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Khanyi Nzukuma

Khanyi Nzukuma: Empowering Lives Through Financial Wisdom

Bridging the Gap Between Psychology and Wealth Creation in a 25-Year Career Span!

In the pursuit of understanding and helping people, one often finds unexpected paths. What if the road from teaching to financial services held the key to empowering individuals and families toward a brighter financial future?

This question, posed by Khanyi Nzukuma, Chief Executive of Glacier by Sanlam, encapsulates his profound journey from a dedicated teacher to a seasoned executive in the financial services sector. With over 25 years of experience, he has not only navigated the intricate landscape of finance but has also championed the cause of educating individuals on wealth creation.

Khanyi’s professional odyssey commenced in 1992 when he stepped into the role of a teacher, armed with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Rhodes University. Driven by a deep-seated desire to understand and assist people, his career naturally transitioned into the financial realm. From his early days as a financial adviser at Sanlam, he ascended through various junior and senior management roles, laying the foundation for his impactful leadership.

In 2008, he took a significant leap, joining MMI Holdings. His journey at MMI saw him at the helm of Metropolitan Life and later as the CEO of Momentum Life. However, the call to return to his roots beckoned, and in January 2018, Khanyi rejoined Sanlam as the CEO of Glacier, the company’s retail investment administration arm.

His academic pursuits mirror his commitment to continuous learning and excellence. Alongside his bachelor’s degree, he earned an MBA from Potchefstroom University and a Doctor of Psychology degree from the University of Johannesburg.

Below are the interview highlights:

Could you please elaborate on Glacier by Sanlam and its inception story?

Glacier by Sanlam was created 26 years ago by Sanlam as a wealth management and investment administration business for middle to affluent clients. Our key focus is client administration and client reporting. Through financial advisors, Glacier provides investment solutions targeted towards clients who are creating wealth and those in retirement.

Our vision is to assist clients in creating and preserving wealth. Through a comprehensive selection of investment solutions and with the help of our intermediaries, we enable clients to achieve financial confidence now and for generations to come.

As a wholly owned subsidiary of Sanlam, Glacier has its roots in Sanlam’s purpose, which is to create sustainable value for all its stakeholders. We are proud of the role Sanlam plays and the contribution it makes to a stable financial system in Africa and beyond, and we support its commitment to advancing financial resilience, well-being, prosperity, and inclusion.

How would you describe your leadership style, and what values do you prioritize in leading a team?

The role of a CEO is to lead the co-creation of a strategy, the execution of a strategy, resource mobilization, and creating a culture that is conducive to strategy delivery. My leadership style is founded on a combination of collaborative empowerment and visionary guidance. I believe in fostering an environment where every team member feels empowered to contribute their unique strengths while working towards a shared goal. Transparency, open communication, and trust are pivotal in my approach. I prioritize creating a culture of respect where ideas are valued regardless of hierarchy and diverse perspectives are embraced.

In terms of values, I place a high emphasis on integrity, accountability, and innovation. Integrity forms the foundation of all actions and decisions, ensuring that our endeavors are ethically sound and aligned with our core principles. Accountability is crucial—taking responsibility for both successes and setbacks is key to fostering a culture of growth and learning.

I also encourage a culture of continuous innovation and learning. Embracing change and exploring new ideas drives our ability to adapt and thrive in an ever-evolving landscape. These values collectively serve as guiding principles in steering our team toward success, fostering an environment where individuals feel supported and motivated to excel.

Can you share a memorable success story or accomplishment during your tenure as CEO that you are particularly proud of?

Glacier has always been an innovative company geared towards growth and ensuring we remain a sustainable business despite a challenging economic environment.

Early on in my tenure, we strategically identified an opportunity for consolidation in our market segment, which had been brought about by a stagnant economy. In our continuous pursuit of opportunities to grow our client base and broaden our offering, on 1 March 2023, Glacier took full responsibility for the operations of the AFICA group (Alexforbes), and on 1 November 2023, Glacier concluded the merger with Absa’s Market-Linked Investment Service Provider business, solidifying Glacier as a leading LISP business in South Africa, with about R580bn in assets under administration (Glacier LISP, Glacier Life, and the two acquired businesses).

We have also significantly grown Glacier Invest, our discretionary fund manager, which we partner with the multi-managers at Sanlam Investments on, and currently have R76bn in assets under management.

How do you foster a positive and inclusive workplace culture within your organization?

Ensuring the organization is focused on a higher purpose, mission, and vision is critical. The next task is to ensure the purpose of each employee is aligned with the purpose of the organization. Communication is the glue that keeps everyone updated on the journey.

What are the key challenges you face in your industry, and how do you approach overcoming them?

Modernization and transformation in technology play a pivotal role in the success and growth of investment platforms, not only in terms of enhancing the client experience but also in allowing for scalability. Over the long term, streamlined processes and improved efficiency can lead to cost savings for investment platforms. To this end, we are on a continuous journey of improvement in both our technology for service and our technology for experience. Equally important, it allows us to construct investment solutions and products that can meet clients’ required investment outcomes easily and efficiently.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has had and will continue to have a profound impact on all facets of our society. The 21st century has been dubbed the digital era, or the fourth industrial revolution, and AI is the pinnacle of this time. Glacier has the benefit of being able to innovate collective investment solutions such as the Glacier AI Flexible Fund of Funds through Glacier Management Company, a registered manager of collective investments. The Fund turned five this year and is the first of its kind on the South African Collective Investment Schemes (CIS) landscape, having fully adopted artificial intelligence (AI) for active management of underlying exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and being managed by an AI engine without any human interference. The Fund has brought novelty and uniqueness to the South African asset management industry.

How do you balance innovation with the need for stability and consistency in your business strategies?

Business-as-usual strategies ensure short-term profit motives are met, while an organization needs to innovate for the future to ensure it is future-fit. The main challenge is to ensure resources are managed very well across the different project streams.

In your opinion, what are the most critical skills or qualities for a leader in today’s rapidly changing business landscape?

Markets evolve, technologies advance, and consumer preferences shift. Being agile in business is crucial for leaders. Agile leaders are able to respond quickly to these changes, adjusting strategies and operations to remain competitive. In today’s dynamic business landscape, agility allows leaders to navigate uncertainty and change effectively, positioning their organizations for sustainable success.

How do you personally invest in your continuous learning and professional development?

I believe in a holistic balance of life in terms of physical and mental wellness. I am an avid reader, especially in leadership, finance, and business material. I also attend various industry conferences as well as benchmark operating models locally and offshore.

Beyond professional achievements, what personal values or experiences do you believe have contributed to your success as a CEO?

Regarding personal values, authenticity has been the biggest value driver for me. Being authentic enables a leader to be trusted, consistent, and dependable. Next to that value is humility and genuinely caring about people around you. As leaders, we win because of our teams; therefore, it should be a no-brainer that the most engaged, focused, and passionate team will win. The leader is largely responsible for creating this winning culture through authenticity, humility, and support for the team.