The drag of the commute to Sandton, the preferred neighbourhood of Johannesburg’s bankers, lawyers and consultants, has me on edge. I then get horribly lost in the maze of blocks and parking lots of Nedbank’s head office and start to panic. I can’t be late. Ciko Thomas, managing executive of retail and business banking, only has two hours available for lunch. It would have been less if our meeting wasn’t in the executive dining room around the corner from his office. His division takes care of the infrastructure needed to service 8-million clients — through 600 branches, 3,500 ATMs and 21,000 employees — for their transactional banking, credit cards, loans and vehicle financing. When I reach my destination I am met with a boisterous greeting from a sociable character, the opposite of what you’d expect from a banker, and my nerves are immediately put at ease. We connect over small, silly things: the buzz from our morning coffee binge to my lack of direction. After we are shown to our...

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