Good evening Ladies & Gentlemen & a special welcome & congratulations to all our award nominees & recipients. A special welcome & congratulations to our 2 guests of honour, Minister of National Economic Planning, Mr Trevor Manuel & former Governor of the Reserve Bank, Mr Tito Mboweni. I am sure you have spent a large part of this evening swapping assurances of mutual envy. Or perhaps not. Madam President, thank you for such a generous introduction. I must warn you all that it is not often that my wife allows me the opportunity to privately or publicly express my own views and for that matter in my own words. I am relishing the prospect and therefore regrettably, will not promise to be brief. My insincere apologies. As is customary, I would like to start by highlighting a few of the gains my predecessor and her Exco have achieved over the last term: Firstly, operationally, Absip now boasts a complete infrastructure to support the Exco. This infrastructure is not limited only to the continued security of permanent office premises, but includes a full time CEO, Mr Masedi Molosiwa, and an Executive Manager, Ntombenhle Skweyiya. We thank them also for their hard work over the last term; Secondly, as mentioned by our outgoing President, Absip was able to progress the advancement of women on the transformation agenda through the formulation of the Women in Focus mentorship programme. This remains a critical focus area for the incoming leadership; and Thirdly, & perhaps most importantly in some eyes, is the resolution of 1 of the 2 remaining principal Charter issues (as you know, the equity ownership targets and the ‘high watermark’ principle. We can only wish you had resolved both! Madame President, a big thank you for handing over the reins to an organisation in such impeccable order & standing. It is indeed an immense honour & a privilege to stand here in the capacity of President-elect of Absip. Yes, Madam President, your term does not end for another few hours yet! Also, a sincere thank you to the rest of your Exco, you have all done a fantastic job in organising tonight’s event. I hope my colleagues on the incoming Exco have been taking notes. I would also like to extend my personal thanks to all of our sponsor & organisers of tonight’s event & hope that you will be as supportive & even more generous towards Absip in the coming years. Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me at this point to pause and quickly introduce the incoming Exco. I will call them out by name and request them to stand wherever they are so everyone can know by name and face who their new servants are: Firstly, despite his absence tonight, I would like to introduce our Deputy President, Kabelo Seitshiro. Kabelo is a former employee of the National Treasury, JP Morgan and Standard Bank, and is now an Executive Director of the Industrial Development Group, in charge of debt products. Kabelo is unfortunately attending a wedding in Namibia. For those who know him, please be assured that he was at pains to persuade us that the wedding he is attending is not his own. Next is our Secretary General, Oliver Peterson, formerly PwC Corporate Finance and Circle Capital, and currently an Executive at Brait managing the private equity fund- of-funds. Then we have Zukie Siyothula, our Treasurer, and Strategic Investment Manager at Royal Bafokeng Holdings. We also have Mphumi Malangabi who will handle our Strategic Alliances portfolio. Mphumi is a founder member of Absip and CEO of Valuecorp Investments. Mphumi will provide valuable input in ensuring the ongoing alignment of the organisation’s ethos with its founding principles. Next is Patsy David who will oversee the critical Absip Women in Focus initiative. Patsy has over 20 years experience in the financial services sector, is a former rated securities analyst, and is currently a [fund manager] at the Public Investment Commission. We also privileged to have secured the services and energy of Thakani Makhuvha whose wisdom is sure to secure us meaningful additional membership. Thakani is Head of the IDC’s Post Investment Monitoring Department. And lastly, and most importantly for the future of Absip is Ephraim Moletsane who is on our Exco as testament to the excellent job done at the level of the Student Chapters. Ephraim is the former President of University of Johannesburg student chapter and is currently a trainee accountant at PwC. I am sure you will agree that a nice balance of maturity and youth have been achieved on this Exco. Thank you all new Exco members for availing yourself for this cause. Without taking too much longer of your time, I must disclose that I have already been asked by several members of Absip what the vision and agenda of the new Exco will be. This is not an easy question to answer 2 days into the role, however, perhaps snippets of our discussions at our recent AGMs will be informative. Certainly, what appears to be the critical first order of business is the creation of the opportunity for all members to debate the ongoing role and positioning of Absip in today’s environment. A critical look at ‘’the soul of Absip’’ if you will. Issues to contemplate here include matters as wide ranging as the name of Absip i.e. whether the name is not too restrictive, to issues of public positioning i.e. should Absip, while maintaining the same conscientious and informed formulation of views, express such views in a more robust, forceful and louder manner? This has been expressed to us as a requirement for greater activism. I will come back to this aspect in a little while. The second and equally critical area of focus is to create a