Improving Your Financial Future

Comprehensive Financial Planning Strategies For Every Stage Of Your Life And/Or Business

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Nedbank Financial Planning (NFP) recognises that balance is about maintaining the lifestyle you work hard for while ensuring your future is financially secure, which is why they offer you comprehensive financial planning strategies for every stage of your life and/or business

With services that include general financial planning, estate planning, as well as wills and trusts, NFP’s clients are at the centre of everything they do. They work with each individual client to develop their personal roadmap to financial prosperity suited to both their current needs and future goals and provide practical solutions to help them live their lives now and in the future. And they deliver a world-class, customer-centric experience that creates an enriched, lifelong relationship, with a plan for life.

“My role is to lead our well-established national footprint that comprises internal and external financial planning teams, and partnerships with leading investment, insurance and wealth management service providers, enabling a collaboration that will help our clients today and realise their vision for the future through our experience and expertise,” explains Sonto Lemeko, the Head of Nedbank Financial Planning Alternative Distribution.

“We believe that money, if used wisely, really can change lives. And part of this insight of seeing money differently is acknowledging both its inherent potential and meeting a growing expectation that society—particularly the millennial demographic—and companies should be proactive about doing good and creating a better future for us all. As a team of financial planners, we have a responsibility to play our part and I am excited and privileged to be able to leverage this potential,” she enthuses.

A beneficial partnership

Last year, Nedbank Financial Planning became a strategic FPI Corporate PartnerTM of the Financial Planning Institute of Southern Africa (FPI).

According to Lemeko, this partnership exists because Nedbank Financial Planning’s vision is to be the most admired and trusted financial planning business, which aligns with the FPI’s mission to advance and develop financial planner professionals while acting in the best interest of society.

“At NFP, our focus is on ensuring that we partner with a range of clients to meet their changing needs with value-adding advisory services that empower them to meet their goals and aspirations. To ensure that clients receive professional, quality and holistic, financial advice, we continuously invest in a range of initiatives to support planners to fulfil this vital role.

“The institute is committed to widening the financial planning net in South Africa and this partnership fell well within our strategy of ensuring that we continue to improve access to highly-qualified financial planning professionals for all South Africans,” she says.

The keys to sound financial planning in 2018

Lemeko stresses that basic financial planning principles begin with budgeting and it is important to live within your means and to have something in reserve for unexpected emergencies. And, of course, you need to stick to your planned budget.

“Maintain a healthy balance sheet. Avoid any unnecessary interest-bearing debt where possible. On a personal level, invest in self-development in order to increase your earning potential. From a business perspective, find other cost-effective, innovative ways of doing business in order to develop different income streams and increase your business revenue.

“Have a financial plan and review it regularly as your financial goals and circumstances change,” she explains, adding that the biggest mistake one can make is not to have a plan.

“You end up investing with no objectives and no idea of time horizons. You are also more likely to make emotive decisions that tend to undermine wealth creation. One has to have a cool head when you make money decisions,” she says.

Saving for your child’s education

According to Lemeko, the cost of education continues to outpace inflation. She advises that parents need to very carefully consider the costs and benefits of private schooling versus public schooling as well as tertiary education.

“Start saving early, either before the child is born or as soon as the child is born. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have plenty of time to save.

“Take advantage of the power of compound interest, as this can truly make a positive long-term impact on the growth of your savings. Look at the time required to save, calculate what the costs will be (taking into account inflation) and then put together a plan.

“Consider which type of investment vehicle would be best. There are great options out there, including tax-free investments, and a wide range of unit trusts,” she explains.

Additionally, she says to plan for unexpected events, such as death or disability.

“While nobody wants to think about this, imagine the peace of mind that accompanies knowing that your children and/or grandchildren will be taken care of, regardless of whether you are around or physically able to work,” she adds.

The impact of technology

These days, technological advances not only provide easy access to information, which Lemeko believes is a huge benefit, but they have also resulted in lower costs for consumers.

“The world is a much smaller place, thanks to technology, and it is easy to access the benefits of both local and international markets from an investment point of view. It also forces us to be globally competitive as a service provider,” she says.

From a customer perspective, she says there is an expectation that a financial services provider will offer a digital experience.

“At Nedbank Financial Planning, we believe in the power of offering our customers face to face and non-face to face advice and service.

”We also see the continued technological evolution in financial planning advice and service delivery,” Lemeko says.

Women’s empowerment

In terms of whether or not women’s empowerment is taking place at a good pace, Lemeko says, “Women are empowered when they can equitably participate in, contribute to and benefit from the economic opportunities, whether as consumers of goods and services, investors, entrepreneurs or workers.

“I do not believe that this is happening fast enough. Women play a vital role in financing family and community needs. They should be empowered by being given access to resources and digital financial services and should be given employment/entrepreneurial opportunities based on merit, skills, abilities and capabilities,” she says.

“There has been an improvement in the number of women studying commerce undergraduate degrees but even so, we still see very few continuing to a postgraduate level. Around one-tenth of the universities’ Master’s students in finance are women. A recurring theme from many female industry veterans is the need for courage in a largely male-dominated field, despite increasing evidence that diversity is not only beneficial but necessary,” she adds.

An inspirational leader

Sonto Lemeko holds a Master’s degree (MBA) from Henley Business School (UK). She completed a leadership programme with Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), an undergraduate BCom degree in Business Management and Economics at Vaal University of Technology and she has other industry-related qualifications.

She started her career at EDCON and has fulfilled various roles in the financial services sector.

“It was a big decision and a brave move for me to give up a salaried job for a commission-based career when I joined the financial planning industry,” she reflects.

Lemeko joined Nedbank in 2007 as a Financial Planner. She was then promoted to a Regional Manager role due to her leadership qualities.

“With the Fintech move in the financial services environment, there was a need to relook at our business strategy. In 2014, I became the Head of Alternative Distribution to establish and innovate the Nedbank Financial Planning advice and service delivery through digitisation.

“I was also tasked with a massive responsibility of setting up a business unit that focuses primarily on the upper mass-market model to drive the strategic initiative to ensure the penetration of this untapped market,” she says.

During her tenure, she has built strong financial planner management teams and a business, which is well-positioned to grow into the future and be sustainable.

Lemeko believes having a strong foundation in finance and economics—combined with digital literacy—definitely gave her a competitive advantage.

“This basis provides the technical knowledge you need in our industry. But being open to the power of potential ideas has definitely come from learning about how systems and digital developments enable one to leapfrog traditional obstacles to future success. I try to combine business acumen with creativity,” she explains.

In terms of what she admires most in a leader, Lemeko says a leader must be vision-led.

“You need to offer thought leadership, be forward-thinking and act with integrity. Communication skills are important, which requires empathy,” she says.

Her role and the nature of her work environment requires intellectual agility. She often needs to think on her feet and make quick decisions.

“If things are not working according to the intended purpose, I must recognise the need to make changes to bring about efficiencies. Optimism is essential, especially when you’re building a business. As with any other new innovation, the journey of building the Alternate Channel has not been an easy one. It was important for me to face challenges, remain optimistic and be positive, especially when projects hit the inevitable snags. And finally, emotional intelligence is as important as intellectual ability to achieve business success,” she concludes. 

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