As the Head of SME Lending and Strategic Alliances at Sasfin, Meagan Rabé knows a thing or two about discovering and following your passions. A lawyer by trade, Meagan first moved into banking in a legal role, but soon discovered that she could make a meaningful difference in the lives of far more South Africans through banking solutions.
“Life doesn’t happen the way you plan,” she says. “We often end up in situations we didn’t think of – the key is knowing how to make the most of every opportunity that presents itself.”
For Meagan, that opening came during a particularly difficult family legal case. “I was in the process of removing people from an abusive home, but court files were missing, and everything was in disarray. And then a friend told me about a legal position at a bank. On any other day I doubt I would have said yes, but I was struggling with not being able to help people and I wanted to explore what other avenues were open to me.”
That exploration led Meagan to something entirely unexpected – a way to make a real, exponential, on-the-ground difference to South Africans.
Making a meaningful impact
“I was working with a number of retailers in South Africa on finding innovative solutions to manage their international trade and in particular their forex positions. The solution was to invest in local clothing manufacturing through finance and business acumen. It triggered a passion in me to find avenues to support small business in South Africa and in so building and supporting our economy and our people.
“We were working with these incredible, ambitious women who couldn’t get finance but who never gave up or stopped hustling. They needed business acumen support and finance that would close the gap between manufacturing and deployment so that they could pay salaries and purchase raw materials. With the right solutions, we changed their businesses, their lives, and they became employers, which transformed their local communities and economy.”
From that moment, Meagan knew where she could make the impact she’d always been looking for. “It is the most rewarding thing in the world to extend credit to a small business and then watch them grow their business and create jobs. That look in their eyes is priceless.”
It’s this meaningful impact that keeps Meagan and her family in South Africa as well. “Where in the world can you make such a big impact and drive societal change as much as you can in South Africa? We all have an opportunity to build a better country and future. Business lending, coupled with the support structures and financial literacy that small businesses need is my tool to leverage and drive this. Through Sasfin, it’s a privilege to have found not only the platform that supports this, but to be working within a business and a team that is consistently and aggressively looking for solutions to help small businesses support them. When you help one business, you create employment. It’s an exponential multiplier.”
Real solutions that understand the realities of SMEs
Meagan’s passion was amplified by Covid-19. “Covid pulled the rug out from under SMEs. We implemented payment holidays, but we knew we needed to do more.”
With enough passion, there is always a solution to be found. Towards the end of 2020 Sasfin obtained a R390 million funding line, as well as a R600 million portfolio guarantee facility (NASIRA) from FMO, the Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank, to provide loans to women, youth and Covid-19 impacted businesses and empower South African entrepreneurs to build a better world. Sasfin is the first bank in the world to receive the NASIRA guarantee provided by the European Union.
“To support SMEs during Covid, we’ve relooked and relaxed our credit policy to back growing businesses even further than we have in the past.” On a personal level, Meagan also coaches small businesses, which not only gives her an opportunity to support business owners through advice, mentorship and financial literacy, but gives her important access and insights into the realities of running a small business, and the type of support that business owners need.
“Financial literacy is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for many businesses, and so right now my biggest ambition is to develop non-financial tools that help small business owners become bigger business owners – employers who can start solving our high unemployment rate, profitable businesses that contribute meaningfully to our economy and society.
“We’re also looking at what it means specifically to be a female entrepreneur and asking ourselves how we develop a women-led strategy that understands that many female business owners are juggling the business with their home lives and being a mother, and that often women wait to be invited to the table, instead of realizing that the seat is there, they just need to take it.
“As a mother and wife, I love the fact that I am working mom and feel very blessed to have the opportunity to do both, even if it means trying to keep many balls in the air. I am raising a little boy who I hope is learning that a person needs to contribute to society and constantly look for ways to drive change for the better for the people around you. In this context, I’m focusing on my community, the colleagues I work with, the teams that report to me, as well as South Africa as a whole.”