the partnership?
Although it may come more naturally to men, I have found that it often takes great courage for women to have the confidence to “step up”. Top Women has been a positive platform where women in business and in the corporate world could share learnings with other women on how they have achieved success. Knowing that other women like you can make it, and have made it, can only encourage women to be braver in pursuing their dreams.
What are your most exciting plans for Top Women?
Last year’s Top Women virtual event attracted over 10 000 women across South Africa. This year, we aim to make this valuable platform accessible to more women and to positively influence the way women think about, and deliver, success in what they do.
How will these plans impact Standard Bank and Topco?
One of our key drivers as a business is to create a positive impact in society and the communities in which we operate. By supporting female entrepreneurs through a platform such as Standard Bank Top Women, we help nurture businesses to sustainable growth, creating greater employment opportunities as a result.
How do you see the Top Women brand aligning with our theme for this year, which is to Rise Above The Noise?
Entrepreneurs have heard it all. But if there is one thing all the successful ones have in common, it’s that they never listen to the naysayers. They don’t let anything or anyone stand in their way. They back themselves and their dreams. Because they believe anything can be. Top Women is a platform that encourages female entrepreneurs to believe in their dreams and drive their own success.
With the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, do you feel there is a growing sense of optimism? How can the Standard Bank/Topco partnership best harness this to the benefit of women entrepreneurs across the continent?
The end of Covid restrictions has enabled businesses to connect better with their clients and serve their needs. There is an opportunity to leverage the Standard Bank partnership with Topco across the continent, in the markets in which we operate, to further inspire female entrepreneurs. This would help us deliver on our business purpose, which is to drive the sustainable growth of African businesses.
Who are your role models?
My role models are everyday people who work hard and respect others, themselves, and the environment. I am also inspired by people who have the courage to follow their dreams, as well as those who go against all odds to discover their true-life purpose and/or passion.
Do you have any favourite authors?
I read to wind down and enjoy reading fiction or self-help books. My favourite authors therefore include Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist) and Jay Shetty (Think Like A Monk).
How do you relax?
I read a lot and I read almost anything. I also enjoy travel, which I need to get back to doing again now that Covid restrictions have been lifted.
If you had an extra hour in the day, how would you spend it?
I would spend it with my 4-year-old daughter, who keeps me on my toes. She is smart, energetic and can be quite feisty, so we have loads of fun together.
What message do you have for aspiring women entrepreneurs out there?
Do what others say you can’t with the Bank that believes you can, to #RiseAboveTheNoise.