Six months into her new role as CE of Standard Bank Wealth SA Peggy-Sue Khumalo shows no signs of being the new girl in class. According to Khumalo, her recent appointment feels quite the contrary. This is the homecoming moment of my career. Arguably the largest wealth management business in Africa spanning asset management, short and long term insurance, and servicing clients from across the spectrum from retail, to high net worth corporate and commercial clients, the scale and scope of Khumalo's stewardship is formidable.
She is undaunted by the assignment and her mission is clear. "Standard Bank has completely transformed and reinvented itself. It is now our responsibility to make sure that transformation and diversity not only happens at the top echelons but is infiltrated throughout the group. The balance sheet must look good at the end of the financial year, but I also have a broader purpose - to make sure that in the South African context we are able to redefine and create wealth in a manner that is inclusive."
This is not unfamiliar terrain for Khumalo, her resume attests to her adeptness at not only taking a seat at the table, but widening the space for all invited. During her tenure at Investec, Khumalo was credited with navigating the bank to new spaces through her unswerving quest to bring in new business "I pounded the pavement to bring in the new and made sure that when black business came through the door, we were able to unlock access to capital for them, particularly public sector and BEE financing."
So while it is evident that Khumalo has the resume and the technical competencies to assume the mantle of leadership in her new position, there are other equally potent factors in her arsenal. Her life, which began in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal, has provided Khumalo with a deep understanding of poverty, inequality and injustice. Long before obtaining her Masters in Economics from Manchester University in the United Kingdom, the University of Life had thoroughly schooled Khumalo on the harsh realities of being a "have-not".
Khumalo is the daughter of a woman who was denied access to education and forced into employment as a farm labourer at the tender age of 14. A woman willing to sacrifice everything to ensure young Peggy-Sue would not endure the same limitations and hardships in life. A woman, who to this day, is both the anchor and the moral compass guiding Khumalo's extraordinary trajectory. Every lesson is firmly embedded in Khumalo's memory bank, "My successes are mirrored by my mum's struggles. I am spiritually guided by the notion that to whom much is given, much is required. I carry that with me every single day." Perhaps, this is where the true seeds of wealth are planted. As she steps out in pursuit of her mission, Khumalo is reminded of the words of Maya Angelou, "I stand as one, but I come as 10,000."
This article first appeared in Lifestyle and Luxury South Africa.