Speech by Ms. Funeka Montjane, Chief Executive: Personal and Business Banking Standard Bank of South Africa delivered at the 2013 Nat Nakasa & Wrottesley Award Dinner hosted by Sanef
Good evening ladies and gentlemen
And Award Finalists
It is my great honor to open this evening’s proceedings
The Nat Nakasa awards ceremony is, of course, one of the most prestigious events in the media calendar.
It is a time to honor the best of South Africa’s journalists for the immensely hard and skilled work they put in every day to keep us informed and empowered. This work is done with dedication, integrity, courage and at least over the past few years, with decreasing resources
Tonight’s finalists epitomize an excellence that would have made Nat Nakasa proud. Nat Nakasa dedicated his tragically short life to breaking down boundaries. To pioneering new ways for creativity to find expression, to insisting that the truth can, must and shall be told.
He vigorously defended the right of all journalists to bravely, interrogate, analyze and publish without fear or abuse. Generations of South African writers have remained true to this ideal
It wasn’t easy – It’s still not easy
The people in this room should take pride in the fact that they are custodians of Nat Nakasa’s legacy
You carry forward the unshakable belief in the dignity and equality of all people
You are the inheritors of his steely determination to use his skill as a writer and journalist to advance those high ideals, however dark the times, however appalling the odds
We have come a long way.
As we have seen yet again this year, our media remain the essential tool of creating an informed and empowered public
Closest to my heart is the essential role you play in holding business and government accountable. You are perhaps the most effective check on abuses of power.
This year we once again consumed high quality and brave work that keep those of us in business and government closer to the promises we have made to the citizens of this country.
How will you guard this national treasure?
In the world of busy people, instant news, fiercely competing agendas, insane demands on the journalist’ times, who has to deal with deadlines and still be expected by us to have deep insight into hundreds of pages of policy documents and regulations such as Basel 3.
How will you guard this national treasure?
The threat I would like to explore to this national treasure is the one within your world.
The great inconsistency that we experience as the public is the capturing of truth by the media is perhaps one of its understated threats.
It dulls the blade. It can provide a place to hide to unintended consequences within complex structures, even worse it can be the hiding place of those that deserve being exposed
Permit me to illustrate my point with two examples
As a leadership team of a bank with over 11 million personal and business customers, we invest billions of rands each year in systems, processes and people to make sure we keep our promises.
We spend most of our time establishing not just a commercial contract, but we establish an emotional contract with our employees to persuade them, individually take accountability for this promise.
We also invest the same effort to ensure that when things go wrong, we can fix them quickly.
We are also grateful that in worst cases of system breakdowns, you show us up. We have teams dedicated to listening to what you expose. This is deeply valuable to us.
Here is another side.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, you and I both know that Securitisation is not fraud.
The money, banks lend to customers is borrowed from South Africans in short term tranches.
To make the system safe we need longer term loans.
Those loans are only affordable if the lender has security.
Why does it matter that banks get cheaper funding. If it’s not affordable to the bank, it won’t be affordable to customers, less people in homes.
Society as a whole looks to you to create an accurate and accessible picture of these complex and important issues.
I argue that so far, the opportunity to do so has been missed.
The opportunity has been missed to inform customers that if you paid back an extra R500 per month, you could pay back mortgage up to 7 years earlier.
That brings me to the second example: unsecured lending. Ladies and gentlemen of the press, you and I both know that banks are not Mashonisas.
We abide by very strict rules and regulations set by the National Credit Regular, SARB and National Treasury.
We do our best to lend to customers who have a good chance of paying us back.
There are cases of abuse that suck consumers into a debt trap.
It is however true that a Mrs Ndwandwe and Mr Maree need a loan to pay for a new kitchen, for education, and has no equity in his home to secure the debt. What must they do?
The headlines that draw no distinctions between rules bounds players and street corner players does not assist Mrs Ndwandwe and Mr Maree.
Here is the heart of what I am saying: your task, I think, is to constantly push back against conventional wisdom.
You are increasingly becoming all we as citizens have to keep those in power accountable.
Please look after this treasure.
Please ask questions, demand the detail, put more meat to the bones of a story
Ladies and gentlemen, congratulations to you all
I wish you an excellent evening.