Meet Nthabeleng Likotsi, South Africa’s first woman to own a Mutual Bank (Pictures)

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Nthabeleng Likotsi is South Africa’s first woman to own a Mutual Bank, after being approved by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).

She holds a Masters in Entrepreneurship and New Venture Creation from Wits Business School. She is the founder of the co-operative – Young Women in Business Network (YWBN).

Likotsi started YWBN in 2009 and in 2015 she decided to register the company as a financial institution.

On the 9th of March 2021, YWBN was given a license to become a Mutual Bank and now have 12 months to officially open their doors to the general public.

“I believed I could, I STARTED. I believed ordinary Africans will support my vision, THEY DID. It took us 4+ years but who was counting anyway. Together we got approved for the First Women-Owned Bank in the history of South Africa. WE DID IT!” said the jubilant Nthabeleng Likotsi.

From 1 June 2021, YWBN Mutual Bank will have different types of shares to offer to the public depending on affordability.

“From June, we will have different types of shares to offer to different people depending on affordability,” she said.

The Mutual Bank is mainly digital, it will be available as an app on cell phones and it won’t have branches as it is not a commercial bank, but will have offices across South Africa.

Speaking to Business Report Online, she said she proposed to the Reserve Bank that the bank be majority-owned by South Africans.

Likotsi’s mutual bank is digital, it will be available as an app on cell phones and she won’t have branches as it is not a commercial bank.

She said while the bank was currently called YWBN, she was not sure if the name would be changed or not and that the bank offered two products: savings, and business loans.

“We save R1100 for five years. For loans, if you have a tender then we will fund you for up to R360 000.”

She said she planned to have offices around the country.

“We have our offices in Edenvale, Johannesburg, but we plan to expand, and it won’t be a brick and mortar business,” she said.

She said the Reserve Bank had given her 12 months to set up the bank before she can officially launch it to the public.

Likotsi said her drive to own a bank was to have a financial institution that represented women.

“In SA, black women, especially in the financial sector, are marginalised, we are not represented in senior executive positions so this is a big deal, the financial sector is male-dominated, it’s a ’boys’ club’.

“From ownership, senior executive management to lower management the majority in the mutual bank are black women, this is for transformation purposes in the sector.”

Likotsi said acquiring the licence was a four-year journey. “It was extremely difficult to get the licence! There are stringent requirements, which is understandable because the role of the reserve bank is to ensure you are not going to be a fly by night, that you know your story.”

She said she encountered a lot of challenges when she wanted to start the bank. Since she was starting a mutual bank, people would associate her with the notorious VBS mutual bank.

VBS mutual bank is a black-owned financial institution, its mandate was initially to operate as an investment scheme to encourage and help communities to invest. Years later it was discovered that billions had been siphoned out of the bank.

“Thank God we were able to overcome that, people understand that these things happen, it’s not just VBS. Other banks have failed before. We can’t carry the cross for other people forever. We need to be evaluated on our own merits,” she said.

“Our merit says we have five clean audits ever since we have been operational. We have been reporting profits for the past five years. We are carrying our cross and ours is lighter.”

Likotsi said she started YWBN in 2009 and in 2015 she decided to register the company as a financial institution.

She said to open a financial institution one needs to have a minimum number of 200 members and R100 000. She said for her institution, the number grew to 540 shareholders.

“The legislation did not allow us to offer our products to people who were not members of YWBN, but with the licence, this can be achieved,” she said.

According to IoL, she said the initial shareholders are the ones who are currently making decisions for the bank. She said once the bank has been launched, all shareholders will be part of the decision-making. One of the decisions is whether she will continue being CEO of the bank.

Nthabeleng Likotsi said the biggest lesson she has learned is when you want to start something just do it.

“Even when naysayers said it can’t be done, I started. I believed that not everybody is going to support me, I also understood that there will be people who support me. I followed the process,” she said.

“Stay in the process as long as you believe in what you are doing, stay in the process because the process will bear fruit,” she added.

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