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Q&A with Sjeanne Cawdry

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Sjeanne Cawdry, Business Manager Banking Division: Corporate and Investment Banking at Rand Merchant Bank, South Africa

How could you describe your career path in few words?

I am inspired by the future and the possibilities of what could be. I recognise the significant challenges and along with promising growth prospects on the horizon associate with big megatrends. I have always enjoyed pioneering new trends/projects or initiatives that are not necessarily well understood but intrinsically I know will have impact in the emerging future. 

And this in essence epitomises my career. I seek out the ‘unknown’ and new challenges personally and professionally. Making sense of the unknown and converting this to insights and value adds offering my unique perspectives to move teams and organisations forward is a unique talent of mine.

I love to combine my natural strengths as a strategist, futurist and solutionist, together with extensive experience as a as a transformation specialist to partner leadership teams to identify and solve critical problems impacting their businesses and solutions that will set them up for success as the future unfolds.

As such my career has been unconventional. I started my career as a professional squash play in-fact, achieving a highest world ranking of 23 and was a top 4 ranked player in South Africa for many years and represented South Africa in world events. Squash is a fast-paced game that requires anticipation, strategizing and decision making followed by execution at lightning speed. My entrepreneurial heart saw me run my own fitness facilities to support my squash career and at age 33 I recognised it was time for a big career change as I looked to enter the corporate world specialising in change and business transformation.

My career at RMB started in 2013, and now nearly ten years later I have established my reputation as a change specialist and strategist. I consider myself an early adopter of crypto and I learn experientially through engaging with projects in this space. The Web 3 space has been my main focus for the last 14 months in my role as Business manager in RMB CIB area.

What are the major trends emanating from the inception of the Web 3 revolution impacting how banks might think about their transformation journey’s.

When I think about Web 3, I think about it in the context of this quote by the well know Futurist Gerd Leonhard “Humanity will change more in the next 20 years now, than in the previous 300 years.” Leonhard refers to ‘Megashifts’ that will affect not only business, culture and society but also our biology and our ethics. These megashifts have the potential to reshape entire segments of traditional markets, including financial services. Three of these Mega-trends include the likes of Robotics, Artificial intelligence, and Blockchain

The growth in these trends is driving the velocity and growth linked to the Web 3 revolution and the crypto industry. Web3 introduces ‘non-traditional economies’ (e.g., Metanomics linked to the metaverse) that require non-traditional forms of financial instruments to participate such as Decentralized Finance (DeFi), Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTS’s), and tokensation as well as a surge of interest in the Metaverse, and Gamification. The metaverse effectively introduces viable ways for individuals and businesses to conduct commerce, work, and live virtually,

Tings like the Crypto Industry have the potential to significantly disrupt traditional financial services and other industries and the borderless nature of blockchain technology expands the competitor landscape across global geographic locations and at the same time opens companies to a larger client base.

In your opinion, what are the major Web 3 transformation axes that are becoming more important for banks in the context of 2023?

I don’t believe we can look at the transformation axes in silo’s or in isolation. For leaders, what will be important, is the ability to ‘connect the dots’ and formulate perspectives and make decisions regarding how the future may impact their businesses in relation to Web3. In this regard I highlight the following three factors (and there are more) which are interrelated:

The value shift: This considers the facts and figures which, in my view paint bigger picture of where investors and customers are trending towards. Lets start with the shift in Total Industry Value (extracted from The State of financial services report 2022 by Oliver Wyman) which is an indication of where investors money is flowing. Investment into incumbents like Banks, insurance and asset management has shrunk from 90% to 65% while investment into Big tech, other merchant services, Financial infrastructure and tech companies accounts for 35% of the total industry value. This says investment money is moving from your capital intensive, slow growth incumbents to your capital light faster growth providers which are linked to tech like Web 3 and data.

According to, a total of 16.9 million NFT sale transactions, worth 18.4 billion were transacted between April 2021 and March 2022. NFT startups globally grew 130x between 2020 and 2021 to reach $4.8 billion (Citi insights report, 2022). This is important since there are an estimated 2.9 billion active gamers in this world, and most of this population are already engaging with the Metaverse which will be tightly coupled to gaming and NFTs. We continue to see Gamification and Metaverse gaining attention. Why? Whomever has brought the gamers to their games also controls their surroundings and has their attention, and in the blink of an eye, literally, those users who are an already captive audience will be able to buy products and services via seamlessly embedded financial services and alternative financial mechanisms like crypto, tokens and NFT’s, inside the games.

The growth in crypto adoption, when compared to the internet, points to significant potential and impact. From 1990 to 2000 the internet grew at a pace of 63% per year at its peak. Currently crypto user adoption is growing at 113% per year - double the internet growth. If growth continues conservatively at 83%, there will be 1 billion users by 2024 and 3.5 billion users by 2030, that’s roughly half the world population. This comparison is useful since the internet gave birth to a new economy. Both crypto and blockchain emerged from the internet and look set to continue on the journey to mainstream adoption threatening traditional ways of banking. This trend suggests there is a desire from customers for alternative financial offerings which many of the banks do not offer.

Based on your recent experiences, and if you have one piece of advice to give Leaders to enable successful organisation transformation, what would it be?

C-Suite and leadership teams across the banking sector would do well to continually contemplate the quote “Humanity will change more in the next 20 years now, than in the previous 300 years” as they look to leads their people and their organisations through an era of change that we have not previously experienced. Leaders may be asking – “but we have seen megatrends disrupting businesses before, why is this different?” As Leonhard points out there are five Megatrends converging at the same time, whereas in the past, radical shifts in human society was driven by only one factor at a time e.g., the Internet.

Leaders need to truly understand they will need to cultivate a different level of mind and heart to lead their people through the changes since the problems of today cannot be solved with the mindsets of yesterday. New maps need new routes and leaders need to cultivate greater ability to connect the dots and then be courageous in clearing pathways as they chart new territory with their people. Firstly, leaders need to instil change is a competitive advantage from C-Suite down and this means creativity and innovation is a competitive advantage Over the last 100 years, human innovation, technology and intelligence have influenced the world we see and experience profoundly. At the heart of this progress is creativity and the future of Blockchain will rely on and reward those who participate in the next phase of meta-innovation and the “Creator Economy.” This is a distinguishable characteristic of Web3 and sees users receive a “return on involvement” and ongoing royalties for contributing to the value creation and development of a platform or a product. Currently, the gaming industry is seeing an influx of talent and rapid engagement because of this principal (Citi Insights report, 2022). – How are leaders cultivating a creator economy culture within their organisations that mimics Web 3 – link to talent attraction and retention Continuously ask the following questions when informing decisions

  • Who are your clients of the future and what are the mega trends impacting their lives?

  • Who are the investors of the future and what are the megatrends impacting their lives

  • Who are your employees of the future and what are the megatrends impacting there lives

*Disclaimer: The views shared in this interview are my personal views and opinions based on my personal opinion, research and interpretation of information. These views are not necessarily shared by my organisation.

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