INTERVIEW: Delekazi Mokebe – woman on a mission

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2018
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The board of directors of First National Bank of Lesotho last week announced the appointment of Delekazi Mokebe as chief executive of FNB Lesotho effective from 08 June 2020.

Announcing the appointment, the Lesotho Board Chairperson, Ian Leyenar said, “This is a milestone decision which affirms our commitment to growing our own timber with respect to talent. We have great confidence in the depth of talent and management experience in our business, which allowed the board to appoint from within the executive team.”

Mokebe is a seasoned banker with 16 years’ experience in the industry, having previously occupied roles in global markets, treasury and CIB credit. She joined the group just over three years ago as treasurer for FNB Lesotho, with the sole mandate of setting up the treasury function for the bank and executing its mandate.

Her deep insights in these banking sectors coupled with a wealth of experience in leadership position her well for the new role.

theReporter’s ‘Majirata Latela speaks with Mokebe as the first female Mosotho CEO of FNB to know more about herself and her career in the banking system.

ML: Please tell us about yourself. Who is Delekazi Mokebe? How and when did you become the first female CEO of FNB?

DM: I am a Mosotho woman born and bred in Lesotho in a close-knit family headed by a teacher and a police officer.

I attended a local primary and high school and later went on do to matric in South Africa, which exempted me to Wits University where I enrolled into BCom and majored in Finance, Marketing and Management.

After university I was lucky enough to work in my country at one of the commercial banks as a graduate trainee in 2004. That is how I started in the banking system.

I however didn’t stop learning as I furthered my studies with the University of South Africa where I obtained my Master’s Degree in business leadership. With all the experience I had, I joined First National Bank over three years ago as head of Treasury until the June 8 when I was appointed Chief Executive.

The company decided to promote its own talent and I was eventually appointed as CEO of the bank, and they have been very supportive of this appointment.

ML: The IMF measured the large gap between the representation of men and women in leadership positions in banks worldwide, and their econometric analysis suggests that, the presence of women on bank boards is associated with greater bank stability. What do you think?

DM: In general, in nature women are stabilisers in any situation and they can withstand all situations; they can stabilise every situation, be it in the family, community or in life in general, and banking is not an exception in this regard.

ML: The Bank of England and European Central Bank last year noted that the underrepresentation of women is generally very much visible in banks. What, in your opinion, is the reason for this underrepresentation of women in the highest echelons of power in banks?

DM: Women under-representation not just in banking but all spheres of life is a point that needs to be addressed and, luckily for the FirstRand Group which FNB is part of, has taken a step forward in addressing that as we can see that they have appointed me, not just a black person but a female Mosotho woman.

So making those strides is very important and I would like to encourage all other institutions to give women a chance to showcase their capabilities.

ML: Another observation is that there are more women among the teams of staff economists and other experts who prepare the groundwork for monetary policy. Would you say this is a step in the right direction as far as attaining gender equality is concerned?

DM: Addressing gender equality is very vital for any society for it to be successfully. Even at decision making and all other levels, women are important.

We are who we are and no one has to take that away from us, we do everything with our own capabilities and those capabilities should not just be short-changed just for being a woman. It should be about capabilities of women and what they can do for their organisations, their countries and the world at large.

ML: However, there are suggestions that female economists are less likely to have their economic research published by banks, that they are less likely to be promoted, and that their careers are more likely than men’s to suffer when they become parents. Do you agree with this? Why?

DM: I don’t agree with the statement and if it’s the case then that should change. Unfortunately for women raising families is they have more responsibilities than men and that has to change, responsibilities have to be shared equally in a family.  This should start from a very young age, where we have to teach our kids differently and show them that responsibilities in a family are shared equally.

Sharing responsibilities means giving each other a chance to progress in life and their careers. Women are the strongest when compared to men, with all that they go through and yet come out very strong.

I think women, on the other hand, need to take the chances and shine. They should not wait to be given chances; they should create those chances and grab them, put themselves out there and show the world that they are capable of.

ML: Several explanations may account for the lack of women in high-level positions in the economics profession. One possibility is that the pool of potential applicants is male dominated. What is your take on this?

DM: For Lesotho that is not the case because for one, in our country we have more females than males from Primary level and we also have more women graduating from tertiary as well.

ML: There have been growing calls for diversity in banks. But going beyond gender is vitally important, given diversity is not just about the ratio of women to men in the workplace. It’s about age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education, nationality, disability, beliefs and more. Why is diversity so important?

DM: I am glad to touch on the diversity topic, because in diversity we realise we have more strength and if we are all the same then it comes to show us how we can achieve different things. A more diverse organisation and a more diverse society definitely stand to achieve more because they do not only have one way of doing things; if we are diverse we can get more ideas which we can work with. 

ML: What challenges, if any, have you encountered in your job as a banker, based on your gender?

DM: I would say I have been rather lucky that in my profession my talents have been recognised and supported, which is evident with this appointment. However, socially, I have encountered challenges here and there.

As a family person and being a career woman, I have at some stages not been able to balance the two. However, I have also been very lucky to have a supporting husband and extended family who have always been there throughout my journey.

ML: And what would you say are the major milestones that you have achieved?

DM: This for me is a major milestone ever in my career; having started in the banking system as a trainee and having worked my way to the top to where I am today, is another major milestone. Also throughout my whole career I have been able to develop a talented pool of professionals and that is very critical for me knowing that I helped them to grow in their careers. 

ML: Also, what would you say have been your most memorable moments?

DM: Playing a role in making individuals unleash their talents is very close to my heart, and me being a family person would say my most memorable moment is having a successful family in a sense of being able to bring out the best in each other’s lives.

ML: What is your vision for FNB?

DM: Without going into the details, my vision for FNB is not only being a cooperate bank that can work with the citizens of Lesotho, but to also continuing growing as digital bank because that is the future.

ML: How would like to be remembered? And what would you like to say to fellow women out there?

DM: I would like to be remembered as a person who brought real change to people’s lives, weather in growing the business that FNB Lesotho is to greater heights or contributing very significantly to Lesotho’s success as a country and literally seeing people’s lives change and transform.

To women out there, I would like to tell them that anything is possible, your circumstances, past or present, do not have to determine that what is to become of you. You will fall and it’s a part of life but always make sure to rise and start again.

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