Leading the way

Itumeleng Monale, recently appointed Chief Operating Officer of the JSE, on the direction the bourse is taking and her role in the journey ahead

Leading the way

Q: How has your career prepared you for the COO position?
A: My work career began in management consulting, which developed my skills in strategy development and business transformation, and honed my work ethic, analytical acumen and exposure to senior, board-level people. Strategy consulting led me to financial services, where I have spent the past 17 years. The common thread throughout all my career positions is characterised by two main themes, namely establishing capabilities that did not previously exist and incubating these until they can be run as integrated business-as-usual functions; and taking something that already exists, re-imagining its future state, and then implementing it.

Q: What is the function of the COO at the JSE?
A: The COO portfolio has two main clusters of capabilities. The first is business operations, which comprises trading activities as well as the JSE’s client service centre. The second is made up of strategic functions, including group strategy; client experience; the sustainability portfolio; and the public policy and regulatory advisory team. Considering the capabilities of these teams, it is evident that they are collectively charged to execute on our clients’ needs of today; to keep them trading and happy, while also assisting the JSE to usher in a sustainable future for the benefit of our markets and all stakeholders. This means future-proofing the exchange and ensuring we have the right capabilities to take us forward in a market that is fast-evolving on all fronts.

Q: Why is the JSE a good fit for you, and how does your experience benefit JSE clients and colleagues?
A: Culture and values are of paramount importance to me. The JSE’s culture resonates with my personal values, which is why I’m thrilled to join a company that is well established with a great legacy, and flat enough to be nimble and evolve with changing times. I enjoy seeing great ideas being realised and observing the tangible outcomes thereof being experienced in our customers’ environments. I believe that my repackaged knowledge, especially from a digital, retail, data and strategy perspective, will benefit the JSE when it is partnered with the deep financial market infrastructure knowledge of my highly skilled and experienced colleagues.

Q: What are your immediate priorities for the balance of this year?
A: A huge, immediate focus is to grow and establish a thriving retail-investor segment. Our existing market structure and value chain has not historically made it as easy for the ‘man in the street’ to invest in securities. We recognise the growing retail-investor market and its need for a healthy, trustworthy and thriving ecosystem that allows investors to seamlessly access financial markets. We agree that our value chain has, to date, been better geared for institutional investors. This is something we are determined to address – not in competition but rather together with the financial-markets ecosystem. Each party in this value chain plays a valuable role. We believe that, collaboratively, we can improve access for current retail investors, and also grow the market in totality.

We intend to address issues of access as well as financial education, and will also look into solving prohibitive challenges, an example of which could be cost. The growing number of members of the public being defrauded though investment scams shows us that we have an important role to play in providing a trusted avenue for personal wealth creation. This market also presents an opportunity that is very exciting for us, not just on the back of the surge in retail investing in other parts of the globe but, more importantly, because it offers a credible avenue for long-term wealth creation for our people. Supporting the national agenda is one of our key objectives. If we can enhance every person’s understanding of financial instruments and elevate the financial literacy and acumen of our citizens, all the trusted institutions in our financial system will also benefit, and our markets will continue to thrive and be a credible funding destination.

Q: What role will the COO play in positioning the JSE as a leading stock exchange?
A: This function clearly plays a meaningful role in achieving those outcomes, but equally so too do the other divisional roles. This is an integrated system and all the functions together (product, data, clearing and settlement, IT, risk, regulatory, finance, HR and marketing) are what will achieve efficiency, transformational change and the elevated stature of our bourse globally. If one part is left out, the rest cannot achieve these aspirations, and no one part on its own will do it.

Q: What is your long-term vision for the bourse?
A: I visualise helping to enable a JSE that our clients are proud to do business with, and that our stakeholders continue to support enthusiastically. This, at the brass-tacks level, means we need to be as efficient as possible, enhance our operational processes to world-class standards, minimise errors and provide value to our clients. Necessarily, this entrenches the need to build and integrate new capabilities that will allow us to evolve as the markets do.

To support the longevity and integrity of our markets, we will continue to advocate for the most fair and enabling policy environment and participate in shaping it as necessary by lending whatever expertise is needed for the greater good. As the JSE, we have the privilege of being a trusted cog in this ecosystem and can utilise our role as a force for good, the success of which is achievable if we can innovate and introduce new offerings seamlessly into the market while not jeopardising our mandate.

By Kerry Dimmer