Assupol Holdings group CIO Keneilwe Gwabeni is a business leader with extensive knowledge and experience in IT and digital strategy definition and execution.
She has 24 years’ work experience in IT, with 18 of those in senior leadership roles where she had been exposed to large energy, academia, financial, regulatory, banking, telecommunications and insurance institutions in South Africa.
Gwabeni received the Global CIO 100 award in 2021 and 2022. This award recognises the top 100 technology leaders in the world who showcase excellence, resilience and innovation. She has also been recognised as one of Technology Magazine’s 2023 Top 100 Women in Technology in the world. She is passionate about growing people and has been involved in mentorship programmes as both a mentee and a mentor throughout her career.
What does your company do?
Assupol Holdings is a provider of financial services (funeral, life, savings and retirement products and services).
What do you see as the IT leader’s top priorities in 2023?
- Digital transformation to improve customer experience and enable revenue upliftment.
- Cost optimisation, considering the unfavourable economic climate.
- Data analytics to enable business to make informed strategic decisions, drive improvements and become more competitive in the market within which they operate.
Who do you most admire in business and why?
The Assupol Holdings group CEO, who is a business-savvy, ethical, strong leader who leads by example and prioritises employee well-being above everything else. She is intentionally driving diversity and inclusion, with special focus on women empowerment in the workplace and creating senior leadership opportunities for committed and deserving women.
How do you attract and retain talent?
Through the establishment of a conducive environment for learning and creativity, with a key focus on digitalisation and innovation. Through this approach, the employees’ skills and experience make them relevant and employable today and in future, not only in Assupol but also in other companies and industries. I retain talent by providing the team with meaningful work, clear career growth paths within the organisation and competitive renumeration which equips them appropriately for other opportunities while maintaining a strong, enticing value proposition to retain them.
If you could go back and give your 18-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Your journey is your story … own it, because that is your power.
What’s your favourite productivity hack?
I work well and am productive under pressure. I guess this is why I chose a career in IT. I depend on prayer and meditation to clear my mind and reach my optimal productivity levels.
What occupation (other than your own) would you like to try?
Commercial livestock farming would be my alternative occupation. I was raised around cattle and sheep and used to help my father with counting the animals and keeping their vaccination records. Being around and working with livestock keeps me calm, comes naturally to me and never feels like work.
Where do you see the technology industry heading in the next three to five years?
Technology will continue to expand and advance. With low-Earth-orbit satellites, like Amazon.com’s Project Kuiper and Elon Musk’s Starlink, technology will be more accessible and adopted in rural areas where there is currently no connectivity infrastructure. This will be a great step in bridging the digital divide, enabling rural communities to be part of the digital economy.
What is one book you’d recommend to our audience and why?
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R Covey. The book supports a good balance between professional and personal development to mould well-rounded leaders who are effective across the various aspects of their lives.
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