PUMP(ed) for change: KZN entrepreneur aims to bring sexy back to the financial services industry


KZN entrepreneur and financial services trailblazer, Kershen Pillay, is on a mission to transform the aging financial services sector. The 31-year old CEO of Masifunde Training Centre (MTC), a boutique financial services educational institution based in Umhlanga, believes that Mentorship is key to shaking up an industry that’s been lugging around old methodologies, attitudes and perceptions for scores and, in the case of many older financial houses, hundreds of years.

KZN entrepreneur and financial services trailblazer, Kershen Pillay, believes Mentorship is key to transforming the aging financial services sector.

Socio-economic changes aside, the introduction of millennials to the South African workforce has presented a daunting challenge. This technology-savvy, information-guzzling, career-progressive generation is at odds with traditional senior managerial culture in SA and Pillay believes the future of the financial services sector is bleak without interventions that target millennial industry newbies.

“It is no longer feasible to mine the past for solutions to 21st century challenges. It is imperative that we encourage young talent, nurture them and grow them; that we share our knowledge and experience with them, and teach them and groom them into a high-performance culture. Such mentorship will help unlock fresh perspectives, creating a hub of specialist knowledge and skills which, in turn, will ramp-up much-needed change within the industry.”

To this end, MTC has teamed up with the Insurance Institute of KwaZulu-Natal for a programme aimed at attracting, supporting and retaining new blood to the short-term insurance sector. The Pop Up Mentorship Programme or PUMP kicked off in June 2018. The six-month programme sees 20 aspirant, young individuals from various occupational groups within the sector being mentored by eight seasoned industry specialists, Pillay being one of them.

“We need to bring sexy back to the sector to attract young talent,”says Pillay, who was nominated for two Oliver Top Empowerment Awards earlier this year (Top Business Empowered Leader of the year, and Top Empowered Entrepreneur of the Year). “Most young individuals are unaware that the financial services environment is the 17th largest stock exchange in the world! Success via upward career trajectory can occur a rapid pace for individuals who are deeply passionate and committed. PUMP creates this awareness. It also introduces newcomers to experiences they may not ordinarily have such as close engagement with industry mavens, networking opportunities, and exposure to some of SA’s brightest minds in financial services.”

The process of being “shown the ropes” resonates deeply with Pillay who, at the age of 27, was appointed the CEO of Masifunde Training Centre. “In hindsight, I wish I had someone saying to me ‘Let me show you how’ or ‘Ask me how’ because I would have been able to navigate through some avoidable mistakes.”

The opportunity to receive one-on-one guidance and attention from industry experts has landed well with PUMP mentees. “Being part of the PUMP program excites me as it creates a rare opportunity to meet fellow industry colleagues who have the hunger, eager and prowess to learn, and the same time having a platform where you can draw the richness of the insurance industry from our mentors and various speakers,” says mentee Taffy Chikanya, an underwriting administrator in short-term insurance. “As a firm believer of hard-work, focus, determination, youth awareness and education, I believe PUMP provides this space for us.”

 “The PUMP initiative is a pool for a wealth of knowledge and, together with a supportive environment, it creates a perfect atmosphere to be constantly intrigued and motivated,” says mentee, Shivani Keshav who also works in the short-term insurance industry. “It is an absolute privilege to be part of this program.”

PUMP 2018 is a pilot project but Pillay says plans are afoot to roll it out annually. “For me, mentorship is something that is part of our everyday life where we need to constantly be involved in this knowledge exchange. We can accomplish so much if we start by saying, ‘Let me show you how’. Let us begin the knowledge exchange.” The PUMP mentorship programme ends in October 2018.

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