A chartered accountant is on a mission to create healthy relationships between entrepreneurs and banks.
Zimkhitha Zatu said that having to counsel some of her entrepreneur clients, after banks denied them loans as they did not meet certain minimum requirements, ignited her drive to create a bridge between the two.
The clients took strain when they were refused funding and it hit her hard too.
So when Standard Bank offered her a job in November last year as head of Edge, she had no reason to turn it down. It was the catalyst for the bridge she wanted to create.
“When this was presented to me by Funeka Montjane who is the chief executive: personal and banking services, I understood exactly what it would mean to a person who is an accountant and is trying to get funding for entrepreneurs.
“I’m an accountant by profession and I’m also an entrepreneur. Standard Bank was looking for somebody with that particular background to take the bank to the next level in dealing with entrepreneurs,” she said.
“I had to accept it. I’ve worked with entrepreneurs who the banks would normally not look at.
“I’ve knocked at the doors of a few banks that turned down my entrepreneurs’ requests for business assistance.
“Getting simple things like the collateral requirements are not going to set up your normal small business,” Zatu said.
When Montjane made the offer, Zatu related her past experiences with the banks and her clients. “Motjane just looked at me and said ‘well here is a project and it could make accountants’ lives easier as they are trying to help entrepreneurs’.”
Zatu qualified as an accountant in 2008, after completing undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Wits University.
Having worked at KPMG as an audit supervisor immediately after doing her articles, she joined the firm’s transaction services unit.
Zatu said her most notable appointment was in 2008 as a business analyst for the Industrial Development Corporation.
She was later promoted to accounts manager in the metals, transport and machinery products department. Here she led due diligence teams and participated in steel manufacturing deals mainly in the automotive and engineering sector across the continent.
In 2012, she joined PPC as a financial manager for the RSA cement business and later became an executive manager.
“One of the best jobs I’ve ever had was at IDC. It introduced me into the world of entrepreneurship and actually made me a good entrepreneur,” Zatu said.
But her first love was the manufacturing business. “I was obsessed by it. So when I left PPC, I decided to go on my own for two years. Which I did. In those two years, I started my own manufacturing business with a friend.
“I had hoped to remain in that business for a long time. The Edge offer came as a shock to everybody. My family even asked me what was I doing because I hated banking.
“But because I knew the frustrations of being an entrepreneur and battling to raise funds, I accepted the offer. I saw it as a game-changer,” Zatu said.
Her job entails providing business banking services to entrepreneurs and their accountants on a 24-hour basis through Standard Bank’s digital media platform.
She sees entrepreneurs as the pulse of the economy and says they’ve been most unappreciated when it comes to banking offers.
“Edge is a first of its kind in the South African banking industry. To date, no other bank has been able to offer this kind of engagement model,” added Zatu.
Her appointment in 2017 came with the responsibility of implementing and launching the new proposition for accountants and their entrepreneurs.
“There was a project team that I found has been part of the development phase. I was also part of the recruitment of the main team. We are now integrating them into the bank.
“I think Standard Bank was very deliberate in choosing non-bankers to be in the team.
“They made a decision to say most of the team will be made up of non-bankers because they did not want people with preconceived ideas.
“The bank wanted to start afresh and do this properly,” she said.
Zatu added: “I’m always looking for opportunities that open doors for other people. There is a bigger reason than myself to do it. So that’s what guides me.
“I might not necessarily enjoy everything that I’m doing at every given point, but if it’s got a bigger purpose then I’m fully committed to it.”
Written by Constance Gaanakgomo