MONEY HABITS

How bank executive learnt the hard way about budgeting

Servicing clients helps her nurture her own money journey, says Standard Bank's Thandi Ngwane

Thandi Ngwane had to learn early in her life to overcome financial constraints, a valuable money lesson that would help her understand the value of budgeting your way to the top.

Thandi Ngwane, head of investments at Standard Bank, has come to learn that there are no risk-free investments, just better managed risk. Picture: SUPPLIED
Thandi Ngwane, head of investments at Standard Bank, has come to learn that there are no risk-free investments, just better managed risk. Picture: SUPPLIED

Talk about money was taboo in her household and despite the lack of any formal money  management skills, her mother practically budgeted her into university.

Thandi Ngwane, head of investments at Standard Bank, says she had to learn early in her life to overcome financial constraints, a valuable money lesson that would help her understand the value of budgeting your way into leading a successful life.  

Speaking to Money in our Money Habits series, Ngwane says her first money lesson came after losing her father at an early age. “Money was never spoken of in my family. Being raised by a single mom after my father passed on, we knew money was scarce, but it was seldom spoken about,” she recalls.

She says in hindsight, although her mother did not have any formal knowledge of money management and budgeting, she practiced those habits - perhaps out of necessity - and valued the importance of saving for the future. This discipline enabled Ngwane to attend university.

Ngwane grew up in Glenwood, Durban where she attended Carmel College from primary school through to matric. She obtained a Bachelor of Social Science, majoring in political science and legal studies, from the University of Natal before obtaining a postgraduate qualification at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. 

After qualifying as an attorney, Ngwane joined a legal practice for a short while before moving over to Allan Gray as a legal adviser in 2008. 

Time is the essential ingredient that allows your investment to grow and allows the power of compounding to kick in.
Thandi Ngwane, head of investments at Standard Bank

“It was during this time that I gained exposure to financial services and, more specifically, personal finance.

"The time spent providing legal advice on retirement, estate and investment planning gave me tremendous insight into personal finance matters,” she says.

After an 11-year stint at Allan Gray, she left the firm as head of strategic markets earlier this year, but not before she added the Certified Financial Planner® designation to her name.

Ngwane says her own money experiences have been both good and bad, with owning her own home, having built a small property portfolio and her consistency in saving for retirement counting among her best moves. 

Preserving her retirement savings over the years and continuing to make contributions over and above her occupational retirement fund has also been an important discipline in taking care of her future needs, she adds. 

“My worst investment decision was being in a Worldwide Property Fund for an extended period at precisely the wrong time,” she says with regret. 

Ngwane says she is continuously learning about ways to grow and preserve her wealth and her lightbulb moment was when she grasped the fundamental difference between saving and investing, with investing being what creates wealth over the long term. 

“Time is the essential ingredient that allows your investment to grow and allows the power of compounding to kick in.”

She has also come to learn that there are no risk-free investments, just better managed risk and that returns do not come in a straight line but there will be periods of under-performance and out-performance.

Ngwane says the best gift young people can give themselves when investing is time. She advises you start where you are and what you can afford to kickstart your journey to financial freedom. 

Ngwane says her current role requires her to continue looking after the consumer’s best interest - ensuring that the bank’s investment solutions meet clients’ needs, but also that they take into account the voice of  clients when they develop new products and fee structures. 

She explains that as long as she finds new ways to service consumers and their personal financial needs, she is also growing in her own personal finance journey to wealth creation. 

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