MONEY HABITS

Education is the ticket to financial freedom, says African Bank CEO Basani Maluleke

But preserving and respecting money is key

The South African banking sector’s first black woman CEO opens up to Money about the value of education and how money can buy everything, including respect.

Basani Maluleke, SA's first black female bank boss, is advocating for more leadership roles for women. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Basani Maluleke, SA's first black female bank boss, is advocating for more leadership roles for women. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

The South African banking sector’s first black woman CEO opens up to Money about the value of education and how money can buy everything, including respect.

Speaking to Money in our Money Habits series, African Bank chief executive officer Basani Maluleke recalls how people treated her family "with respect and envy”, all because they usually had a little disposable income for new clothes and her parents drove nice cars and so on, she says.

But money doesn’t fall from the sky and neither is it everything. Maluleke says the most valuable lessons her parents taught her were the value of a good education and respect for people. 

Her mother was a teacher, and her father a lawyer and businessman and through them she learnt from an early age that hard work pays off. 

“My father effectively worked two jobs – lawyer by day and shopkeeper by night. On weekends we either spent time at his law firm or at the family business, so we were all put to work from a young age,” Maluleke recalls.

Focusing on school and working at her father’s business, she learnt that to make money you needed to work hard to earn every cent. She also learnt to treat customers with dignity and respect. 

Maluleke says she was very fortunate that her parents placed education above all else. The avid runner with a Comrades under her belt grew up in Soshanguve, Pretoria and then later in Johannesburg. She completed most of her schooling years at St Andrew’s in Senderwood, a private school for girls, where she nurtured her love for learning. 

With her parents having taught her to care more about what money can do for your self-development rather than its material attraction, Maluleke remained steadfast on her education path, earning her BComm and LLB degrees from the University of Cape Town and following it up with an MBA. 

“Education was my best investment. Studying towards an MBA at the Kellogg School of Management in the US… that experience changed how I think of myself and the possibilities of what I can achieve. It broadened my horizons and enabled me to take more risks,” she says proudly.

Maluleke says the fact that her parents had the money for education meant the difference between the possibility of success later in life and the limiting career progress and social mobility that comes with a low-quality education - the difference between a life of dignity and one of hardship. 

This also set her up to respect the money she earned from working and how and with whom she spent it. Maluleke explains that money holds the risk of making you think you are better than others and thus becoming arrogant. 

Her work in the financial services sector where she is responsible for helping people make wiser financial decisions has further informed her personal relationship with money. She has chosen to continue to preserve and respect it for her future financial freedom. 

Maluleke has a decade of experience in the financial services sector, among others in corporate finance with Rand Merchant Bank and private banking as the head of FNB Private Clients. She says she took on the role at African Bank to improve people’s lives. 

“I enjoy retail banking because it can change people’s lives for the better. Financial institutions can be there to provide funding when people really need it. They can help people to protect their assets and provide for their loved ones through insurance. They can advance lives.” 

A firm believer in education, Maluleke gives back through Get me to Graduation, an NGO she founded to assist students who need financial support to live while they are studying. She is also a trustee of the Click Foundation, a distributor of an online solution teaching children to read. 

Her advice for young people is to start investing in their own education and then saving from the day they start working. She punts that saving is a learned behaviour that will serve you well throughout your life. 

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