Msibi says uniquely South African constraints include access to technology, and the fact that it really isn’t that cut and dried for people to get finance online. PICTURE: Freddy Mavunda
Msibi says uniquely South African constraints include access to technology, and the fact that it really isn’t that cut and dried for people to get finance online. PICTURE: Freddy Mavunda

WesBank, First Rand’s subsidiary and the country’s leading vehicle finance provider, recently announced changes at its top structure. Ghana Msibi, former Executive Head: Sales and Marketing, has been appointed Executive Head of Motor, reporting to WesBank CEO Chris de Kock.

Soweto-born Msibi (36) joined WesBank in 2015 and has held various senior positions within the bank’s motor division. He personifies a new wave of management transformation that sees younger, more street-smart minds being brought forward to steer well-established conglomerates like WesBank into the future. Phuti Mpyane sat down with him for a tête-à-tête.

Phuti Mpyane: Congratulations on your appointment. What exactly does it entail to be Head of Motor?

Ghana Msibi: Thank you. WesBank is just like any other business. It has many functions and divisions. Information technology is one, sales and marketing another, human resources, risk, etc. In my old role I looked after the sales and marketing side. In that sphere we have distribution, digital and marketing campaigns. In my new role I’m CEO of WesBank’s motor business and look after all other pieces that make up this business. This includes IT, credit, governance and a few others.

PM: Is this not running the entire WesBank, in a nutshell? 

GM: (laughs) I run the Motor business which is 90% of the company. The other 10% is taken up by corporate.

PM: The official communication mentions how you will support OEMs and dealers. How are you going to offer assistance?

GM: This is about strategic alignment for the future. At the very least, we have to ask ourselves about the direction we are taking WesBank in the next five years. Where do we take this organisation in this changing environment? What will WesBank be known for in future? It’s a well known fact that I came to a well established, deeply entrenched business. Having said this, its relevance in future is not necessarily guaranteed. We can’t afford a Kodak moment. This is about reinventing the business with our longstanding partnerships with OEMs, dealers and the public in mind.

PM: Beyond the digital revolution, where is WesBank’s core business headed to?

GM: Customer engagement is in sharp focus now.  Our relationship management with clients will now be subjected to a digital architecture and thus we intensely understand and seek to exploit the digital revolution, the immediacy and its strong data gathering opportunities to give us deeper insight into buying trends, lifestyle needs of customers, OEMs and dealers for us to enhance the experience in this ecosystem. We are also very aware that vehicle ownership has sentimental value and thus we are now looking beyond that first act of seeking finance to buy a vehicle. We are pursuing new ways to station WesBank into the full cycle of the modern vehicle ownership journey.

PM: Please give us a practical example of this intent. 

GM: The protocols for individuals who seek to buy a car and require finance have long been modernised. That’s a given. Efforts to seek opportunities and spaces within the ownership cycle continue while sharpening what we already have, which is access. The power is now in the consumer’s hand, so to speak.

They have online repayment calculators and applications at their disposal, however the process is still quite fragmented. We’ve got to find symmetry in that space using the data we have collected to align it for a customer to have a more superior experience, not only about the state of their finances, but to enable more awareness of what they can or cannot qualify for. We need to eliminate any uncertainty in their money management and as a financier we must strive to have the infrastructure to allow us to leverage this technology for seamless, hassle-free administration, from application to collection of desired car, to ownership and offloading.

PM: What are some of challenges that you face in this new quest?   

GM: First, we have to acknowledge uniquely South African constraints, like access to technology and the fact that it really isn’t that cut and dried for people to get finance online. You must also understand that some of the data sets at our disposal aren’t necessarily reflective of the actual consumer themselves because they could very well have relied on tech savvy individuals like offspring to engage with us.   

And then there is the ill health of the economy, volatility of currencies, dwindling affordability and many other dynamics that add their two cents’ worth into the difficulty. We must be flexible enough to reply to these challenges and changes in consumerism and access to mobility, which we must never take for granted.

In my view the last creative step created by the industry was the introduction of balloon payments and because this aspect is no longer standardised we are seeing more tailored, importantly customer-led rather than institutionalised financing solutions coming up. Not everyone wants a 72-month tag. Some customers don’t want to own a car but instead want to lease. Some people want to rent a car. It’s about revolutionising how finance is done while taking cognisance of sustainability measures for both business and industry.

PM: With the advent of disruptive advances like car sharing, does this not pose a threat to WesBank’s core business?

GM: Of course it does, in sense that we may be in a situation where we don’t finance as many of these cars from a retail perspective; however, those shared assets will still be financed. The avenues to do business will exist in this space, albeit at a reduced scale. Also consider that the car-sharing scheme will affect the quality and longevity of these assets, which will depreciate quicker thanks to multiple user dynamics and distances travelled. Beyond these trials we must appreciate our country’s dynamic variances and be honest about our readiness to welcome some of these rapid innovations.