In the patriarchal business world, Baronice Hans, the Manager of Personal & Business Banking at Standard Bank Namibia (SBN) has taken great strides to cement her credentials as one of the female professionals with an infallible business acumen. These credentials culminated in her being selected as Namibia’s Businesswomen of the Year 2015.
Hans recently sat down with the Editor of Prime Focus Magazine, Penda Jonas Hashoongo, to discuss her personal accomplishments as well as the business sector at large.
Prime Focus: As a senior Manager at a bank, what is your motivation and what would you like to say to many young women with an ambition to excel in the corporate world?
Baronice Hans: Be yourself, be better today than you were yesterday and also be relentless in achieving what you set out to achieve but also have fun. Be thankful for every good thing that comes from God and glorify Him in everything you do. People matter, treat them well and nurture key relationships in your life!
My life’s philosophy is to do what I do with passion, clear focus and direction, to forgive and set the bar higher. I believe this should be done in a manner that balances positive people impact with achieving results and being true to my values.
Prime Focus: What challenges does the contemporary businesswoman have to overcome to reach the heights that you have reached in the local business fraternity?
Baronice Hans: The challenges that women in the corporate world are no different to that which men face in my view and are vast. We need to stay relevant, engaged, focused ensure that we connected to the people we lead. I believe that it is important not to take things personally as well as not to allow the opinion of someone else to limit or define us.
Prime Focus: How would you describe Standard Bank’s contribution to the Namibian economy for the past 100 years?
Baronice Hans: As an employer and a very successful bank, Standard Bank has contributed towards the Namibian Economy. As a lender we have enabled many businesses to realise their dreams as well as have enabled individuals to buy a house or vehicle thus also enabling dreams. Through our savings and investments, wealth is created and preserved for individuals and businesses. We also have an extensive Corporate Social Investment program which is aimed at key initiatives that uplift communities within Namibia.
Prime Focus: As a seasoned professional working in the banking sector, do you think the country has now opened up to create opportunities for Namibians, especially from the previously disadvantaged backgrounds, to excel and what more could be done to catalyse this process?
Baronice Hans: Yes, I do believe that there is a definite improvement in the recruitment of previously disadvantaged. We should focus more on setting people up to succeed, the work starts with recruitment but it does not end there!
Prime Focus: What have been your major pillars of strength to excel as both a businesswoman and an employee of one the largest banks operating in the country?
Baronice Hans: Firstly I draw my strength from God. I believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! I serve an awesome God. My husband is extremely supportive and a key pillar of strength. I am also supported my family and friends who I can call on at any time and who always keep it real and keep me grounded. I have an amazing team at Standard bank whom I work with and definitely make my load easier.
Prime Focus: After winning the Businesswoman of the Year 2015 accolade, you emphasised the need to believe in oneself and work hard. Do you think Namibian women are now at the same level in the business community with their male counterparts?
Baronice Hans: The number of women in top business positions is definitely less than our male counterparts therefore more needs to be done, there is improvement however.
Prime Focus: Tell us more about what being the Head Personal and Business Banking entails?
Baronice Hans: The Personal and Business Banking (PBB) Division of Standard Bank is the larger of Standard Bank Namibia’s two core business units. We account for 66% of the bank’s earnings as at 30 June 2015. My core responsibilities include developing, shaping and delivering the PBB strategy in Namibia in a manner that is relevant to the needs and expectations of our customers. My core responsibilities also include leading a team of roughly 1000 people to new heights. I am directly responsible for the performance of this team and accountable to the Executive Committee and the Board on all elements that relate to PBB.
Included in my Business unit are the following Divisions: 1. Business Banking (SME and Commercial), 2. Personal Markets (Gold ,Silver Blue High Network Individuals and 3. Bancassurance 4. Distribution(Branch network). 5. Electronic Channels (Internet, Cell Phone Banking, ATM’s , Value Added services, Airtime and Electricity top ups), 6. Vehicle as well as Asset Finance, and 7. Home Loans.
Prime Focus: What do you think are the major challenges facing the banking industry in the country to date?
Baronice Hans: The nature of our competition is changing with non-bank competitors increasing due to lower barriers of entry from a digital innovation perspective. We are faced with increased regulation translating into higher capital and liquidity requirements. Another key challenge is growing, retaining and attracting talent and core skills in a market where competition for these is quite fierce.
Prime Focus: Most people who have an interest in business often crumble owing to a lack of capital resources; do you think commercial banks including SBN have now created a good platform for SME financing?
Baronice Hans: We definitely have built sufficient capacity in Standard Bank to lend to SMEs and do so on a large scale. Businesses crumble for many reasons. A key reason can be the lack of good stewardship. It is important to ensure that strict financial management is applied in business, also what is not always clear is the fact that banks are not equity investors and should not be the only providers of capital. In some instances bringing an equity partner on board would be more beneficial than further debt given the impact of debt repayment on the cash flow of an entity.
Prime Focus: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Baronice Hans: The Sky is the limit I believe! In the medium term however I do see myself as an entrepreneur.
Prime Focus: For the benefit of the reader please also give us a brief history of your professional and educational qualifications?
Baronice Hans: I am a Chartered Accountant by profession. I completed my undergrad degree at the University of Cape Town and my Honours through UNISA. After completing Articles with Ernst & Young and qualifying in 2001, I joined NamPower and in 2009 I moved to Standard Bank. I joined Standard Bank as Chief Operating Officer but was then asked to Head the Personal and Business Banking Division I am also an Executive Director on board of Standard Bank Namibia.