The banking industry has undergone some pivotal changes in the past few years, but African Bank executive director Tami Sokutu says there is still a long way to go in getting South Africans adequately educated about financial services.
"I actually never studied economics, but this is where I found that I can do a very important job for the country, especially in the market that we cater for," he says.
"There are still a lot of people who don't know how to manage their finances or that certain financial products are available to them."
At the age of 43 Sokutu is quite young in relation to his meteoric though understated career in business and politics.
"My career in financial services has been short and only began in 2002 when I was appointed executive director of African Bank."
He was born in Mthatha in the village of Mqanduli, where he led the life of an ordinary Xhosa boy. In 1981 he entered his first year of tertiary education at the University of Cape Town, studying for a Bachelor of Science in Botany.
He eventually acquired a Masters degree in advanced plant systematics in 1992, despite disruptions from turbulent political activity.
"I, like many South Africans who grew up in rural areas, didn't have anything resembling vocational guidance," he says.
"There was no way for us to know what we wanted to do, but I held the view that post graduate education was something that opened doors for me."
Between 1994 and 2002, when his contract with government ended, Sokutu held various ANC and government positions, including head of Environmental Affairs and Tourism in Mpumalanga, chairman of the law reform committee for the national Water Affairs and Forestry Department and deputy director of the Department of Public Works.
Despite his departure from politics, Sokutu still believes he can make a difference in the lives of all South Africans through the muscle of the private sector.
"I now feel that the financial industry is the area where I can spur the growth of the South African economy, especially for the lower end of the market," he says.