Purpose-driven, determined and a role model for fellow black female CAs. Maseabi Marageni, Futuregrowth’s Head of Business Development, enjoys a candid conversation with Sindi Mabaso-Koyana.
Described by a colleague as purpose-driven, a disciplinarian, a role model and a mother (to all), Sindi Mabaso-Koyana has been a determined self-starter from a young age, seeing any bump in the road as a challenge to overcome and go on to thrive.
Growing up in a township in Durban with her brother and single working mother, she started school at four, matriculated at 16 and, as the top-performing student at her school and in the province, was awarded a scholarship to study at university.
Sindi entered the business world as one of the few female chartered accountants (CAs) in a male-dominated industry. She started in the public sector but eventually left when she started having concerns about corporate governance. She then teamed up with fellow CAs to set up the African Women Chartered Accountants (AWCA) non-profit organisation (NPO) and went on to set up and become a managing partner of AWCA Investment Holdings (AIH) to fund the NPO.
Sindi graduating as a CA
Certainly purpose driven, Sindi has found meaning in giving back to the community in which she grew up and, having experienced the challenges of becoming a female CA, has devoted herself to making it easier for young black women to choose this career path and flourish in their careers.
This year, after more than a year’s negotiations and financial structuring, AIH concluded a momentous BEE deal with Futuregrowth Asset Management, one in which both parties have experienced a meeting of minds and shared values: both are firmly committed to achieving genuine broad-based empowerment.
I talked to Sindi about her background, what motivates her and why she is so excited about AIH’s BEE partnership with Futuregrowth.
WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND?
Growing up in a township in Durban, our lives weren’t easy. My mother was a single working parent, which meant that she wasn’t around a lot and I had to become independent from an early age. When I was four, my mother asked me to go along with my brother to school because she didn’t have anyone to look after me at home. At the end of the year, I got my report and insisted on going on to the next grade, which meant I matriculated at 16.
During my matric year, I heard that the student who came top of the class would be given a bursary to study at university. I was not number one in our grade, more like number three or lower, but I was determined to get the bursary and studied as hard as I could that year - and ended up being the top performer in both my school and the province.
There were advantages and disadvantages to attending university at an early age. But I was committed to learning, took on the most difficult assignments and eventually qualified as a CA.
At 30, I joined Transnet, which was then a large conglomerate, with SAA as one of its subsidiaries. I enjoyed working in the public sector because, now that we had been given the opportunity to excel, we wanted to showcase black talent. It’s a pity that over the past 10 years the tide has turned so completely.
I then worked at Prasa but left abruptly because I had serious concerns about corporate governance. It was a blessing in disguise. After setting up a non-profit organisation (AWCA) in 2002 with fellow black women CAs, in 2008 we formed AIH, an investment holding company, to mobilise funding for the NPO because we saw BEE transactions were being done. We knew we weren’t just willing but had something to offer.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER?
My first, proudest moment was qualifying as a CA. It wasn’t easy and I had to persevere to get there. The second was when I was appointed Group CFO of Transnet at the age of 31 and the third was when I was appointed Deputy Audit Committee Chair of FIFA as part of the global football body’s governance reforms.
A more recent highlight (in March this year) was being invited to speak and teach at The Entrepreneurial School in Austria as part of their Distinguished Guest Lecture Series.
Sindi speaking at The Entrepreneurial School in Austria
WHAT WAS IMPORTANT TO YOU WHEN YOU SET UP AWCA?
AWCA was born out of our desire to see more black female CAs enter the profession. I also understood how difficult this was because I had experienced the same challenges on my journey. I didn’t know much about the profession and if I had not completed maths higher grade (against the advice of my teacher) I wouldn’t have been able to study towards a BCom Accounting degree.
I met three fellow women CAs and knew that I wanted to give back. But we didn’t know any young female CAs and needed to create a network. So we created AWCA in 2002, intending to identify and nurture black female talent.
What makes AIH so special is that, through our funding, we can meaningfully contribute to the lives of AWCA’s 2 000 members.
ARE YOU ACHIEVING THAT VISION?
I believe we are realising our vision and that the legacy we are building will last a long time.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO PARTNER WITH FUTUREGROWTH?
It’s critical to us that we work with partners that align with our vision. We’ve walked away from deals where that hasn’t been the case.
After setting up our private equity fund, we started to identify deals that were not only promising our required returns but we felt were also aligned with our values, of which Futuregrowth was one. A year later we concluded our BEE deal with Futuregrowth, which was structured as 60% debt and 40% equity and we funded the 40% equity contribution ourselves, satisfying Futuregrowth’s wish to see us demonstrate we had our skin in the game.
What we liked about Futuregrowth is that it is a leading asset manager, run by a solid team of leaders who stand for what is right and it ticks all the boxes when it comes to ESG, social development and financial upliftment. An added benefit to partnering with them is they will need finance and investment management skills and we have a pipeline of skills that can find a place there.
WHY IS PURPOSE SO IMPORTANT TO YOU?
I have always felt the need to identify what my value is in society, in my family and among colleagues. I experienced accountability at a very early age and my mother drove home how important it was to do something meaningful with your life. That drives my passion in everything I do. Knowing we have limited time in a day, I always ask myself: What did I do that matters today?
WHAT HOBBIES/INTERESTS IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE GIVE YOU THE MOST SATISFACTION AND WHY?
I love running, not to participate in races or compete but for my health and vitality, and to clear my mind. I wake up early at 4.30am and like to create a sacred space in which I can pray and meditate. I have always loved travelling and, over the past 15 years, I have visited an ashram in India several times as part of my spiritual journey. These activities ground me spiritually and have held me together even during some most difficult times in my life.