Maria Ramos – Bankable Asset

2012-10-02 11:01

As CEO of the Absa Group, Maria Ramos admits she’s a pretty tough boss.

What Maria says:
‘I’m honoured to be mentioned on the Forbes list. It is beyond anything I ever imagined.’

She occupies 93rd place on the 2011 Forbes list of Power Women, with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Christine Lagarde and Michelle Obama.

She also happens to be married to former finance minister Trevor Manuel, who is now in charge of the National Planning Commision.

Did you always want to work in the financial sector?

My first dream had been to study law and become a lawyer, but I’m very happy that I landed up where I am.

The financial world is constantly changing. How do you keep up with the latest changes and trends?

I read a lot, and I have a great team I rely on.

I also have a wonderful network of people around the world who are very knowledgeable about what’s happening. But reading is my passion.

I read newspapers, magazines, articles online. I’m hooked on reading!

What type of boss are you?

I think I’m pretty tough. I have very high expectations of the people I work with.

But I think I’m also fair. I think it’s important to combine the two.

Have you had a big failure in your career?
Yes, failures and disappointments.

I’ve always believed that we learn the most when we take on new challenges – but taking on new challenges can be risky, because there is never any guarantee of success.

 I have learnt that it’s worth taking things on, even though they may look daunting and carry risk.

What did you learn from that?
Very often we learn more through our failures than we do through our successes.

I think it’s important to own up to failure, to put our hand up and say, ‘Yes, that didn’t work out in the way I expected’.

What are your most important business principles?
Honesty, integrity, fairness, passion, courage and accountability.

These are the values I’ve followed since my first job, through my work at the Treasury, then Transnet and now in the job I do at Absa.

They are what I live by.

What is your best advice about using money wisely?
Save as much as you can, as early in life as you can, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.

None of us could have predicted the financial crisis the world has been going through over the past five years.

We can’t predict what’s going to happen next.

We must be wise about what we do with our money.

If you do take on debt, do it wisely.

What is your best advice to people wanting to make a success of their career?

The first thing is hard work. Nothing replaces this. Secondly, I would say it’s about being passionate.

I believe that without passion, nobody can succeed and fulfil their dreams.

Thirdly, I’d say that it’s important to have fun! Life is an adventure to be enjoyed.

We should never stop exploring and learning new things.

After hours

What do you do in your free time?
‘I love to cook. I also enjoy walking and reading.’

What would you still like to achieve?
‘Writing a book. A thriller!’

What car do you drive?
‘A nine-year-old Mercedes CLK. It’s great!’

Which book are you currently reading?
‘I have just finished Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

I enjoyed it because it challenged my thinking about how people form perceptions.’

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