Meet African Bank’s chief information officer

With its recently launched MyWORLD transactional banking account, African Bank is making a new push to expand its reach in South Africa, having established itself as a prime destination for savers looking for above-average interest rates.

Helping the bank along this new journey is a team of experienced executives, including group chief information officer, Penny Futter.

Futter has vast experience in the information technology space within the banking sector, having worked at Standard Bank, Barclays and Absa, focusing on financial technology.

Futter started her career as a software engineer for software development group Derivco, before honing her skills in the UK, and forging ahead in the local and continental banking sector.

At African Bank, Futter works alongside the executive team to progress the group’s omni-channel strategies, as the bank works to mark its place in a highly competitive banking environment.

She also believes in paying it forward, and has personally established internship programmes to help other gain experience in the banking sector – with a particular focus on cultivating female talent within the ICT sector.

BusinessTech sat down with Futter to find out more about her, what inspires her, and how she handles being one of the leaders in South Africa’s local banking space.

What would you consider to be your greatest professional achievement?

It is hard for me to drill down to a single accomplishment, but what I reflect as my most rewarding achievements is really about bringing youth into the workplace and taking school leavers and diploma or degree holders who are unable to find employment and provide the opportunity for them to gain work experience and potential employment within the corporate world.

I find it amazing to watch the journeys of some of these people who are willing to embrace the opportunity with both arms and how they grow and shine. It humbles me to see what someone with passion and commitment can achieve coming into the workplace with virtually no experience.

Some time ago, I established an intern programme for 60 people to spend a year within the organisation at the time gaining experience. Within this, we focused hard on finding female talent within the ICT sector and over half of this group were female which, given the scarcity of female participants in the industry was something I was very excited about.

What was the hardest life lesson you had to learn, professionally?

I have had to learn over time that making mistakes is okay and a natural part of growing in my career. This realisation was a natural progression in learning to forgive myself if I did not get something done according to my own high standards.

What excites you about your job?

Every single day the world of technology is evolving and changing and the way we do something today could be so different in a year which provides the opportunity to learn continuously, to be creative and to use combinations of technologies to create something amazing. These are all things I love to do and to be able to do this as my job is amazing.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The aspect of my life which I find most challenging is finding the balance between my professional, family and personal life. I have three amazing children and time with them is incredibly precious and I make a very deliberate point of putting down my phone and really being “present” when we are together.

They also understand how important my job is to me and are understand when there are times where I can’t be there for them.

What was your first paying job and how much did it pay?

I worked as waitress when I was 15 years old and I can’t remember the exact amount but I think I earned about R15 per hour.

What are you currently working on that really excites you?

There are many amazing things that we are busy with, but as an organisation we are building a phenomenal omni-channel solution which will enable us to seamlessly service our customers across all our different channels. This is exciting because I know this is going to provide our customers with an incredible experience.

How would you describe yourself in one word?


Who do you admire, or who inspires you?

I am regularly inspired by the people around me because behind each person is a story, and as I listen to the stories, I am often amazed at the strength and determination which people have shown to get through personal challenges and to be where they are today.

I love to spend time with people to understand their own journeys because it gives me strength and reminds me that every difficulty in life prepares us in some way for the future.

Do you have a go-to quote/philosophy that you try to live by?

Yes a quote by Theodore Roosevelt:

‘Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.’

How do you handle stress?

I offload stress through exercise and running in particular for me helps and provides me the opportunity to clear my head.

What would you say are the top skills that are needed to be successful?

Universally I think the resilience and the ability to adapt as the playing fields change is going to become increasingly more important as the fourth industrial revolution gathers pace.

What would you say is your greatest achievement in life so far?

Outside of my professional achievement (mentioned above), I was ecstatic to finish my first marathon earlier this year.

What laptop do you currently use?

I have an HP laptop.

What smartphone do you currently use?

iPhone 7

What is the best gadget you have ever bought?

Most recently I have smartened up my home and I bought a couple of Amazon Alexa devices. It is super cool having a voice-activated house and having virtual assistants across the house.

What was your best-ever investment?

When I was young, I lived in the UK and bought some property there before I left.

What are you currently reading?

I am almost always reading a couple of books at any given time. I am currently in the middle of a book by Klaus Schwab about the fourth industrial revolution and I have recently finished Heads You Win, by Jeffrey Archer.

Read: African Bank adds 12,000 retail banking accounts on launch

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Meet African Bank’s chief information officer