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Ithala Believes in Growing Their Own Timber

Nozipho Ngobese is the recently appointed Head of Operations at Ithala SOC Limited.

Following her matriculation, Nozipho studied computer and office administration at Natal College before joining Ithala in October 1993 as a clerk at the Nongoma Branch.

After joining Ithala she obtained a Higher Certificate in Financial Management and Advanced Project Management Diploma from Damelin. Subsequently, she completed a Bachelor of Administration (BBA) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Finance, Banking, and Investment Management (FBIM) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). Lastly, she attained a Master’s degree in Business Leadership (MBL) from UNISA.

Nozipho’s journey at Ithala reflects a commitment to excellence, leadership, and driving positive change within the organisation.

“Throughout my career, I consistently excelled, whether as a teller, acting senior teller, assistant branch manager, or branch manager. I focused on improving branch performance, implementing innovative strategies, and prioritising customer service. Her initiatives, such as organising the ‘KwaMashu Fun Run’ and running ‘The Soup Kitchen’, garnered community support and recognition. These efforts, combined with effective teamwork and stakeholder engagement, led to accolades such as Branch of the Year.

Other successful projects that she has led include:
• Know Your Client Remediation Project
• Back-scanning Project
• Financial Data Restoration Project
• Data Cleansing Project
• Financial Education to Government Department
• Designing and implementing 32 days’ notice product
• Hosted Banking System Project

Over the years, Nozipho earned a series of promotions based on her exceptional performance and continued to advance within the company, assuming roles such as Area Manager, Regional Sales Manager, and ultimately, Head of Operations in 2023.

A typical day
As operations is very hectic in nature; Nozipho’s primary role is ensure the smooth execution of daily operations. Consequently, throughout each day, she remains accessible to her team and other departments, providing guidance, resolving issues, and fostering a collaborative work environment.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of my role is witnessing the tangible impact of our collective efforts, whether its streamlining processes or overcoming operational hurdles, seeing positive outcomes of our work is incredibly fulfilling. Overall, the ability to drive positive change, empower others, and contribute to the overall success of the organisation makes each day fulfilling and meaningful,” explained Nozipho.

Her greatest desire is to drive positive change, improve and contribute to the overall success and growth of Ithala. This will be achieved by streamlining and continuously improving processes, enhancing efficiencies and by fostering a culture of innovation.

“I have assisted in improving the compliance status of Ithala by spearheading the system enhancements required to comply with relevant regulations as well as enhancing processes and internal controls.”

Nozipho prides herself on leading by example and demonstrates high work ethics, dedication and integrity that promotes a positive work environment amongst employees also encouraging growth and development. Furthermore, she has implemented rotation to ensure multiskilling, risk mitigation, and effective succession planning.

“I believe in nurturing the young bankers especially in my department and the new talents appointed as part of Ithala experiential learning. My intention is to make them pioneers in the banking industry and assisting them in reaching their full potential.”

“Lastly, I wish to promote mental health awareness, especially in management level to ensure that we are all consciously aware of its impact and be able to be accommodative to those who are struggling with mental health issues and/or illnesses. Moreover, to be able to identify and be aware when professional help is required or is the only solution.”

Challenges Experienced
One of the challenges Nozipho encountered in her career was being promoted to a leadership position as the newest member of the team or the last one to join. This meant leading colleagues who had been part of the department for a longer period and some whom she had previously reporting to.

“I learned the importance of building trust and credibility by demonstrating competence, humility and respect for my team members expertise and experience.

Through this experience I also gained a deeper understanding of the complexities of leadership and
developed the skills needed to lead diverse teams successfully, which included effective communication, diversity, and change management.

Another challenge has effectively balancing priorities. “Juggling multiple tasks and deadlines taught me time management and prioritisation skills. I learned to focus on what matters most and delegate when necessary to achieve optimal results.”

Current Projects
As the banking industry is a highly regulated industry, compliance with all the regulatory bodies, including Reserve Bank, FSCA, etc is very demanding. As Ithala SOC Limited is a financial institution compliance with all regulatory requirements is essential to obtain a full banking license.

“My role is to ensure that from an operations perspective, the organisation is sound, operating optimally and within all regulations which fall within the ambit of the Division.

Ithala has recently completed the Operating Model project of which Nozipho was a business lead. The Operating Model ensures Ithala is structured in a manner that will allow the institution to deliver its strategy optimally and in a cost-effective way putting their clients at the centre of everything that they do.

Currently, Operations Division is in the process of establishing an Operations Processing Centre (OPC) that will offer a centralised back-end solution for the consolidation of diverse banking operations. The benefits are the elimination of redundant and/ or duplicated activities within the value chain and will grant the front-end staff the opportunity to focus on revenue generating activities. The OPC will improve the utilisation of scarce resources which will lead to cost benefits for the organisation. Further to this, it will mitigate financial and operational risks.

Toughest decision
A defining moment of Nozipho’s career was when she courageously took a stand against unethical behaviour, prioritising integrity, and ethical values over personal safety. Despite the potential consequences, she remained steadfast in her conviction. “This experience not only reinforced my commitment to ethical principles but also demonstrated my resilience and unwavering dedication to uphold integrity in the workplace in line with one of Ithala’s value of Integrity.”

The winning recipe for success
Ithala, says Nozipho, is a very resilient institution that understands that there is no Ithala without its people – clients and employees.

Ithala actions are centred around its clients’ needs. In addition, the institution nurtures and maintains a culture that prioritises and is sensitive to the needs and well-being of its people.

In line with one of its values of empowerment, Ithala ensures that it grows with its people. Talent
management, development and upliftment programmes cater for employees at different levels and
opportunities for growth are first given to internal staff members. A happy and competent employee is a basic and fundamental ingredient for Ithala’s endeavours of success.

“From an Operations point of view, key to playing a role in the success of the organisation, is remaining agile, keeping up with industry trends and competent in servicing the requirements of internal and external stakeholders. This involves having the right people, with the right skills sets in the right positions. Further to this, it also involves continuous improvement of our systems, processes and mechanisms which drive the Division towards the successful execution of its mandate, and to also eliminate silo-centricity, through collaborative effort not only within the Division, but Ithala as a whole.”

Time Out
Nozipho enjoys reading in her spare time as this helps her to think outside the box and be creative. She also enjoys watching webinars on YouTube and other videos that stimulate her mind, improve
knowledge, and keep her informed on different topics of interest.

During weekends she participates in community engagement projects, assisting and supporting students in different to reach their potential. Nozipho also partakes in mental health programmes that create mental health awareness.

“I love spending time with my grandchildren, they are my joy and source of inspiration. I also enjoy gym after work or on weekend when I have time.”

Message of support for Ithala SOC Limited’s customers
In conclusion says Nozipho, “We appreciate the loyalty and support that we continue to get from all our clients especially during these challenging times of economic instability, etc., including our clients in deep rural areas where Ithala is the only existing financial institution.

These are areas that are challenging to serve and Ithala is committed to continue providing financial services in these areas in line with our commitment to financial inclusion. We are here to service you; we are here for each one of you. We stand by you with unwavering support. Your loyalty and trust are our motivation and together we will navigate through any obstacles. Thank you for trusting us with your money and for choosing us as your financial partner. We will continue to service you with integrity.”

Please do not hesitate to contact Ithala through their call centre or visit your nearest branch when you have a concern, compliment, suggestion, or query. You can also reach them on their social platforms.

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