Financial Services: resilient, reliable and still proudly South African

518 days lost to loadshedding since 2016, notwithstanding the onslaught of Covid-19, South Africa’s Financial Services Sector continues to develop and show promise for employment opportunities. The question for GIFS’ latest thought leadership online discussion was ‘Is the energy crisis going to hamper employment in the Financial Services Sector?’ The answer from two prominent South Africans, with their fingers firmly on the pulse of business and politics, was a resounding ‘not on our watch.’

GIFS CEO Dr Kershen Pillay moderated another eye-opening conversation under the banner of the Insurance Institute of Gauteng (IIG). The insights session featured well-known businessman Mr Andy Searle and, academic and political analyst Professor Bheki Mngomezulu.

The IIG Council’s Mr Linroy Peters welcomed the hundreds of online attendees who were not only treated to a robust and thought-provoking discussion but had the opportunity to earn valuable continuous professional development points from the session.

Searle kicked off the conversation by enlightening the audience about the massive growth potential of the global business services sector. He explained how domestically, including contact centres as a channel, there are 210 000 people employed with financial services being the dominant employer at more than 54%.

Searle says while the Global Business Services Sector has experienced double-digit growth, the local market has shown resilience mainly because it’s a lot less energy intensive compared to other sectors. He says most of the jobs created since 2018 have been for young people, with many of them women. This has led to South Africa being named the top global outsourcing destination for the English-speaking market for two years, with the country being in second place for three years over the past five years.

There’s an ambitious sector masterplan that targets the creation of between 230 000 and 400 000 jobs over the next decade.

Searle believes that while the energy crisis needs to be dealt with comprehensively, from a financial services’ standpoint, hyper-scaling, allowing young people to learn in their communities, and enabling them to work closer to home are the key challenges that need to be addressed if the target is to be achieved.

“We should take pride in the fact that South Africans can consistently perform at the top level of service delivery compared to other countries,’ explained Searle. He added that as much as we think the system is not functioning and there are areas for improvement, young people are sought after for their skills as they’re known for their innovation and natural problem-solving ability.

Mngomezulu agreed with Searle that there’s something so special about resilience of South Africans, however he says that resilience shouldn’t be exploited, “We are patient despite everything that is happening. There has been no civil war. We are just hoping things change for the better. We are tolerant. We may disagree with one another but we’re tolerant of one another. We are able to manage the situation as hard as it is.”

Searle says while there are projections of economic growth, these should be looked at with caution as they’re set against what has happened since the pandemic. He expects low and incremental improvement. In the Financial Services Sector, Searle pointed to business providers being under extreme cost pressure while consumers, equally, find themselves with less disposable income. Searle believes that a dual approach to the energy crisis is needed in order to avoid jobs becoming a casualty.

Mngomezulu feels from a political standpoint there is a need to be honest from government. He cited the example of coal being wet as a reason for loadshedding, saying such reasoning is insulting to the nation. He believes a listening government is needed and one that adopts meritocracy. Mngomezulu has again lobbied for government to provide more subsidization to South Africans who are investing in generators and solar energy.

He believes 2024 will provide a change to the status quo because of national elections. Mngomezulu says there needs to be introspection from South Africans about the country they’d like to live in. He explained, “This is our country. We don’t have another country. We must save this country with everything we can without destroying infrastructure.”

Both panelists supported the idea of stronger public private partnerships where both parties approach the problem with a listening ear.

Watch the full session here: IIG Insights | Is the Energy Crisis going to Hamper Employment in the Financial Services Sector? – YouTube

03 August 2023