Being A People Person During Social Isolation

"We’ve proven to be a resilient and resourceful world that will work together when we’re faced with a common enemy."

What’s your role within Sasfin?

I am Head of Group Credit, and I’m responsible for all credit granting, monitoring and management for all loans and advances across Sasfin Holdings group.

Describe your qualifications and career up to now?

I have a BCom Honours in Accounting from UJ, and then did my CA and HDip Tax Law, followed by a Senior Management Programme (SMP) at Wits, a Global Executive Development Programme (GEDP) through GIBS, and Transition to General Management (TGM) at INSEAD in France. After completing my articles at Ernst & Young, I worked at Absa and Nedbank in various credit roles before joining Sasfin two and a half years ago. My areas of expertise include corporate & investment banking credit, business banking credit and asset finance – incorporating specialised equipment credit and rental equipment credit.

What is your greatest personal challenge during the COVD-19 lockdown?

Some of my family and friends are in complete lockdown with limited or no ability to continue with work, due to the nature of their businesses. I’m very concerned about those that run small business and don’t know if they will survive this crisis.

And your current career challenges during the lockdown?

I’m an extrovert who needs to interact personally with people to operate at my best. I prefer interacting face-to-face, preferably with a whiteboard where I can demonstrate my thinking, or using actual financial statements that I can read and interrogate. I have a number of friends and confidantes at the office and seeking their advice when dealing with business or personal challenges is invaluable. These quality conversations and interactions become very difficult when you’re staring at a screen instead. The impact of Covid-19 has been most felt in our lending business, as clients experience cash flow challenges and try to navigate the complete unknown.

Trying to remain calm, while at the same time operating in a black swan event, is a big challenge. We’re very blessed to work in an organisation that has a powerful human touch, and where our CEO is very strong on written and spoken communication. This has helped us all immensely during these very stressful working conditions.

Name one practical thing that has been helpful to you over this time.

My family have been incredibly understanding of the fact that I am “locked up” in my office for 12 hours a day. They have made meals and ensured that the house remains clean and that we have sufficient food to eat. My daughter’s dog has also decided to keep me company all the time (and be very distracting occasionally!). Without this support it would have been very difficult for me to operate.


Which three pieces of advice would you give to others as they live through this unprecedented global crisis?


  • Breathe: Realise that this will present you with the most incredible opportunity to learn and grow, both personally and in business.
  • Change: Nothing should automatically go back to the “way we used to do it”. We have just proved that we can work differently, we can behave differently, and that we can collaborate with parties we may have not considered working with before.   
  • Appreciate: This includes everything from who in your life really matters, to what nature really sounds and smells like when there are no cars or humans polluting the world.

How do you think that the lockdown will affect the South African financial services sector?

I think it’s going to be devastating to the small business sector. Those businesses that do not have huge cash reserves, do not qualify for massive facilities from banks, and whose owners don’t have unlimited resources to inject capital into them are unlikely to survive. Some of these will be saved through the intervention of responsible bankers, some will be saved with private equity investments, and some might be acquired by larger corporates. However there will be many opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs to participate in new ventures after Covid-19, with many old fashioned businesses ceasing to be relevant.

The financial services industry will experience a significant deterioration in credit risk and credit losses in the short term. But I also think that the industry can take this chance to improve the way we lend and invest, and to learn how to take responsible risks. It’s time for us to understand the businesses we’re lending to better, instead of just looking at the numbers. Those businesses that have a good quality management team and operate in a sustainable segment deserve our financial support.

What do you hope will change within the financial services industry, and the wider world, once we come out of it?

I believe we’ve been given an incredible opportunity to reflect on the way we do business, the way we interact with other people and not least, the impact we have on nature. We’ve proven to be a resilient and resourceful world that will work together when we’re faced with a common enemy. Wars and personal agendas have made way for cooperation, assistance and support, while the impact of our lockdown on nature has been clear for all to see. My biggest fear is that we forget what we saw, experienced and learnt, and that we go back to our old way of behaving.

About the Author

Magda Oosthuysen
Head: Group Credit, Sasfin Holdings

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