Michelle van Wyk – Erlank recently handed over the reigns as Treasurer of the FirstRand Namibia group to Selma Kapeng. Michelle decided to scale down after 22 years, of which the last 10 years were in this role. She will be focussing on strategic initiatives going forward. Selma, who has been Head of Global Markets at RMB Namibia for the past six years, takes over this exciting role in an exciting time. Both women are passionate about markets and economic development. Herewith their thoughts on the role of Treasury in a bank and sustainable solutions for the greater good.

When Treasurers have Hearts

Where do you go when you want to find out if a business has the interests of its community at heart? To find out if a business is ethical, is transparent and concerned not only with its own bottom line, but specifically concerned with a nation’s growth and sustainability?

Would you investigate its Corporate Social Responsibility spend and activities? Perhaps looking at its Sponsorships countrywide may give some insight? Or customer feedback forums and customer experience survey results? Sure, these will give you some idea of how a business puts its money where its mouth is, but does it really tell you everything about how the business runs, its approach to decisions around credit extension, how it manages its Assets and Liabilities to ensure a secure, tailor made, yet-forward-looking solution for client investments, cash and debt management, all the time with sustainability at front of mind?

Selma Kapeng, recently appointed as FirstRand Namibia Treasurer, after six years in RMB Namibia as Head of Global Markets, has a clear idea of where customers and investors alike should be focussing their research into where to invest, and with whom to partner to ensure growth in the economy. Look at the Treasury department in any bank to best understand where ‘the rubber hits the road’ in terms financial resource management and planning a sustainable path for growth.

‘The primary function of a treasury department in any bank is to ensure that its liquidity needs are well managed, that the structure and mix of assets and liabilities are aligned for future growth. Managing the balancing effect required to ensure a win-win customer experience, whether you are a depositor or a borrower, begins at Treasury’, says Kapeng.

Typically, it is the job of the treasury department to prepare various financial models which help on forecasting needs of the bank and its role in the economy. Controlling and managing the bank’s funds in this way is vital to ensuring that capital and liquid assets are available to all parts of the bank, and then in turn, to customers who wish to grow their businesses or grow their wealth.

Treasurers are also one of the primary liaisons for any bank with its Regulators – such as the Bank of Namibia, on matters of capital and liquidity.

Michelle Erlank (neé van Wyk), previously FirstRand Namibia’s Treasurer for 10 years, explains how being a Treasurer ignited in her the passion to ensure that banks become more than ‘just banks’, to become initiators of growth projects for industry, and facilitators of stable platforms for customers who are also excited to be part of the vision of a globally competitive Namibia.

Partnering the commercial and investment arms of a bank, Treasury departments can help banks lead the way in times of crisis. Innovation in ‘go to market’ strategies regarding payment relief, new product development, pricing and investment opportunity, begins with Treasury by managing and directing the efficient use of financial resources, including appetite, capital and funding. Thereafter, with various customer-facing divisions’ approval and product development expertise, treasurers and their teams develop solutions that focus deliberately on business sustainability and customer support, while ensuring the lending solution is viable to the bank’s longevity.

‘We are serious about our innovative role as an end-to-end financial services institution in Namibia’, says Erlank, ‘The nature, scale and size of FirstRand Namibia’s activities countrywide, means that we inevitably impact society in its broadest sense, as a systemic provider of credit, safeguarding significant portions of the country’s deposits and savings.’

A provider of channels to spend and access funds, a significant taxpaying entity to support government social and economic mandates, and a large employer of countrymen and women, FirstRand Namibia recognises it has a responsibility to create ‘shared value’ to multiple shareholders.

‘The shared value difference,’ says Selma Kapeng, ‘is evident in the way we live out our corporate promises. ‘Being deeply invested’, a core promise of all the franchises in the FirstRand Namibia group, is a call to care for the business as if it were your own. Understanding the role of the bank in society, communities and in customers’ lives first, is our point of departure when problem-solving’.

‘Where we invest and how we partner with our franchise businesses, FNB and RMB specifically as the banking arms of the group, is my primary focus as the incoming Treasurer,’ says Kapeng. who has over 15 years’ experience in the Financial Markets environment. Kapeng is passionate about ensuring that the legacy of the group has the buy-in of all who benefit; employees as well as currently embattled customers and clients.

After handing over the Treasurer role to Selma Kapeng, ‘how we position banking for the future, to enable positive economic change, is my new focus,’ says Erlank. Taking up the role of Group Executive: Strategic Project Delivery, Michelle Erlank is keen to work internally and externally with industry specialists to help shape and define new thinking concerning financial resource application, with a specific focus on shared value.

Both of these strong women agree that ‘combined expertise and experience, commitment to delivering a range of innovative financial solutions, will ensure the shared value platform that Namibia requires to become globally competitive’.