Bongi Mkhize, the CEO of the KwaZulu-Natal Joint Municipal Pension Fund (NJMPF), grew up in Ndwedwe which is situated in a very underdeveloped region. In commenting on his childhood and early schooling Bongi said, “As a young man I had to juggle between herding my father’s cattle as well as going to school. In so doing this taught me to be disciplined and self-sufficient in facing the challenges of life.”
For Bongi there were challenges such as studying without text books because his father could not afford to buy them. However, despite the challenges faced in acquiring a basic education Bongi did push through them and achieve his goals.
Bongi holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and a postgraduate diploma in investment management and banking, both bestowed upon him by the University of KwaZulu-Natal. His first job was with one of the banks where his duties included customer service and bank telling. Bongi saw a need to further his education and that paved a way to serve and complete his South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) articles, which he did with the Office of the Auditor General.
Here Bongi gained significant experience in compliance, statutory, auditing and accounting in the public sector. His auditing experience includes internal and external auditing of both provincial and national departments, municipalities, and public entities.
Bongi then was provided with an opportunity to join the KwaZulu-Natal Joint Municipal Pension Fund. He explains, “I started as the finance manager and grew through the ranks and served as the chief financial officer from 2011 to 2018. The board appointed me as the deputy CEO in 2018 which gave me a more strategical role that paved the way for me to become CEO in 2019.”
As he was from a previously disadvantaged community, a major challenge that Bongi has faced has been the need to double his efforts in the work environment in order to be on par with his peers and achieve his job targets within a normal time. However, he says, “My story, which is the story of my life has always been to push myself to the limit to ensure that I achieve better than my peers. I think that my success stems from hard work, dedication and commitment.”
Last but not least, Bongi is easily able to adapt to whatever environment he is thrown into. In commenting on what has motivated his career path Bongi says, “I am inspired by poverty because of my humble beginnings. I saw where my community was struggling, and I thought that I needed to change that narrative and do things differently. Basically, in so doing, I had to look for financial literacy programmes because I felt that is where my community and people in South Africa in general are lacking and is the big issue. In order to alleviate poverty, one has to ensure that people are well equipped to make those informed decisions.”
“My passion is seeing our members making good financial decisions and striving for their wellbeing at retirement. Even now government wanted to allow access to pension fund during your working life. Obviously, this means exposing our communities to even more risk rather than saving for retirement.”
One of the areas that interests Bongi is the changing shape of the global economy and the rapid
development of technologies. He believes innovation, such as robo-advisors and the modernisation of products and services through IT, has a part to play in NJMPF’s line of business. “Using technology to lower fees is critical for a retirement funding service and its members. Experts believe that as entities have grown, complexity, specialisation, silos, and ultimately hierarchy have choked off the capacity to readily adapt and innovate. Finding innovative ways to enhance and accelerate member participation in the retirement funding arrangement is important.”
Bongi’s work hours are very demanding and he says that he spends most of his time at work. However, in order to disconnect and relax, he spends time with his family – his wife and three children.
In conclusion Bongi says, “My motto is every day is a second chance. So, whatever was not done correctly the previous day, you’ve got today to correct.”