clear understanding of what it means to be a member of the organisation, particularly in a leadership role. The commitment to participate in Absip is not merely an opportunity to build one’s profile – the membership of Absip has clearly articulated its desire to NOT have celebrity leaders, but rather to have office bearers focused on delivery. This, of course, is consistent with the existing sentiment in the national context regarding delivery of socio-economic change. Indeed, the youngest member of our incoming Exco, Ephraim Moletsane, pointed out to me that, in his words, “we can only move to new worlds following constructive criticism of the past ones”. This does not suggest that our predecessors, immediate or otherwise have not been successful in executing their mandate – the concern is of a different nature. To put it in stark terms, there are growing signs of unease within our membership to the effect that, yes, battles are being won, however, there is no definitive indication that the war is not being lost (in the broader context of the role of the financial services sector in the transformation of the economy as a whole, the imperative is so great, it cannot be nothing but a war). In short, ladies and gentlemen, our membership is desirous of a step change, and a loud and visible one at that – this is reflected by the election on Wednesday of a completely new Exco. A telling reflection also that not many existing members considered it appropriate to stand for re-election. For those who would wish to sow division, be aware, it is agreed between old and new that a change of approach is required. Action is required. The war is not being won. This war cannot be lost. However, in order to temper perhaps potentially extreme elements in our organisation, we undertake to consider the formalisation of a ‘Past President’s Council’ comprising former Presidents of Absip, as well as other senior citizens. After all, in order to optimise passion, wise heads are needed. In recognition, of this I would like to make special acknowledgement of the old stalwart Mr Modise Motloba who I am assured has played a pivotal role in gaining a mutually acceptable outcome to all stakeholders on the issue of equity targets in the sector. Modise, your continued interest and passion for the organisation should serve as the model for all of your peers and the next generation. This leads me into my next theme of the obligation of ongoing and continuous responsibility – black professionals in this sector need to take active responsibility for their own destiny. This applies equally to past members who have now achieved professional or economic success, as well as to younger or newer members. To my mind, and forgive my language, it remains a preposterous and untenable phenomenon that by and large Absip members do not contribute to their own membership fees, and instead Absip relies on contributions made by employers. This is disingenuous on the part of members and is not acceptable. Admittedly, it may be a consequence of perceived value (or lack thereof), but again, let’s have the debate and define what value the organisation ought to offer to its members. Silence and non-participation will not achieve anything and in fact will only serve to compromise our cause. It is imperative that Absip becomes a financially strong organisation with the moral, intellectual and financial depth to drive its mandate. Those who are already established and successful would do well to remember that there is strength in numbers, and also that very few things in life are irreversible. And finally, lest my earlier potentially ominous comments on increased activism should result in diminishing corporate sponsorship, I offer an olive branch of sorts. Dear Absipers, it is well worth recalling that Absip is a multiracial membership organisation. Yes, it may surprise some of you today, but non-black views and input are welcome, and in fact, are hungrily called for. To this end I intend to propose to the membership body that we broaden the Recognition Awards to include non-black individuals who have meaningfully contributed to transformation of the financial services sector and to the advancement of black professionals. I am quite comfortable to stand here before you and to tell you very clearly that my own career progress (albeit modest) has been positively influenced on numerous occasions by non-black colleagues and decision- makers. These are individuals who not only gave me the opportunity to succeed, but also to fail. And indeed I did fail on occasion but I was allowed to learn and to correct my mistakes. These types of people are not as rare as is often suggested. And so, in addition to the Eric Molobi Award for Most Progressive Company, I will be advocating for a similar award for individuals who mentor, influence and otherwise create or provide the platform for the success of individual or groups of black professionals. In summary and in conclusion, then ladies and gentlemen, expect the following: • A critical review of Absip’s objectives, relevance and public positioning; • A clarion call to arms (i.e. visible growth in the membership base) and increased intolerance of form over substance (note: the recently published date is not reflective of the realities which are so apparent to practitioners and others involved with the sector); • More aggressive fund-raising and visible application of funds to effective and direct transformation initiatives; and lastly, • Acceptance and recognition for all who are friends of our cause. I thank you for your kind attention.
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