It is a little-known fact that Letsema and Letsema Consulting were born in the Financial Services (FS) sector, in a basement office at Hollard, where Isaac Shongwe delivered his first independent consulting engagement as far back as 1996. It has been a long and eventful journey since those early days, but throughout, Letsema’s underlying philosophy has been contributing meaningfully to the advancement of society by facilitating institutional success using our intellect, capital and challenging work.
It is no coincidence that several years ago Letsema adopted a strategy to refocus on the Financial Services sector. The industry is a substantial driver of economic growth and improved living standards. The World Economic Forum defines what the FS industry should provide to society:
- Promote financial and economic resilience
- Safeguard savings and the integrity of financial contracts
- Facilitate efficient allocation of capital to support economic growth
- Provide broad access to financial services products and services
- Enable smoothing of cash‑flows and consumption over time
- Enable payments
- Provide financial protection, risk transfer and diversification, and
- Provide effective markets
All of these are essential components for an effective, functioning society.
As Absa Corporate and Investment Banking co-CEOS, Temi Ofong and Mike Harvey, noted in an edition of the Financial Mail in 2018, “There can be no doubt of the transformative power of banking to contribute meaningfully in improving the lives of people, the prospects of institutions and the efficiency of government delivery. In many ways, Africa will the rest in banking innovation because it defies traditional banking models.”
Therefore, in seeking to use business as a catalyst for social change, the FS industry is a natural starting point.
Our strategy to refocus on the sector was necessary. Over the years as a company, Letsema had been pulled into addressing the pressing demands of other industries which hold equal social-valuable – transport, energy, infrastructure.
Consequently, Letsema now has extensive experience and capabilities in these industries which, combined with a superior consulting skillset and elevated level of institutional emotional intelligence, enable us to deliver on our values of excellence, integrity and authenticity. We needed to be courageous, to take on the development of a similarly excellent capability in the Financial Services sector.
Our approach to this has been two-pronged. First, we have invested in developing a core team of professional management consultants who consistently focus on our banking, insurance, development finance and investment management clients. Concurrently, we have built up extensive sector-relevant experience.
Second, we have sought to partner with professionals who are industry-leading experts in various technical niche areas within FS. This tactic has thus far yielded results. In the past few years, we have delivered projects according to the targets set by our FS clients and received overwhelmingly positive feedback on the results.
Consequently, the size and complexity of the work our clients are entrusting us with is growing as they recognise the excellence of our colleagues’ deliverables and the authenticity of our offering. An intentional consequence of this strategy, and the trust placed in us by our clients, is members of the FS team receive broad exposure to the inner working of the FS industry, often at the highest management levels.
This experience positions members of the Letsema family for life-long careers in the industry, and we have no doubt that many of them will be leading these influential banks and insurers in the not too distant future. Can there be any better catalyst for social change than injecting Letsema’s values at that level of influence?
It has been a rewarding start but as the great man after whom our boardroom is named said: “We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road.