After a decade in the financial services industry, First National Bank (FNB) Namibia’s newly appointed Chief Operations Officer (COO), Louis Potgieter says he could not have been at a better place. His words are not coming out of the blue as FNB Namibia was voted for the 5th consecutive time as the Bank of the Year in Namibia.
The married father of two, is the first person and Namibian in the history of the bank to assume this position as FNB Namibia’s COO as from the beginning of November 2013.
According to Potgieter, the need for the establishment of the position arose as operations needed to be less fragmented in view of new business initiatives locally and internationally.
“With new initiatives being launched and established it became necessary to strategically and physically align current operations with the new initiatives,” he says.
He adds, “This is to create an operational platform that is effective and beneficial for the whole group globally, not only Namibia.”
However, he said that “new-ness” of everything is one of the challenges he could face in his new position.
Potgieter spent the past five years focused on establishing a permanent presence in various African countries according to FirstRand’s African Expansion Plan.
He says that it was during this African Safari that he learned to think and strategise on how to approach the unknown.
“Once committed, do it! You need to be adaptable to keep on tweaking as you go along. The ability to be able to think on one’s feet,” he says.
Potgieter was born in Tsumeb and spent his first school years in Namibia, but matriculated at the Florida Hoërskool, Roodepoort in Johannesburg, South Africa.
He grew up in Windhoek and moved to South Africa with his parents only to return to make a big difference in the banking sector with FNB.
“I was very upset when my parents moved to SA when I was still at school, but I always knew I’ll come back home, however, it took me much longer than I thought it would,” says Potgieter.
While in South Africa, he worked for Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) since 2000, where held various positions as both Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and COO.
Potgieter has been predominantly involved in Nigeria and Kenya markets with the RMB expansion drive in which he was involved in RMB Namibia as well as Angola to a lesser extent.
Prior to joining FNB Potgieter oversaw all operational and financial activities and responsibilities for the Nigeria, Kenya, Angola and China offices. Potgieter has had a stint at Nedbank when it started up a to-be-listed group of companies before Nedcor.
After graduating he did his accounting articles and some post article experience with Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC).
Although a Potgieter is Chatered Accountant by profession, and auditing being his best subject at university, he never was an auditor.
When asked how he found himself in this line of profession, Potgieter says he always much preferred the other side of the desk.
“Later in life I wanted more than the pure financial management as I was more a hands-on operational type of person. I like being in the engine room. So, by prayer and faith I ended up where I am now, he adds.
According to Potgieter, what excites him most about his career is the people and to see how when properly equipped and given some reigns, they develop and find solutions for their own situations or problems, be it personal or work related.
He says that he has been most inspired by his wife and faith. He has learned to be content of where he is at any specific point in time of his life and to make the best of it.
“The dreams were always there, but to sit down and do nothing but dreaming, would not have brought me where I am today,” he emphasises.
Potgieter adds that despite challenges, he does not intend to switch careers at this point in time. He says the unexpected can happen any time, but moving will not be his decision.
His words of encouragement for those who wish to pursue his career to never give up as it might take longer sometimes and at times one needs to step aside for a while to take stock.
“My whole working career was to start something from scratch, putting new thoughts into practical reality, hence the “fixer upper”. There is no such thing as giving up,” he enthuses.
Potgieter says that he wishes to maintain the open-door policy, and welcomes people who want to share ideas, thinking out of the box on how to constantly improve the efficiency of the bank without breaking it.
He describes FNB Namibia as a proud and highly regarded company for which he has the greatest respect.
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to join this dynamic organisation and to be part of the present and future of the Bank,” says Potgieter.
He adds, “As the world is constantly changing, so is FNB constantly changing and change is about the only constant there is, leaving the rest as unknowns.”
He urges FNB employees to believe in themselves and believe in FNB as a great company to work for.
“Yes, you will sometimes face the “not-so-pleasant” stuff, both personally and work related, but learn from it and you will become a stronger person, spiritually, mentally and physically. Then you will find yourself in a position to address company related issues,” he advises.
Potgieter is thankful to the bank’s clients and stakeholders for their continuous support and contribution to the bank’s success over the years.
Outside of business, in his spare time the seasoned banker engages in camping, photography, golf and being in open space, “I love sports with cricket, golf and rugby being my favourites.”
He concludes with his favourite motto, “He, who has lost faith, has lost all”. PF