Having recently released their 2019 Transformation Report, we can be certain that Nedbank’s efforts to enforce positive change and community upliftment have paid off. The company has now retained a level 1 B-BBEE contributor status for the second consecutive year, having retained level 2 B-BBEE contributor status for 10 consecutive years since 2009. Among other things, 2019 saw Nedbank becoming the first commercial bank to launch a Green Bond on the JSE, which led to a second bond being issued that raised R1-billion, all of which will be applied in support of renewable energy projects. Further to this, through their partnership with the Y.E.S. initiative, the company has made remarkable strides in South African youth empowerment. Nedbank has embraced its role as change agent and active contributor to building a thriving society and is extremely proud to have welcomed over
3000 Y.E.S. recruits to the company.

This week we spoke with Kershini Govender, Executive Head of Transformation and Strategy at Nedbank Limited. Kershini highlighted some of the ways Nedbank has been doing good both inside and outside the company, and talked us through how they, as a company, are supporting their staff and stakeholders during these unprecedented times.

Nedbank has retained a level 1 B-BBEE contributor status for the second consecutive financial year in a row – congratulations – how has this been achieved and maintained?

Nedbank’s transformation approach supports both national and business priorities and our strategic intent is linked to our purpose statement to use our financial expertise to do good. We are further guided by some key principles and a robust governance structure to ensure execution in line with our agenda to lead transformation. Key principles include transformation transcending compliance beyond the codes, contributing to a sustainable future for all, and adopting an integrated and not a transactional approach to transformation. Transformation itself is embedded in our business practices and we know that we need to transform in order to remain relevant in the societies in which we operate, as we understand that we’re a microcosm of the broader society. We seek to build human capital, financial capital, leadership capital and socio-economic capital, whilst also ensuring that we respond to the legislation in a sustainable manner.

How does Nedbank create value by using financial expertise to do good?

Using our financial expertise to do good goes far beyond the business of banking − we embrace our role in society as a change agent as well as our role in nation building. Some examples of ways we have used our expertise to do good include the Y.E.S. initiative mentioned above. Having partnered with Y.E.S. (the Youth Employment Service initiative), Nedbank welcomed over 3000 young people into the company in 2019, giving them work opportunities either internally or through their implementation partners; including WildTrust, Unlock’D, ORT SA, Tradeway Promotions and Youth At Work. Then there’s also our Money Secrets campaign which really got South Africans talking about money as a first step to making positive and sustainable money management changes. In addition to the campaign itself, we had a total of 175 000 clients that attended financial wellness workshops and a further 6.1million individuals were reached through radio and television shows. This really reinforced our message around money management − it also touched on topics like budgeting, saving and debt-management. Last year Nedbank became the first commercial bank to launch a Green Bond on the JSE. It raised R1.7-billion in investment proceeds, all of which has been applied to deliver financial support to a number of solar and wind renewable energy projects. Further to this, a second bond was issued that raised R1-billion that will also be applied in support of renewable energy projects. The last example is in the affordable housing space. We know that availability of affordable accommodation close to tertiary institutions is critical in enabling students to succeed in their studies. But this remains a challenge for South Africa. So in order to help address this issue, we provided almost R7-billion worth of funding for over 23 000 student beds since 2015. In 2019, we invested a total of R1.8-billion, which delivered an additional 8 292 beds.

What were some of Nedbank’s highlights for 2019?

The most significant would be the Y.E.S. initiative along with the Green Bond. But perhaps just from a numbers perspective we spent more than R600-million on skills development for black staff, R85-million on socio-economic development, R41-million on consumer financial education and more than 75% of our procurement is sourced locally. I’d also like to mention that our overall female representation at the Group Executive Committee has increased from 25% in 2017 to 46.1% in 2019 – a very commendable achievement in gender representation. We are also very proud to be recognised by the SABPP (South African Board for People Practices) as the winner of the gender equity employer award. From an enterprise development perspective, it’s quite important to mention that we employed 564 people with a total wage bill of R67-million and that created 333 new jobs. We also placed 73% of banking out of home advertising with black-owned media companies which increased from 43% in 2018. This shows our commitment towards also trying to transform other industries beyond financial services. Another example is the Pick n Pay Township Economy Revitalisation programme. Since the programme started, we’ve dispersed R17.8-million to 13 supported spaza shops in Gauteng and Western Cape. In turn, these small businesses have created 163 job opportunities for members of their surrounding communities. The last highlight is related to the CEO Circle Initiative which is basically a private sector-led initiative that was borne out of the Chief Executive Initiative to stimulate the economy and create jobs. Companies were asked to enter and nominate their SMMEs who will be built into national champions. 143 companies were nominated, seven were selected and two of those actually came out of Nedbank’s ESD programme including Sign Africa and TSK Interiors.

