Navigating the cutthroat world of banking
This week, The Big Interview features Obonye Malope, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) Marketing and Communications Director.
In this candid chat with Voice reporter Lame Modise, the bubbly, self-proclaimed ‘Brand Navigator’ unpacks her life both personally and professionally and speaks about her strengths and aspirations for the future.
Q. Please introduce yourself to our readers?
A. I’m Obonye, an honest, loyal and energetic person who loves travelling.
In fact, I’m always planning my next trip! I’ve recently started my Leadership MBA with the African Leadership University as I’ve developed an interest in African development and leadership.
When it comes to the corporate world, I like to refer to myself as a brand navigator.
Q. What is a ‘brand navigator’ and how does the term relate to your position?
A. The brand is a ship and my role is to know where it’s going, plan how to take it forward and make sure we get there.
I also advise the ‘captain’ being the CEO of any impediments and handle communications with all the ‘sailors’ being my colleagues and other ‘ships’ along the journey.
Q. When did you know you wanted to be in Marketing and Communications?
A. I didn’t set out for a career in Marketing and Communications; in fact, I had pretty much made up my mind to pursue a career in film production in high school.
So, when it came to considering university, that’s what I focused on.
That’s until I met the then consultant on the project that led to the formation of Btv, Mr. Hunt.
He had a wealth of knowledge and guided me when looking for schools.
From interacting with him, I learned about the exciting world of TV and changed to study how to run radio and TV stations.
I learned how to programme, content production, including live news as well as advertising sales.
I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. As an afterthought, I took a minor in Online Marketing,that’s when I started to learn all about seo (search engine optimization) and how it helps businesses to become much successful.
It’s funny now that my minor is now my career path!
This was mainly because when I returned home, Btv had not set up for what I studied, which was operating 100% in a commercial environment.
Q. So what did you do?
A. Btv did not quite work out although I still wanted to try media, so my first job was as Sales Executive at Gabz FM, thanks to Sidney ‘DJ SID’ Baitsile and Shombi Ellis.
Unfortunately I only lasted two months, as I left to join Barclays Bank as a Prestige Banker.
Q. From Radio to Banking, what motivated the leap?
A. The move was motivated by wanting stability.
I was in Banking for about three-and-a-half years with my last role as Branch Manager, before moving to Mascom Wireless, which is where I started my career in marketing.
I started off as a Brand Activations Officer, which meant directly taking products and services to the people, something I enjoyed.
After two years, I moved onto being the Communications Strategy Officer, which involved managing the media contracts and looking for better value for money when it came to media placements.
I got to know a lot about the media landscape, from Radio to Print and outdoor.
I only did the role for a few months before becoming the Brand and Communications Manager, which I did for five years and left to join FNBB and have been here since.
I’m responsible for Marketing & Communications, as well as being an Administrator for the FNBB Foundation.
Q. Wow, that sounds like an adventurous career journey! So, how long have you been with FNBB?
A. I’ve now been in Marketing & Communications for over 10 years, but it doesn’t feel that way mainly due to changing roles throughout and adding new components like Brand Sponsorships, PR and Digital.
Q. How did you make sure you reached the top?
A. I think for me, not focusing on trying to rise to the top worked in my favour.
Q. How’s that?
A. My focus was mostly on learning, growing and above all pushing myself to be better every single time.
I also don’t shy away from new experiences and have always tried to do more for any organisation I’ve worked for.
I think it goes back to how it was mandatory for us to do community service, sports and at least one recreational activity in high school.
For example, I’ve set up internal publications in jobs where I had nothing to do with internal communications, organised pan-bank competitions when I was a Branch Manager.
Q. So, getting involved in all these projects helped you grow?
A. Absolutely! That willingness to participate led to me learning a lot through the process – and often what I earned was applicable to whatever job I had.
I also work hard and I am passionate about the brands I work for.
That’s what makes work quite enjoyable.
Q. You were previously in the telecommunications industry, why did you move to banking?
A. After seven years, I wanted to test myself, to see whether I could have the same levels of success in brand management in a different environment.
I believe I’ve grown so much more than if I hadn’t made the move.
Q. What does a Marketing and Communications Director do on a normal day?
A. My portfolio entails managing three brands, being FNB, RMB and WesBank, which are vastly different.
So, my primary role is ensuring that these three brands are well represented in Botswana, whether it’s in the media, online or in person, say in our Branches or ATMs.
A large part of my role is also advising the business on how to better interact with clients, and where need be to respond to what we see in the market.
My day starts before I even get to the office.
I wake up around 5:30 a.m. and normally do a bit of reading – that sets the tone for my day.
Driving to the office is the time I use to reflect on where I’d like to see us go as a business, a core part of being in Marketing & Communications.
Q. What happens once you get to the office?
A. Once I get to the office, its mostly a mix of giving guidance to my team on what they’re currently working on, be it advertising campaigns, events or sponsorships, signing off on go-to-market strategies, meeting with colleagues, guiding the business on responses to customer and market issues as well as engaging potential partners.
Q. What kind of challenges did you encounter while climbing the corporate ladder?
A. I think I have been blessed not to see challenges beyond the actual experience of them – or I quickly get over them, but none come to mind.
Q. What is your opinion about the Banking Sector in Botswana?
A. Banking has transformed since I entered the sector in 2000.
I believe that in a lot of ways my previous industry Telecommunications and Banking have come much closer together.
The digital platforms have revolutionised the customer experience, I can’t even remember life before eWallet or online banking.
Of course, the challenge remains extending the transformation to every service experience a customer has, as well as developing more solutions that directly address customer needs in Botswana.
I believe every player in this industry is working towards that, and ultimately the customer benefits.
Q. What would you say to a young Motswana who sees themselves in your shoes one day?
A. I’d say try to learn and derive joy along the way, the time goes by so fast and sometimes you lose sight of where you are and never get to enjoy the different experiences.