by Stephanie Pillay

Foreword

Focus on governance and transformation

Stephanie_3 (1).jpg

My introduction to the role of Acting CEO of the Financial Planning Institute of Southern Africa (FPI) has been nothing short of a baptism by fire. However, the trials and tribulations that I have encountered before in my life prepared me for today. I am a 35-year-old female executive, who was diagnosed with parotid cancer in 2014.

With the help of God, oncologists, family and friends, I am now thankfully in remission. I had applied for a few prominent positions prior to this. The irony seemed incongruous – ill health and a soaring career. However, the failing forward principle is what I live by. I chose to believe in my God-given ability to rise and this trumped the arduous journey of infirmity.

I had to contend with an unplanned spike in my treatment and medical expenses. Consulting with a financial planner saved my financial position and my family's standard of living during this life-threatening situation. I remained determined to learn about the financial planning industry. This then propelled me to study my MBA, which is ongoing. I had learned that I wanted to aid others, just as my financial planner supported me. Financial success is often a paradox. Our financial decisions affect our family and our family decisions affect our finance. Each day, I wake up with the drive and perseverance, knowing that I can make a difference in people’s lives.

Financial planning is a vital service that I believe should be accessed by the majority of South Africans, not a privileged few. In the last three months I have been at the helm of FPI, our organisation has been in the rebuilding phase after its integrity was called into question following a second wave of fraudulent activity in our Examination Division. The exam fraud has highlighted gaps in our governance processes and policies and, as a consequence, the FPI Board felt it necessary to voluntarily withdraw the institute’s status as a regulatory exam administrator in order to maintain the integrity of the exams and protect the interests of the candidates. This travesty highlighted one thing: we are all facing challenges in our environments and organisations (professional bodies and associations). Our experiences are not unique and isolated. We are not alone. Together, we have the power to inspire, connect and deliver on new opportunities and rich experiences that can open doors to innovation and progress while growing global economies and increasing well-being. Our contribution to the Financial Planning and the Financial Planning Services Industry purely depends on our consciousness and our willingness to support those in need, to show vulnerability and accept the support of others, to share without expecting the credit, to give it our all and allow our hard work to decide the outcome, and to understand that control can only be achieved with a shared responsibility.

As a female in a male-driven industry, I also dedicate my time to promoting gender transformation, which is an area of our industry that requires attention.

To combat this, we need a complete paradigm shift which starts in our homes – as parents, teachers and mentors of sons who need to learn from a young age that women are certainly not the fairer sex in a weaker or condescending context. At a corporate level we need to sow a culture of equality from top down. I believe in a confident resilient approach in which women don’t find themselves in dark corners but continue to excel in equality.

Stephanie Pillay, Acting CEO, FPI

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