Marlé van der Walt appointed Specialist Bank CFO at Investec

Marlé's is the eighth women to be appointed to the Investec Group Management Forum team.

On International Women’s Day, Investec has announced the appointment of Marlé van der Walt as Specialist Bank CFO. Marlé’s appointment is part of Investec’s strategy to partner with women who are on their way to the top of their careers. 

The private bank also appointed Devina Maharaj as the head of Digital SA, bringing the number of women represented in the team to eight divisional heads in the Investec Group Management Forum (GMF) SA. 

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Marlé started her articles with PwC in Durban in 1999, after doing Academic Articles (lecturing) at the University of Stellenbosch for a year. She did a regulatory audit on a new client (BOE Bank at the time). “That got me into Financial Services and made me a Banking regulations expert,” she said.

In her second year with PwC, the audit manager left. Just over a year later, BOE acquired a listed entity on the JSE doing unsecured lending and approached her to become the CFO for the business. She was 26 at the time. 

“It turned out that it was quite a struggling business, which landed me my first ‘turnaround’ CFO role. I remember the person who appointed me said: ‘I am sorry Marlé, we sold you a lemon’, to which I responded: ‘Don’t worry, I am putting on my CV that six months here equals two years’ experience.’” 

Nedbank acquired BOE three months after they “lived through the run on the bank”. They turned the unsecured lending business around in three years. 

Marlé also picked up the risk role for the division in this time and during the Nedbank restructure was offered the role as CFO: Nedbank Retail Banking Services. She was then 29. 

Barclays offered her a role setting up the technical audit function at their newly acquired subsidiary, Absa. This involved giving assurance over risk, finance, compliance and especially the new advanced Basel models that they were implementing at the time. It involved building an entirely new team of specialists from the ground up.

In 2010 she joined Investec as the chief internal auditor, where she was responsible for designing and driving new standardised methodologies and systems globally. 

For the past six years she was the CFO for Private Bank, while simultaneously leading the Basel IRB programme. 

“I love being part of transforming businesses. I thrive on change and have the ambition and energy to drive business forward. It is extremely rewarding to see the transition,” Marlé said. 

When we asked her about her vision for the new appointment, Marlé said: 

“Investec recently held a Capital Markets Day, where we announced our three-year targets. We have a great franchise and an even better business. My vision is to make sure we deliver the goals we have set and exceed them. Having been involved in many business growth stories, I will play an active and influential role in strategic decision-making, analysis, measurement and reporting in reaching these targets.” 

We asked her how she felt about being a woman executive in a typically man's world. She said:

“Having served in leadership roles and on executive committees from a very young age, I have never felt that I was treated differently to men. Maybe I was too naïve to realise it when I started. I always received a lot of respect, acknowledgement and encouragement from my male counterparts. However, to this day, I still count the number of women and people of colour when I walk into a meeting room. I think that when it comes to issues of diversity (gender and race), I have a responsibility to speak out with passion and energy to ensure the minority voice is heard. 

“I’d like to share the story of how Investec recruited me while I was pregnant with twins. At the time, I was a mom of three kids under the age of two years old – my son and twin girls are 20 months apart. My first interview was five days before the twins were born and Investec then met with me at my home three times after the twins were born to conduct further interviews.”