How FD Rupesh Govan has navigated a career in banking

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Having worked hard to qualify as a CA(SA), Rupesh Govan’s career took him into the banking industry and around the world. Now Investec’s FD, he reflects on how he got to be the leader he is today.

Even though Rupesh Govan grew up loving numbers, it was fortuitous that he decided to become a CA, because he didn’t have the chance to shadow accountants in school. “Back then we did not have the job shadowing that is currently available at high schools – which, by the way, I think is a fantastic initiative for the current students. They should all make the most of this experience,” he says.

But Rupesh found his way to his dream career, and in January 1997 he became an article clerk at EY.

Qualifying as a CA took “a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and it really left me with a great sense of accomplishment once it was done,” says Rupesh.

“I did articles across various sectors and various industries, which was great,” he explains. “I was also fortunate to have attended various executive international development programmes – which entailed immersions in China, London, Nigeria, Dubai, and Brazil. This provided me with a global perspective on various matters and the importance of developing and continuously maintaining your own personal brand.”

He later became an audit manager for the firm and worked in Arkansas in the US for a while before returning to South Africa to join Standard Bank in 2003.

Rupesh explains that he is thrilled to be involved in the banking industry, because of the role it plays in the broader community.

“We really have the ability to be involved in every major aspect of an individual’s life, starting from providing loans for education, financing your first car and home, as well as various insurance and investment policies for when you have kids and then retire.”

At Standard Bank, for his initial seven-year stint, he spent most of his time leading the home loans finance team. “My time in home loans was during the 2008 financial crisis and I spent a lot of time with the treasury team. Due to this crisis, liquidity premiums increased sharply, which had a massive impact on the business profitability,” he says.

Because of the vast amount of time he had spent with the asset and liability management (ALM) team during his time in home loans, he moved into the ALM function in 2009. “The treasury function is the heart of the bank; it’s a place to be if you really want to understand how a bank works. It’s an exciting, interesting and complex environment – where I learnt tremendously. Some of those basic principles I still apply in my current role.”

After this time at Standard Bank, he spent four years at Peregrine Financial Services, honing his risk management experience before returning to the blue bank. He was appointed to the position of CFO of the bank’s wealth unit in 2016, where he managed South Africa, the rest of Africa, and the UK, including the Channel Islands. “It was great, because it had three very distinct and different businesses that were operating across multiple geographies, bringing with it its own complexities and challenges.”

This is where his ability to tell stories came into play.

“You know, you really have to master the art of storytelling, because you're talking about the results of different businesses across different geographies.”

Moving to Investec, where he currently is, came next. He has been the company’s FD for 18 months, and finds it to be a dynamic, entrepreneurial and relationship-driven company with great leaders who have an unwavering commitment to innovation, a client-centric approach, cast iron integrity and a strong sense of purpose and culture.


Fulfilling business

All his experiences have helped Rupesh become a more authentic leader. “Being an authentic leader is extremely important to me, and something that I have consciously worked hard at, and continue to do.”

He leads through a combination of a relaxed, yet focused servant leadership style and tries to get to know his colleagues as best as possible. “People are extremely important, and I believe that when someone is personally and professionally fulfilled, they are more effective.”

In his spare time, Rupesh enjoys the outdoors and travelling with his wife and two teenagers. “It’s a great way to spend quality time with your family and gives us time to bond and create lasting memories.” He also runs to relax, and enjoys watching English football.

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