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Aug 2010

Case study: Maryvonne Palanduz: Metropolitan Holdings

Maryvonne Palanduz FCMA, CGMA, head of retail finance and risk at Metropolitan Holdings, South Africa, is responsible for the financial function in her company’s retail business.

Maryvonne Palanduz, head of retail finance and risk

She has implemented an activity based costing model to identify, support and enable operational efficiency as well as inform strategic and tactical business decisions.

Her portfolio has recently expanded to evaluate financial risk through automated decision intelligence as a key deliverable for business sustainability. A significant part of her role provides stakeholder confidence in the financial disciplines and controls with effective monitoring mechanisms of the retail business.

In her spare time she has been actively involved with The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants® and is currently chairman of the Southern Africa regional board. She also represents CIMA’s Southern Africa region on the global policy committee for international development. In this article, she talks about how she has achieved her success. 

Balancing work and family

The main challenge I have faced is trying to progress in my career while raising children and maintaining a healthy marriage, all at the same time. You need to be extremely focused to make sure you do not ‘drop the ball’ on any front. If you are professionally ambitious it is difficult to achieve. You need to balance the odds and slow down, working smartly to ensure that you do not destroy the family in the process.

Breaking through barriers

In my experience young women are often not taken seriously in business, which means they have to work hard at proving their credibility. Once people understand the value you bring this is no longer a barrier, but it is certainly harder for a woman than a man.


The need for female support


A good mentor relationship is extremely beneficial and does not have to be a formal structured process. It allows you to take conscious time out from the fast pace around you to focus on your softer skills.

'There is a need for
female role models'

When choosing a mentor I look for qualities that I really like in a person and take a variety of learnings from various people – different people for different issues. For example, some mentors have helped me with people management, some have helped with visionary big picture thinking, and others with balancing work and home life. 

I believe there is a specific need for female role models: people underestimate the support required by women in the workplace. I know very few women with children who have not felt guilty about working at some stage in their career. Realising that you are not alone can help you be more perceptive about the challenges.


The role of coaching


I was curious about the ‘coaching’ buzzword so I went for a session to find out more and was immediately convinced of the benefits. It provided a reality check and helped me to solve my own problems. It helped me to stand back and take the time to make conscious decisions about my actions in my professional and personal capacity.

A flexible leadership style

My preferred leadership style is to be consultative and really empower my subordinates to come up with a solution. I have a wonderful team of very enthusiastic and passionate people and I like to be seen as one of the participants in the decision-making process. I enjoy guiding the conversation, getting personalities to work together, and understanding who makes the best contribution in which area. If you can do this, you have a winning output.

However, it is important to use different management styles in different situations. At times you may need to be more autocratic and at other times more collaborative. It depends on the group of people involved, what it is you are trying to achieve and the impact of the decision. A good leader is somebody who can identify when to use which style.

'I do not try to compete with men:
I play on my feminine qualities'

I have been fortunate enough to benefit from the senior leadership programme offered by my company. It is a very well-structured programme that looks at you first as an individual, then more broadly at your roles in the team, in the organisation and in the industry as a whole.

I do not try to compete with men. I rather play on my feminine uniqueness. Women need to find ways to assert themselves while retaining their feminine qualities.

Women on board

I believe there should be more women on company boards. In any executive or strategic leadership role it is important to have good diversity among key members (culture, age and sex). The decision that comes from a diverse group of people is of a much higher quality than a decision from a group of people who are very similar in thinking. Modern leadership requires stronger collaboration and woman are often co-creators by nature.

Be confident about your contribution

To succeed in your career you need to be confident about your contribution: too often women underestimate themselves. It is important to keep your identity, be assertive and always position yourself for the next step.