How does Nedbank contribute to the Youth Employment Service Initiative?

In addition to welcoming over 3000 young people into the company in 2019, we also supported the ED element of the programme. In 2018 Nedbank, in partnership with Y.E.S. and AFGRI, we invested R5.9-million to launch a new urban farming aquaponics and hydroponics facility in Tembisa to support the development of hub infrastructure and youth agri-training which are really key elements of our strategy of enabling local community-level enterprise development. The hub itself registered 3023 youth, with a total of 1232 of the youth and community members being trained at the hub and then a further 240 have been trained on digital skills. A total of 33 SMMEs registered at the hub and the hub has created 56 direct work opportunities. Our real hope with Y.E.S. was that by giving youth the opportunity of their first job, they will go on to become inspiring leaders and entrepreneurs and that would in turn create job opportunities for others and improve their livelihoods.

Skills development is a strategic focus area to lead transformation within Nedbank. What are some of the lead programmes?

In support of our aspiration to lead in transformation, skills development remains a strategic focus area within Nedbank. Our increase in SD investment is a testament to Nedbank’s commitment to the growth and development of our people, as well as differentiated and prioritised learning investment in the development of black (and especially black female) staff members. Nedbank has a myriad of initiatives which focus on skills development within the company. These include awarding internal bursaries both for current and new roles. This means that employees are given opportunities to move around within the company and become trained in a multifaceted way. Our partnership with the University of Johannesburg was also created to address the future skills pipeline for S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). I think this is important to mention because what we’re trying to look at is, how do we remain future-fit and also remain relevant in the societies in which we operate. Over and above that, we have four learnerships for unemployed graduates and matriculants. We also have numerous graduate programmes across the bank. We recognise that as the world is becoming more digitised, certain jobs are becoming obsolete and irrelevant. Through our agility centre, we placed 620 staff members in other internal jobs through upskilling and reskilling.

How has Nedbank responded to the COVID-19 business unusual scenario?

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we’ve have been working tirelessly to make sure we are doing all we can to ensure stakeholders are prepared to deal with this escalating challenge. Our primary focus has been on the health and safety of staff. The company has made it a top priority to provide staff with all the support they need to get through this challenging time. Through online webinars and continuous updates from the CE and other senior leaders, staff are kept up to date on all aspects of what is going on both internally and externally. By the end of April 2020, Nedbank also had helped more than 225 000 clients with debt relief options across our product range, including home loans, vehicle and asset finance, personal loans, loans to SMEs and credit cards. Nedbank further pledged a R12-million donation in aid of hunger relief efforts, and to help mobilise, train and equip volunteers with the necessary information and hygiene products to drive awareness across the country, prioritising provinces with the highest infection rate. We continue to use our financial expertise to do good.

Kershini Govender is currently Executive Head: Transformation & Strategy at Nedbank Group Ltd. Her experience over the past 24 years has been in the disciplines of Strategy, Business Analysis, Project Management and Business Transformation. She previously worked at Promat (Transnet) and JSE Securities Exchange South Africa. Kershini currently represents Nedbank at the Banking Association of South Africa on the Financial Sector Charter Workgroup, is on the Board of Trustees of the Nedbank Community Trust and is also a qualified coach through the International Coach Federation (United States of America). She graduated from the University of Natal with a Bachelor of Commerce (Business Finance & Business Logistics) degree and also completed her Masters in Science (Behavioural Change and Coaching) through Henley Business School, with distinction.