Breaking the mould

Nthabiseng Maidi is integrating business advisory and wealth management services – and extending transformation in the process.

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Nthabiseng Maidi

Nthabiseng Maidi, CA (SA), is the epitome of an African Renaissance woman breaking the mould in the wealth management space.

As founder of both MMCP Wealth, a wealth management company that provides integrated financial planning solutions, and MMCP Business Advisory Services Practice, a SAICA-registered accounting practice which provides transversal integrated business solutions ranging from accounting and assurance to corporate finance advisories, taxation and B-BBEE consulting, Maidi is especially well placed to advise business owners and entrepreneurs on how best to achieve financial wellness while operating their own organisations.

Currently studying for an LLB, Maidi is the last-born of six children. “I grew up in a small town called Cullinan, east of Pretoria. I did my primary schooling there and my high schooling at Enkangala, a 45-minute commute from Cullinan. The only time I got to leave my parents’ place was when I went to Vista University (now Unisa) in the East Rand. I did my junior degree there, then went to Unisa, then to UJ for BCTA and UKZN, where I obtained my CTA and Honours degree. Then in 2009 I qualified as a CA. I always knew that I wanted to be a CA but I also knew that I wanted to be a business owner.”

MMCP Business Advisory Services Practice was established first, in 2013, after a pharmaceutical business venture went sideways – a mishap that Maidi describes as a blessing in disguise: “I started doing accounting and bookkeeping for SMMEs, and I got to learn a lot about this industry when I was providing accounting services for them. It is often said that the biggest growth hindrance for business is funding, but I have over the years learnt that sometimes restructuring is all that businesses need to grow.”

Integrated advisory services

Maidi describes how getting into wealth management came naturally as the result of wanting to look after her clients’ best interests: “The business of one of my first clients, who was also my biggest client, went into a natural decline. What he was offering the market was simply not relevant any more and the business eventually closed down. When speaking to him, he indicated that his family had lost a majority of their estate other than some properties he owned – this is a business that had lucrative profits. At that moment I realised that providing accounting services in not enough, I also really wanted to help business owners look beyond their businesses and make sure that the wealth they have generated stays in their families.

“I then went on a quest to talk to the business owners that I knew. Indeed they confirmed that their life revolves around the business process of generating revenue. That’s when I got the idea of offering business owners a wealth management service that complements the business solutions.

“My value proposition is that, as your advisor (comprising the functions of accountant, tax practitioner and financial advisor), we first need to consider your goals, then work on a plan on how to get there, then implement that plan and continue to monitor. The first step is to stabilise cash flows. Once a stable cash flow has been established, we can actually make sure that the employees are taken care of, the business is protected and that the profits actually benefit the business owner. As a result of these insights, I branched out and started advising business owners on preserving and diversifying their wealth.”

“Sometimes restructuring is all that businesses need to grow”

Maidi set up MMCP Wealth in 2016 and received her Category 1 FSP licence in 2017. With limited practical experience in wealth management, she sought out a mentor who introduced her to the product providers on the market and encouraged her to attend practice management seminars. The exposure gained at the practice management programme changed Maidi’s ideas of what she wanted to achieve in the financial planning business.

“I had my own financial advisor and a basic idea of investing, but I didn’t realise how difficult it is to establish this kind of business. I thought it was a question of selling insurance products and earning commission, but later I realised that what I wanted to do didn’t fit that mould. I don’t want to be selling insurance products; I want to provide integrated solutions. My clients are business owners who want to achieve financial sustainability.

“The objective is to ensure that we assist the business owner to earn a decent salary, take care of their employees, prepare for retirement as well, and plan how to reinvest funds accrued in the event that the business is sold. This selling proposition is quite different from selling individual products which often do not meet the needs of a particular business.”

For Maidi, then, the solution is an integrated approach that rests on the three pillars of cash flow, tax and wealth management. Within this approach, employee well-being is a key consideration.

“As a business owner, you attempt to create value for those employees and yourself. One thing that really saddens me is that the economy is driven by SMMEs, but employee benefits within the SMME space are minimal. A business owner who has, say, five employees tends not to plan for their retirement. You might have a company whose driver has been with them for 20 years and when it’s time for their retirement, the business can’t even afford to give them R10 000. Our solution is to work with the business owner to do something for these people. They might not be earning a lot but investing R500 in a tax-free savings account or retirement annuity could make a world of difference.

“What we try to bring across to the business owner is that as much as we are looking after them, we also need to look after their employees as they are the life blood of the business. After all, these are the people making sure the business succeeds. To me, that’s the essence of transformation – making your employees’ lives better beyond our businesses.”

Transformation from within

Expanding on the notion of transformation, Maidi says, “If I enter an organisation as an employee, by the time I leave, my life should be totally different. If I have worked for them for 15 to 20 years, I need to have been taken care of in terms of my retirement, medical benefits and insurance. That’s how you actually transform my life, so that even if I get sick, I know that I will be able to get some income and go back to work at some point. Small business should consider this as well and not leave it to big business.

“I used to be a private equity fund manager and that is a very harsh world. We all know that in private equity, investors are after profits. The objective is to drive revenue and lower costs. When profitability is the key driver, most businesses will minimise their cost by cutting personnel expenses first. That is the kind of situation businesses should avoid. If we want to grow the economy, if we want to grow our people, then let’s take care of them. In so doing, we are also going to reduce the government’s burden of care and help people become less reliant on government assistance.

“At the same time, it benefits the business because employees who know they are being looked after are happier and more productive – especially in labour-intensive industries, in which large numbers of workers earn fairly low wages and consequently tend not to have retirement planning or income protection for themselves.”

“Accountants can make good wealth managers too”

This holistic approach of accounting, tax and wealth management advisory represents something new in the wealth management industry. Maidi elaborates: “As part of my business development process, I made a phone call to the CEO of a hospital group. As I introduced myself, I explained why I would like to see him. He was very quick to dismiss me, and said he’s happy with the wealth management service that his bank provides – but it’s doubtful that the bank will recommend that he also implement employee benefits or advise on how to minimise his personal tax.

On the other hand, I have clients whom I provide business advisory and wealth management services to, and so far, they are excited that there’s always something new to learn about the way that business solutions, tax, wealth management and employee wellness interconnect.

“Ordinarily, these functions are allocated to different specialists with different expertise and who are most of the time not connecting with each other, but my message to the market is that accountants can make good wealth managers too,” Maidi concludes.

Interview by Greg Penfold, Editor, Blue Chip Journal