Going back to her roots

Offering regulatory compliance services to the Namibian financial sector.

30 October 2020 | People

Michelline Nawatises

Sybil Somaes is the managing director of Compli-Serve Namibia, based in Windhoek and has experience primarily spent in Namibian financial services. She was instrumental in establishing and was most recently chief executive officer of the Namibia Savings and Investment Association (NaSIA). She was s previously the chief operating officer of PPS Insurance Namibia, and before that she held various managerial positions at Old Mutual Namibia.

Somaes has Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) and Bachelor of Law (LLB) degrees from Rhodes University in South Africa and is currently pursuing an Executive Master of Business Administration degree through the Henley Business School in South Africa.

The choice behind her career path

When Somaes decided to study law, she never intended on practising as a lawyer and was very fortunate to be recruited as a graduate by Old Mutual.

“I started off doing compliance and legal advisor work and then ventured into operations and strategy implementation during my tenure at PPS Insurance Namibia and Namibia Savings and Investment Association (NaSIA),” she says.

She adds that with Compli-Serve Namibia, she is returning to her roots. Furthermore, she is passionate about the financial services industry in Namibia; particularly in the areas of regulatory compliance and risk management, and she is keen to embrace and emerge herself in its developing compliance profession.

Through her passion for the industry and regulatory compliance, combined with the progress in financial legislation in Namibia, the need for external compliance services became clear.

Compli-Serve Namibia builds on a reputable compliance brand that began in South Africa in 2003. Compli-Serve SA understands the game-changing impact that the introduction of new legislation can have on the financial services industry, having gone through it in South Africa. Accordingly, it understands the process to come for Namibian financial services.

“The Financial Institutions and Markets Act set to come into effect in Namibia in 2021 will re-shape most of the financial services industry,” says Somaes.

With the exception of banks and microlenders, this particular legislation will have far-reaching compliance requirements as reforms and modernisation of the financial sector are introduced.

“With the changes in how financial services providers will be governed and will need to operate, compliance support to entities will become essential,” she says.

“There will be many changes and new rules and regulations to comply with on an ongoing basis, which could make for a more difficult adjustment without knowledgeable assistance.”

Compli-Serve Namibia seeks to partner with service providers to ensure compliance stays on track. It is less common to have a dedicated compliance function in Namibian firms, yet outsourcing can turn out to be more cost and time efficient, particularly when aligning with reputable, trustworthy support.

Somaes says it has been very interesting in this position so far. “Being self-employed versus being in corporate is a different world, but I am enjoying it,” she says. Clients have been open and receptive towards Compli-Serve Namibia, which launched in September this year.

Some of her accomplishments include securing a position at Old Mutual as a graduate trainee and as a result, Sybil had an accelerated career. “I became a manager at 27 and was CEO by the age of 33, which are accomplishments that I am quite proud of,” she says.

Somaes adds that it has been challenging being a woman in a predominately male working environment, which is what the financial services industry is, but she has been fortunate to have had excellent mentors, both male and female, who have supported her journey.

When asked what her short-term goals are for Compli-Serve for the next two years, Somaes says her priorities are to build the Compli-Serve brand in Namibia as well as promote compliance as a career as they assist clients to implement the new regulatory changes in their businesses. “The Financial Institutions and Markets Act will have far-reaching compliance requirements,” she says.

It’s still early days for Somaes at Compli-Serve Namibia but the establishment has been a dream come true for her. “I started the conversation with Richard Rattue (Compli-Serve SA MD) in 2018 and to see it come true has been incredible. I also appreciate the positive response to the brand we’ve had thus far,” she says.

Her day starts with dropping her son off at day care and thereafter she has a cup of coffee and reviews emails. The nature of her work is that she spends a lot of time meeting clients and introducing them to the Compli-Serve Namibia brand and services. However, she also tries to make time for exercise after work on most days.

Her hobbies include cooking and trying out new recipes. She is a people’s person and enjoys spending time with family and friends. “I’ve recently started gardening, but I keep killing my plants,” she says. Her best childhood memory is spending time with her family. The one thing she would tell her younger self is to stop being so hard on yourself and don’t sweat the small stuff. Somaes is currently reading ‘Killing It: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Head Without Losing Your Heart’, by Sheryl O’Loughlin.

Facts about yourself: Sybil Somaes

* She is married with a two-year-old son.

* Sybil is left-handed.

* She is family oriented.

* Her favourite colour is pink.

* Somaes was born in August.

* She is an avid reader.

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