For 12 years, Walter Don, a former Bank Windhoek HR executive has been the custodian of Nam-mic and with two years of his contract left, he has begun the process of a successful transition, and already, the company is now looking at ways of fostering participation in all levels of the economy.
Namibia’s biggest and so far, the only black broad based financial organization, Nam-mic has successfully revolved into a socio-economic powerhouse beyond its 93 000-strong membership base. For 12 years, Walter Don, a former Bank Windhoek HR executive has been the custodian of Nam-mic and with two years of his contract left, he has begun the process of a successful transition, and already, the company is now looking at ways of fostering participation in all levels of the economy. From his open-door policy to the Nam-mic culture and the ease of working for the company, Don has transformed the Nam-mic Financial Services Holdings into being Namibia’s face of real black economic empowerment. Now the resolve for Don is to ensure that within the coming five years, a third of the members have their own property, the majority if not all have access to life cover, and that they transcend into middle-income members.
And at such a pace, it is doable. “As the custodian, my success is mainly centered on satisfying the need of every constituency of our shareholding. Their needs differ and they all have pressing needs, but at the same time, they all agree that we are here to improve the lives of our people.” “We are now working on leaving the legacy in the life of our beneficiaries, and the chain goes on, hence the need now to have a decent impact on all focus areas of the economy,” thus Don. After he served for five years as an executive in the Bank Windhoek Human Resources Department, between 2001- 2005, Don was handpicked as CEO for the then newly established Nam-mic. Nam-mic was purely established to invest in other financial services such as Sanlam and Santam from which their members could benefit from.
It was a painful commitment. In the first six years of operations, the directors were patient with revenue, Don says. Any dividends that came in were used to pay-off debts, today Nam-mic is debt-free, all outstanding debts have been cleared, a huge secret to the company’s healthy balance-sheet. But with shareholders ranging from blue chip companies, miners’ unions, teachers’ unions and the like, success for Nam-mic lies in its diversity, where the custodian is both politician and administrator. “It’s all about trust and creating a conducive environment for the shareholders to speak about issues and aspirations because, currently we have the union shareholders; the blue-chip organization shareholders, such as Capricorn Investment which owns 32%.” “What is nice with that is that over the last couple of years there has been skills transfer among the different shareholders.
Some have more private business experience and with the unions also understanding the social needs of the workers, one has a nice blend of diverse views.” “When we walk into the boardroom, it’s all about the business and the welfare of our members and creating opportunities to maximize the return of our investments,” he explains. Staying relevant to the community in which Nam-mic operates is what has given them an edge, Don believes. “We are here to provide financial services to our constituencies and make a difference that is influenced by our decisions.” Not regarding themselves competitors to anyone has allowed Don and his team to focus on their own objectives and strategic planning with ultimate goal of making a difference in the lives of their members.
“What keeps me going is when a worker comes in here to either apply for a loan or to look for saving schemes and you see the smile on that person’s face saying “Thank you. I have been helped. I can go and settle my debts now. That makes me tick, that gives me great joy.” “The ability for us to make a difference in the lives of the Namibian worker, who would have normally gone to a bank, and under normal circumstances wouldn’t get help, that gives me great pleasure, and that reminds me of where I came from,” he tells Us. 2016 2017 Directors’ Valuation: N$1.2 billion N$1.7 billion Net Assets Valuation: N$676 million N$750 million Profits N$70.2 million N$75.6 million
Below Don explains the rise and transformation of Nam-mic:
Q: In terms of the regulation on the financial sector, what’s your take?
A: Regulatory bodies are very consultative. There is open communication with them. Within a small economy there needs to be regulation, overregulation can become a prohibition but currently it is manageable.
Q: But what has been the impact of your Corporate Social Investment (CSI)?
A: The assumption that Nam-mic is only for bursaries has enabled us to work extensively on other sectors such as training of workers and HIV/Awareness, without losing focus. In fact, we do less for the bursaries than we do for training of our workers, which involves retraining and upscaling workers, education by providing bursaries and the HIV/AIDS awareness initiatives among our workers and community.
Q: How would you say NFSH has made a difference in Namibia?
A: NFSH, through its subsidiary, Nam-mic Financial Solutions (Pty) Ltd, an insurance-broking and financial services intermediary company, attempts to address the critical shortage of suitably skilled management and staff in the insurance, banking and consultancy sectors in Namibia in an innovative way. It has the ability and technical support to play an important role in the transformation of financial services in the country. NFSH is a truly broad-based black economic empowerment company with more than two-thirds of its shares owned by NUNW affiliated unions.
The Mineworkers’ Union of Namibia (33.9%), the Namibia Public Workers’ Union (19.6%) and the Namibia Food and Allied Workers’ Union (6.5%) hold their investments in NFSH through their respective investment holding companies… The National Teachers’ Union of Namibia (5%), the Namibia Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (2.5%) and the Namibia Farm Workers’ Union (0.8%) are the other union shareholders, all holding their NFSH shares in their investment trusts. All dividends declared by NFSH to union shareholders are paid to the respective investment trusts of the union shareholders. In terms of its objectives, each trust ploughs back the dividends to its beneficiaries. This includes, amongst others, education through bursaries, training, community projects, housing and health programmes for union members and their families. The incorporation of the NFSH Group of Companies is an important milestone in the development of the Namibian financial services industry for the citizens of Namibia.
Q: What is your ambition for the next 5 years?
A: One of our dreams is that over the next 5 years one third of our union members will own their own property, have life cover and one savings instrument and for union members to be middle income earners. We want to make a difference. At least 50% of our union members will be trained on financial and wealth management. We want to be able to maintain a 10% growth in profit return on investment. Our aim will be a balance between the company growth but also developing our communities and constituencies.
Q: What would you say has been the biggest challenges for you, in terms of you being the custodian of these 93 000 members?
A: The misconception towards entitlement by members was a challenge but we have found a solution to it. Some members thought they could just walk in and make demands under the name, ‘shareholder’, without following proper channels. But through stakeholder engagement, we have sorted that out.
Q: How does your background play into the dedication that you have showed here at Nam-mic?
A: I think my background plays an important role in that. I appreciate where I come from, how I was groomed. I am indebted to my parents because living in a corrugated house growing up in the ghettos you learn to set some targets for yourself not to go back from where you came from and to make a difference in the lives of others. I think only then can we honestly say we have done our part. Also, coming from a human resources background has helped. Human resource is my automate qualification and then I had an opportunity by being the executive HR for bank Windhoek and obviously with the broad based partnership with the unions, the bank asked me, because of my expertise and my relationship with the unions to go and lead the business to transform and here we stand.
Q: Whats the one thing you want people to remember you for?
A: Just to remember me as a plain simple Khomasdal boikie.
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