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Differing views on how far South Africa’s financial services entities and banks have come in terms of transformation ensures that the transformation debate remains front and centre.   Yet in terms of transformation, are we focusing on what counts?

In South Africa, banks control in excess of R5 trillion in assets. The six largest  banks control 91% of these assets. Our financial system is ranked 18th out of 140 countries in terms of the soundness of banking in the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Competitiveness Report.

But whether or not the financial services sector is meeting South Africa’s transformative mandates and policy requirements remains a contested space, with different interests presenting differing views. For example, a 2017 Financial Mail ranking survey of 465 stockbroker analysts found that only 18% of stockbroker analysts were women and 14% were black women. Meanwhile, the Banking Association of South Africa reports a 26% increase in the number of black board members from 2016 to 2017, with a 40% increase in the number of black women at board level.

In South Africa’s investment banking sector it is a challenge for women – especially so Black women – to get a foot in the door – and they must work a great deal harder to carve a place for themselves.

Even at Bravura, a firm that was co-founded by Soria Hay twenty years ago when she was just 29 years old, an organic skew towards male employees is evident, resulting from a recruitment pipeline in South Africa that continues to attract and produce male candidates. To remedy this, Bravura actively searches for female candidates at all levels.

Additionally, Bravura’s graduate programme is aimed specifically at attracting young, talented, Black female graduates with exceptional academic results. It is very difficult for non-CAs from different academic backgrounds to break into the Corporate Finance market. The Bravura graduate intern programme aims to bridge this gap and provide opportunities for talented, driven youngsters from slightly different academic backgrounds to move into the mainstream investment banking space. Last year Bravura selected two graduates to work in the Bravura team for a period of twelve to twenty-four months, with the hope that they may become full-time employees at the conclusion of the programme.

The programme is designed as an intensive programme in which the newly-qualified graduates are expected to become active members of the corporate finance team. This year, both graduates will also be undertaking the JSE Supervisory Development Programme (SDP). Although fast at integrating themselves into the team, becoming involved in live deals and taking on everything at once, it is up to the more senior members in the team as mentors to guide and pace them.

The intention of the graduate programme is to increasingly widen the hiring net, and catch young female jewels upon graduation, in order to train them in the “Bravura Way”.

Transformation in investment banking and the wider financial services sector requires a concerted effort by multiple parties, from pipeline through promotion to independent dealmakers. Unless those with potential are trained, guided and mentored with a long-term view, our ability to transform as a sector will remain contested.

Published by: The Sunday Times