Wanted: Transformational leadership for the financial services sector

Tapiwa Maswera Correspondent
When Herbert Chitepo became a barrister in Southern Rhodesia in the 1950s, he was pioneering a new generation of leadership that was to lead the fight for the liberation of this country.

Zimbabwe’s journey towards self-determination only started seriously in the 1960s because by that time black people had developed sufficient leadership expertise that allowed them to challenge the white minority rebel regime. Herbert Chitepo’s success in the legal profession was quickly followed by the success of Tichafa Parirenyatwa, Silas Mundawarara and Edward Pswarayi in medicine. This was a renaissance of sorts, given that in 70 years of colonisation leading up to 1960, Rhodesia had not produced any black graduates at all.

Indeed, so determined was Rhodesia to retain control of the economy that the first two accountants — Ngoni Kudenga and Joseph Kadzirange — only qualified in 1977. By all means, the generation of Chitepo led a transformation of the political landscape. Notwithstanding the transformation of the political landscape, Zimbabwe’s financial foundations remain weak and fragile.

Higher Financial Skills
At independence Zimbabwe had not yet produced anyone qualified in the higher financial professions associated with the financial services industry. It is this distorted leadership development in our country that has led to the development of a stunted financial services industry — bred the hyperinflationary episode which left our economy in tatters and continues to stifle economic growth. Zimbabwe does not have an established tradition of an enlightened financial services leadership and our efforts to rehabilitate our economy need to start off by acknowledging this ugly fact and the fact that the financial services sector is the heartbeat of the economy.

In charting a way forward, we have to acknowledge this leadership deficit —indeed acknowledge, the lack of quality leadership in critical areas, acknowledge the different ways in which it has impacted on our financial services sector and build an inclusive vision that at once solves the problem sustainably and creates conditions that avoid a relapse.

Because of its highly contested past, Zimbabwe’s financial services sector has been in a state of decline over the last 10 years. This contestation rises mainly from the controversies aring from how the assets that survived hyperinflation were shared. It now needs an inclusive developmental vision — a vision which seeks to put all hands on board — which not only recognises all its fault lines, but also harnesses them into ploughshares. If Zimbabweans will not invest in their own country, then nobody else will. We need a new vision that recognises the central role of every Zimbabwean in the mobilisation of the capital required to regenerate our economy. We are woefully behind when it comes to our savings rates and the accumulated contractual savings assets. This is something that the Asian Tigers have done and we can easily copy and improve on their models.

Transformational leadership

Building a healthy and vibrant financial services sector starts with a review of the transformational leadership capabilities and visions in the following areas:

a) Financial Services Policy Making —This is perhaps the toughest part which requires visionary transformational leadership and needs to be led by people who have an over-arching vision and an ability to scope a viable future.
b) Legislative Framework — which captures the vision and puts it into practice. Again here there is a lot of vision required.
c) Regulatory structures determine how the policy is implemented and enforce the legal framework. Again high levels of skill are required in to lead the regulatory structures.
d) Skills Development Framework — Finanial Services is a skills intensive industry and the need for skills development cannot be over-emphasised.
e) Consumer Education/Financial Literacy/ Customer Protection — Zimbabwe is lagging behind even sister countries in the SADC region when it comes to consumer education, financial literacy and consumer protection legislation and activism.
f) Governance — A key reason why the financial services sector finds itself in the mess that it is in is because of a lack of an enforceable governance framework.
Initiating change
Chitepo and his generation led a political transformation of the country. By all accounts, that transformation has been accomplished. But where are the Chitepos of the Financial Services Sector?

Tapiwa Maswera is an Executive Director and founder of Global Worldview, a company dedicated to the development of world-class leadership. He is an actuary, researcher, valuator of pension funds, a former member of the Justice Smith Commission of Inquiry into the Loss of Values in the Insurance and Pensions Industry. He can be contacted at tapiwa@acumenactuaries.com

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