From entry level employee to MD

By Sibangani Dube
February 2013
On the Move
Alexander Forbes Financial Services Namibia recently appointed Monique Cloete as its managing director.

Cloete is a seasoned management cadre, who joined Alexander Forbes Financial Services way in 1999. She started off as an administrator after graduating from the University of Cape Town with a bachelor degree in Business Science.

Cloete, who describes herself as very ambitious, hardworking and focused, has moved through the ranks to her recent appointment. She has literally worked in all departments in the financial services business. Thus, this has given her a good grasp of the company’s business operations. Despite serving every department, she once spent a bulk of her time in the actuarial department. Her last role there was that of the Chief Operating Officer (COO), before stepping up for the top post.

In executing her vision for Alexander Forbes in her new role, Cloete will be guided by responding to dynamics in the market now that the Alexander Forbes Financial Services is shifting from being an institution-focused business to a client-centric business. The responsiveness to the market changes is mostly attributed to having a sound administration, listening to call centre queries, as well as engaging with clients through consultation.

“Historically, we have been a business servicing our institutional clients. We have changed, though. We now look at individuals who make up the group and try to manage their individual needs. This major shift has added a lot of value for our clients,” she says.

According to Cloete, the retirement fund industry as a whole significantly contributes to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), accounting for an asset-base of N$60b. However, there are very few new pension funds being registered.

“You essentially have this pool of clients and they are being recycled between different service providers,” she says.

Cloete’s leadership style entails making sure everyone she works with understands the end goal: “I need to ensure that everyone within the organisation understands where we are headed and goes in the same direction. I have an open door policy and I will make time to talk to any member of staff who needs me.”

While Cloete finds it rewarding to appreciate what the staff does, she is keen on maintaining high standards. She often uses a catch phrase; “Be hard on standards but soft on people.”

While she is concerned about the staff doing the right things, according to the standards, accurately and timeously, she does not personalise issues.

“It’s not about you as a person who can’t do the job but the standards that are not being complied with,” she stresses.

Asked what characteristics have helped her move up, Cloete explains that when she started out in the business, she had an ultimate goal in mind; her ultimate destination. Focused on ensuring that she did things correctly and accurately, she has stayed afloat since then. The wise words of her father, “You must be so good that they won’t ignore you,” have always inspired her along the way.

“This has been a driving force behind making sure that I do things in such a way that at the end of the day, no one can brush me under the carpet,” she says.

She is excited about her new role as she enjoys working with people and is a ‘problem solver’. She usually ensures that things run smoothly, by making sure that there are procedures and structures in place to appropriately direct energy and efforts to things that matter.

“It is the challenge of trying to tap into 78 different minds (referring to her staff complement) to get them to move in the same direction - that is the nicest part of the job for me,” she enthuses.

Cloete has two role models who have had a huge impact on her life; her father, whose value for hardwork has had the biggest influence in her life; and her current manager (for the manner in which he deals with different situations and the way he handles people).

Cloete does not buy that there are stereotypes with regard to the presence of women in the boardroom. She has realised that there is a shift in terms of the opportunities that are now available to women. That’s because there are now more women getting into executive management positions, which is a step in the right direction, she adds.

On strategic leadership, Cloete plans to continue paying attention to how mindsets are changing, in order to adapt to what clients want.

“That’s what makes us a business - we are here for our clients. So we must ensure that we are open and adaptable to that,” she advises.

Her legacy within the organisation will ensure that there is a mentorship programme to bridge gaps in development so as to give people the opportunity to see a future for themselves within the organisation and progress in their careers.

Within Alexander Forbes and beyond, Cloete would also like to be remembered for inspiring greatness. “I want to leave behind an inspired staff that aspires to be the greatest in all they do. For me, it’s not just about the business. This business is made up of 78 very different individuals with their own needs and ambitions. Once all of them move in one direction and try to be great, that’s when our clients will get the best service,” she concludes. PF