‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series where we pose the same ten questions to business leaders across the continent.
Richard Malcolm, south and east African regional vice president, Western Union
1. What was your first job?
I started off my working life earning a very modest wage as a photolithography apprentice in the prepress (printing) industry.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
The people who have most impacted my career have tended to be a relatively few number of outstanding managers/supervisors whom, when I’m caught up in a challenging work-related discussion/situation, I reflect upon and imagine how they would have managed the situation’s dynamics. I then use this as guidance for my management of, and reaction to the situation.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
The Western Union (WU) brand/footprint is global, processing 28 transactions every second, 24/7. My sleepless moments are linked to me contemplating how the needs and expectations of the southern and East African customers that rely on the global WU service can be even better achieved – what can we do to better serve the Zimbabweans in South Africa, Botswana and Zambia; the Ethiopians in the Middle East/Gulf; the Kenyans in the UK and USA and the Chinese and Vietnamese in Angola.
4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?
I believe that treating people fairly and professionally, along with consistent and stable delivery, feeds into one’s reputation which in turn becomes the fundamental foundation for one’s career. Part of this includes possessing the stamina and resilience to ride out the challenging times and to emerge with energy and determination to turn the challenges into opportunities, whilst another part of this is leading from the “sharp end” (i.e. the front).
5. What are the best things about your country, South Africa?
Where to start? The weather, the people, the potential… I really appreciate that South Africa is a hub/launch pad from [where] my Johannesburg-based team and I can connect directly into the markets that we are responsible for, covering southern Africa, East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands.
6. And the worst?
Relatively high unemployment levels. If South Africa’s potential were to be managed by a majority of inspirational, responsible managers at all levels, only then will the country be enabled to overcome this obstacle.
7. Your future career plans?
To continue along the path that I am currently on – working with a local Johannesburg team and a wide range of southern and East African, Horn of Africa and Indian Ocean Island regulators, financial services providers and stakeholders; supported by international colleagues in order to deliver relevant services to customers with unmet financial service needs.
These services include a stable, user-friendly cash-to-cash service, alongside digital channel services like mobile (m-wallet) money transfer and account-based money transfer services via ATMs, internet banking and mobile phone banking.
8. How do you relax?
By being in the mountains or the bush with family and friends.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?
Approach anything and everything with an attitude of energy, enthusiasm and positive “can do” and then be sure to deliver. Your customers and your boss will appreciate this attitude and approach and it will facilitate your success.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
The continent will really benefit from a majority of inspirational, responsible managers at all levels, both public and private, from the managers who manage the countries to the managers who manage the teams and the departments. The managers set the attitude, the pace and the culture.
Richard Malcolm became the south and east African regional vice president for Western Union in March 2013. Western Union is a US-based company that provides global payments services, allowing consumers and businesses to send and receive money around the world, to send payments and to purchase money orders.