MBA alumna Vuyo Lee, who has recently been appointed chief marketing officer at Old Mutual Emerging Markets (OMEM), is eagerly embracing the challenge of providing strategic direction in the branding and marketing of a large and reputable financial services brand that operates in several geographic locations.
Lee is part of a new breed of talented and driven GSB alumni making their mark on the continent. She stresses the significant role the GSB has played in her career, describing it as a turning point that marked her transition from a specialist role as a research analyst in the FMCG industry to her entry into broader general management roles in the financial services industry.
“What I learned at the GSB liberated the untapped potential within me to lead rather than purely manage activities,” she remarks.
“The MBA programme provided me with the knowledge consolidation and confidence to make the career change I sought. I found that I was able to apply the learnings, frameworks and techniques that I acquired on the programme in the working environment to my advantage,” she says. “That education, coupled with my hard work and mentorship from experienced people in the industry, helped me progress up the leadership ladder as I demonstrated my abilities and value-add to organisations. Although there are many more MBA graduates since my time at the GSB, I still encourage people who want to fast-track or change their careers to consider the MBA as a lever for that change and for opening new doors.”
In her new role, Lee is “returning to the fold” of the Old Mutual Group as it were. Her link with Old Mutual began when the company sponsored her MBA studies at the GSB after which she joined the company as a business planning manager. She was promoted to the divisional head of strategy and subsequently undertook an operational role as manager of an intermediary support services function before progressing to an executive role in charge of brand, customer care and transformation at Mutual and Federal, a wholly-owned subsidiary within the Old Mutual Group.
Ever hungry for new horizons and broader financial services exposure, Lee then left Mutual and Federal for its direct competitor, MMI Holdings, a merged entity between Metropolitan and Momentum insurance companies. Her role as executive for Brand, Corporate Affairs and Transformation for the group saw her leading a multi-disciplinary division that included the company’s portfolio of brands as well as sustainability, transformation, stakeholder management, internal communication and external communication.
One of the most challenging aspects of the role, she says, was to work in an environment where you were not a revenue generator as such but were able to influence the organisation in terms of investing in marketing. “It demanded that I become more strategic and creative in engaging the business to make them realise that marketing is not purely a support function but a strategic imperative.”
Lee has always seen brand management and marketing in any organisation as a commercial enabler and as chief marketing officer at OMEM she will again be drawing on her strategic skills as she creates and rolls out innovative marketing and communication strategies across OMEM’s customer and corporate markets.
“I’m excited about building on what I have achieved over the course of my career and playing a key role in Old Mutual Emerging Markets’ unique journey. I also believe that, in addition to creating value, it is also an opportunity for me to contribute to the company’s commitment to progressing the socio-economic transformation of South Africa and Africa.”
In all her roles, Lee has revelled in opportunities to lead and motivate multi-disciplinary teams, mentoring and enabling people to reach their own potential. She finds considerable fulfilment in helping and inspiring others in the same way that she was assisted and supported by many different people from many different organisations.
“I like to stretch myself to attain new heights of achievement. Most important for me is to find meaning and purpose, both in what I am doing from a career perspective, as well as what I do for others in the community, for students and for my team members. Finding the balance between career achievements and reaching out to others is not an easy undertaking.”