Zimbabwean Bheki Sipithi's father worked to ensure people in rural Africa aren't excluded from financial services. Now a management consultant with Deloitte South Africa, Bheki believes that an MBA will help him carry on that mission, which is becoming more important now than ever before.
Bheki started out in auditing, but quickly found that management consulting was more rewarding. But the 27-year-old is also aware that to reach and uplift people in remote areas of Africa, who don't have traditional assets, financial services providers are going to need to think differently.
He says a top-notch MBA, and access to a strong network of alumni, will help him drive that change.
What are you looking to gain from an MBA?
I want to move into development finance, or some sort of enterprise that looks at minimizing financial exclusion. I think a problem we have with financial systems in Africa is that, to access the full breadth of services, you've got to be in a major city. If you're elsewhere, all you are certain to get is a bank account, maybe SMS banking at best, and all you use that bank account for is to get your salary and withdraw it.
My father used to work at a Zimbabwean bank called the PSB (formerly the Post Office Savings Bank). Their mandate was to research and provide financial services to the most remote and rural parts of the country. The bank was developed by leveraging off the network of the post office so people could get cash and make transactions. They're a state-owned entity and their mandate is still the same, to try and encourage financial inclusion as much as possible.
Their philosophy is to ask, where people who don't have traditional assets like a house or a car, but may have livestock or crops, ‘How can we as a financial institution take the view that what that person has is still an asset, so that that person can still access things like overdrafts, loan plans and educational financing?’
Which business schools are you applying for?
Primarily, my objective is to get into Oxford. The network is important, even if it's not necessarily to gain employment, it's to have a resource in that industry who can assist you in upcoming projects, or help you gain insight into something that's happening. That's why I specifically want Oxford, because I think they have a very strong MBA presence.
What has been the biggest challenge in the application process so far?
It's extremely difficult to put in the number of hours and dedication needed—as well the hours you need to succeed at your GMAT, prepare your applications, and attend networking events—alongside work. In the last project I had, I would have 6am meetings and work until 9pm, then study for two hours and prepare for the next day as well. But it's part of the process.
What's the best advice you've received in your career?
I worked with Linda Seroka on my first consulting project at Deloitte. There was a time when I didn't know if what I brought to the company had any value. She guided me and made sure I was in the right place. One of the best things she's ever told me was, ‘You can't hide talent’. If you are talented and work hard, regardless of what's happening around you, people will see it.