New head of Standard Bank Wealth SA, Peggy-Sue Khumalo. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
New head of Standard Bank Wealth SA, Peggy-Sue Khumalo. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Standard Bank boasts in its radio advertising that it has the largest wealth management business in Africa. It is hard to disagree when you consider the extent of its distribution channels.

Financial advisers and planners sit in most of its larger branches. It has one of the leading private-client fund managers and stockbrokers in Melville Douglas, and one of the leading trust operations in SA.

And it owns Liberty, with its agency force and well-established broker network.

The new head of Standard Bank Wealth SA, Peggy-Sue Khumalo, took charge of this massive footprint in February. She worked for Investec for 17 years and was on the Investec SA executive committee for eight. Most of her career has been in corporate finance; this is her first exposure to retail clients.

"Investec has a strong wealth business, but the sheer scale of the Standard Bank operation makes it an exciting challenge," she says.

Outside the rarefied circles of investment banking, Khumalo might still be best known as the 1996 Miss SA. But she has done the hard yards, and not in the fluffy worlds of corporate affairs and human resources.

Khumalo started at Investec as a corporate fixed income analyst. She was part of the team which forced the Reserve Bank to change its inflation-targeting methodology. She then worked her way through the bank, taking over public sector and BEE financing in 2013.

Her entry into the financial world began with a conversation with Nelson Mandela.

"I was introduced to [then] Investec CEO Stephen Koseff when I was invited to Mandela’s house after I won Miss SA.

"I told Madiba that I was keen to go to university, and Investec sponsored my undergraduate degree in economics and political science and my master’s in economics, both at Manchester University in the UK."

This was not before Khumalo had been to the Miss World contest in India.

She finished in the top five in spite of a gaffe when she said that if she won the competition she would celebrate by slaughtering 10 cows. It was left to Mandela to explain to irate Indians that this was a firmly entrenched practice in African culture.

Khumalo was born 44 years ago to a single mother, a domestic worker in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal. They later moved to Springs on the East Rand and while she was working in a hair salon, a model scout got her to enter the prestigious Miss Ellerines competition. "I felt as though the world was opening up. One of the prizes was a television set, the first my mother and I had ever owned." Before that, as a girl, she would pay 2c to stare through a window at the only black and white TV in her area of the township.

Khumalo still spends much of her time and resources in rural communities. She has established a Peggy-Sue Khumalo honorary scholarship tied to CIDA City Campus for girls from rural areas, and works with charities including Little Eden, Seeds of Africa, the Teddy Bear Foundation and the Liliesleaf Trust.

It is quite a leap from these communities to the more elitist world of Standard Bank Wealth. "But I think we need a different definition of wealth which isn’t so tied into inherited wealth," she says.

"Wealth is not only about how many assets you have, it’s also about freedom, security, choice and being able to protect the things that matter to you."

She is married to radio personality Xolani Gwala. They have two girls, aged nine and three.