During the recent Talent Agenda Series organised by the Global Career Company, African Business spoke to four financiers about their businesses, their talent strategy and how this is changing in a fast evolving landscape. Below are edited excerpts.
In our final series of human talent roundtables, our meeting in South Africa looked at the challenges and changes of the financial services sector. With operations outside their borders, the panellists also highlighted the opportunities of greater regional integration and a pan-African mindset in business.
Facilitator: We've got three entrepreneurs here and each operating a different type of business model across multiple countries. It would be interesting to understand why they went solo, what sort of skills they required when they created their businesses and the types of business models that they have adopted to grow their businesses. Jonathan, you mentioned that you are looking for a specific type of skill set. So, someone obviously with financial knowledge, and that expertise but maybe also something a little bit different to be able to succeed in a company like Fieldstone and the countries that you operate in.
Jonathan Berman: We're not your traditional bank, which means essentially, we don't take deposits, we don't underwrite securities. We principally give advice and structure transaction. We focus particularly on energy and infrastructure, which means that a large proportion of our work is across different countries in the continent and involves raising capital from countries, not just in the continent, but around the world.
So, it means we operate in a very multicultural environment. The nature of our work means we also spend substantial time working on project development. We are financiers but we are not sitting in a financial office. We will be working very closely with engineers, with lawyers, increasingly with environmentalists and other professional niches. So, we need to know how to work with them as well.
I spent nearly 18 years with RBS and Deutsche Bank before I moved to an independent business. My two senior colleagues in Fieldstone Africa also trained with major organisations; one was a big-four chartered accountant and then at Standard Bank. Another one was an engineer who worked for Exxon Mobil before joining Nedbank, and also worked for the public sector. So, we all come out of large fairly structured organisations and yet we are not necessarily recruiting people out of them.
We particularly want to recruit young people. They need to have good financial education and training. But it may well be that we take those who worked in different smaller fields and want to be trained by us. It's partly, I think, a reflection of the fact that big banks have got very bureaucratic and compliance oriented. Sometimes what we see is people coming out of big banks who have the intelligence, agility, cultural sensitivity and a variety of skills but are looking for more flexibility, which makes a business like ours more attractive.
Derek, you operate a very unique business model as well. Ultimately, when I look at entrepreneurship, it's about disrupting or offering a service that the bigger institutions and the big players in the market are not necessarily offering. Can you tell us a little bit about your business and the skills that you're looking for? And also, the model that you are adopting--you called it the cooperative model--in terms of finding partners in different countries that you are operating in and trusting those partners to develop your business.
Derek Crandon: I think that there is a common thread in what Jonathan talked about. The requirements to become more governance orientated, more focused on the compliance side of things that's created a space for entrepreneurial businesses to exist.
We have chosen a space which is traditionally occupied by larger banks. We have our own capital and we take decisions based on our own risk models, so when we do projects, we are in 100%. We are not in on an advisory capacity. So, the type of people we look for are people who transferred out of the big corporate organisation and are looking to do transactions in a less confined space. We allow them to work at a significantly higher pace.
Our cooperative model [with partners in the...