There were many options available when Zine Mshengu CA(SA) completed her articles and was not interested in venturing into a typical financial role, but rather opted for the regulatory space, which required further specialisation. Her choice has opened many doors for her, not only in terms of career progression, but also in building networks across the industry, both locally and internationally. Her current role is Divisional Head: Industry Technical Support at the South African Reserve Bank’s Prudential Authority (PA).
The primary mandate of the Prudential Authority (PA) is to promote and enhance the safety and soundness of financial institutions. For Zine Mshengu’s division, this entails implementing regulatory and supervisory frameworks for regulated institutions that ensure, for example, that they hold sufficient regulatory capital and guard against excessive risk-taking at the expense of depositors (in the case of banks) and policyholders (in the case of insurers).
‘We also stay very close to capital, accounting and auditing developments to ensure that our regulatory frameworks keep up with the latest developments in these areas to enable us to receive timely and decision-useful information in order to respond or intervene swiftly and appropriately when required. For example, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we introduced various relief measures to assist the banking sector (and consequently the wider economy) by relaxing some regulatory capital requirements in an effort to free up capital and support banks’ responsible lending to vulnerable sectors. We also provided guidance on the application of IFRS 9 to assist banks in ensuring that they remain compliant with accounting standards while providing relief to households and businesses, yet still adhering to regulatory requirements,’ says Zine.
Tell us more about your current role?
I lead the Industry Technical Support division which is part of the Policy, Statistics and Industry Support department. The division is responsible for technical guidance and policy formulation in relation to accounting, auditing and regulatory capital matters. This includes the approval of auditors for the PA’s regulated institutions. The division also conducts industry analysis of trends and risks pertaining to banks, insurers, mutual banks, cooperative banks, cooperative financial institutions and financial market infrastructures regulated and supervised by the Prudential Authority.
I am also a non-executive member of the board of directors of the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA) and chair its Audit and Risk Management Committee.
Tell us more about your involvement in various industry working groups, both at a local and international level?
I currently represent the PA on the International Association of Insurance Supervisors’ Accounting and Auditing Working Group and have previously been a representative on the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision’s Accounting Experts Group as well as the Quantitative Impact Study Working Group. These international committees are primarily responsible for the development of international regulatory and supervisory frameworks, which form the basis of local frameworks. Involvement in these working groups help ensure that the PA is part of international policymaking from the planning stage, which facilitates policy implementation suitable for our environment.
Locally, I represent the PA at SAICA’s banking and insurance project groups and was a member of the IRBA’s Committee for Auditing Standards until my appointment to its board. These working groups help ensure that we stay close to the needs and concerns of the sectors that we regulate, allowing for consultative processes to be followed when setting policy, as well as post implementation, to ensure that we are informed on any implementation challenges and can intervene timely when required.
As Divisional Head: Industry Technical Support, what played a vital role in climbing the ladder?
I am a naturally inquisitive person, so I make a point of keeping myself informed, developing and upskilling myself and learning about things that may even seem to fall outside of my area of specialisation. I work hard, dedicate myself to my craft and build a wide knowledge base, thereby gaining the trust of those that I work with, which has helped me build my brand and has afforded me exciting opportunities along my path, even outside of my business-as-usual activities. I have been blessed with a great support structure of colleagues, superiors, friends, family and industry players who have supported me along my journey, sponsored me, challenged me and took chances on me in getting me to where I am today. I have also found it beneficial to build a vast network across the range of sectors that I work in − this helps in building trust relationships, knowledge, sharing information and being exposed to opportunities that I otherwise would not have been privy to.
What advice can you give younger CAs?
The day that exam results are released and you find out that you’ve passed possibly the hardest exam of your life may feel like you’ve just summited Mt Everest and that you’ve reached the peak of your career, but one soon learns that it is only just the beginning. At that point, you are one of hundreds of other newly qualified CAs looking to make a mark in the world. My advice would be to soak in the victory and savour the moment, but not to get lost too long in it. Deciding where to take your career at that point could be one of the most defining moments of your career – don’t rush into it and don’t sell yourself to the highest bidder. Take your time and make a measured decision. It’s also okay not to know what you want at that point. When I completed my articles, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew what I did not want; and that was possibly the best thing that could’ve happened because that introduced me to the world of regulation that I would not have otherwise explored.
Run your own race. Your career may progress at a different pace to those that you qualified with – that doesn’t make you superior or inferior, it just means your paths took different routes. Love what you do and if you don’t, keep searching until you find something that resonates with you. Some sacrifices may have to be made along the way – family time, social time, etc. This is normal and part of the journey, and it is important to surround yourself with people that can support you and help ease the load, but also remember to stop and reset every now and then and take care of yourself, especially your mental health.
What challenges have you had to face and what are some practical ways you overcame them?
Being a woman in this space comes with lots of opportunities but also many challenges. As much as the profession has transformed over the years, the corporate world is still not very kind to women, especially women of colour, and can also be very toxic and make one doubt one’s abilities or even whether they are deserving of a seat at the corporate table. I’ve also faced challenges of working in an environment with colleagues that did not share the same values as myself, especially in relation to integrity and honesty.
My advice would be to be the change agent and break down the walls whenever possible to influence your environment for the better, but never at the expense of your values, mental and emotional wellbeing. Knowing when to walk away is also very important.