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Executive Education

Lolly Nedbank
Lolly Nedbank

Nedbank and INSEAD: Reaching a Greater Purpose

Lolly Gwabavu

Group Head: Leadership Development at Nedbank

It is important that as a leader, you can do so in a way where your team will look forward to coming to work each day. The nuances of how this is done change at all the different levels of leadership, from the leader of a business all the way to the CEO of the company.

Since 2019, South African Nedbank has been working with INSEAD to deliver learning and development for the top leaders throughout their organisation.

Lolly Gwabavu, Group Head: Leadership Development at Nedbank, gives us an inside view into how the role of leadership development fits into the bank’s bigger objectives, and how the partnership with INSEAD is helping them on their journey of purpose.


Can you give us a brief introduction about what you do at Nedbank?
I head up leadership development for the Nedbank Group, which consists of around 30,000 employees. In my role, I am responsible for coming up with leadership development solutions for all the leaders across the entire bank.

In my team, we seek to identify capabilities that are lacking, or which can be further developed in our leaders, and then we will design appropriate learning and development solutions for them to attain these capabilities.


How do you see your role contributing to the company’s overall vision?
At Nedbank, we have a clear purpose and that is to use our financial expertise to do good for individuals, families, businesses and society.

This is really quite a big calling and for us to achieve this we will need leaders at the front who are driving the agendas, and planning, not just for today, but for the long-term future on how we can build a better tomorrow.

For example, in South Africa, one of the big challenges we face is energy. As a bank, we actually have the power to impact some of the decisions such as whether to go the renewables route by financing solar projects or some other sustainable projects.

So, when you think about the impact that our leaders have in driving the organisation to achieve its purpose, it just shows how important it is to equip our leaders with the necessary skillsets to make decisions. Knowing that I am a part of this whole process gives me a big sense of satisfaction in what I do.


What is the work culture that Nedbank is trying to achieve?
We want our employees to describe Nedbank as a great place to work, to learn and to grow. I believe that putting learning at the centre of it all is quite a powerful statement.

So even though someone might join the bank for a particular role, we want them to feel that there are opportunities for growth, and that there is something that is always going to be engaging them.

I think that at our core as human beings, we want to realise the potential that is within us. To know what is the best that we can be and how we can achieve that.


Can you share about some of the learning and development strategies that Nedbank has in place?
One of the big things that we have recently committed to is to shift away from looking at learning as just acquiring competencies and skills, and instead focus on developing capabilities. Because it’s not just the knowledge, but the tools, the systems and the mindsets that will help our leaders to deliver.

As part of our learning framework, we also segment our learning groups according to their particular areas of expertise. This enables them to pick up the specific critical capabilities required for their role. It is important that learning is contextualised, because people need to be able to learn in a way that makes sense to them.

In terms of learning style, we are also taking on a more experiential and immersive approach, using simulations and putting people on projects, so that the learning becomes more practical for them.


How do you segment your learning and development for different levels of leaders?
At Nedbank, we approach learning at the individual, team and organisational level. Using the stratified systems theory approach, we recognise the different skills, focus and values that are required at the different levels of leadership.

It is very different for an individual contributor versus a leader who is managing and leading other people. They are no longer just accountable for the work but also for the delivery by the team.

It is also important that as a leader, you can do so in a way where your team will look forward to coming to work each day. The nuances of how this is done change at all the different levels of leadership, from the leader of a business all the way to the CEO of the company.

We deliver learning for these different tiers of leaders both through our own Nedbank Academy, as well as with external learning institutions such as INSEAD.


How did the partnership with INSEAD come about?
Back in 2019, we were reviewing our leadership development architecture, and we came across a piece of research about how engaging external learning providers was one of the ways that organisations could consider developing the desired qualities in their leaders.

So, we did some further research, and realised that INSEAD was one such institution that could meet all our learning requirements.

This was how we first got to work together with INSEAD formally. But I must say that since the partnership began, many of our senior executives have acted as strong advocates for INSEAD, because whenever there is a programme on offer, we always have more applicants than seats available.


How has the feedback been like for participants of the INSEAD programmes?
So far, the feedback has been very positive, and people are describing the impact of the programme as life-changing.

Just being in a room with so many diverse and heavyweight professionals, participants of the INSEAD programme say that they were forced to open up their minds and dig deeper in terms of their own self-awareness about their leadership styles.


Any example of how INSEAD’s executive programmes have helped Nedbank’s employees to better perform their tasks?
One of our leaders from the retail business banking side who attended the Transition to General Management programme shared about how the experience gave her a new perspective on her role as a leader.

Coming from a small town in South Africa, and being the only African female in the group, she realised how far she had come in standing side by side with the best in the business. This gave her a newfound appreciation for how she could use her role as a leader to inspire other people in the bank to reach greater heights.


What’s next for the partnership with INSEAD?
Right now, we have opened up the INSEAD executive programmes to our top two tiers of leaders – the C-suites and the ones just below. Through our experience, we find that there is just something about the exposure, the networks and the faculty that gives our leaders a learning experience that just can’t be easily replicated anywhere else.

So perhaps in future, we can also consider customising a programme that can include more levels of our staff.