One of Lesego Chauke-Motshwane’s first official engagements in her new job was hosting the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year competition. Wearing a floor-length silver and royal-blue dress, the managing director of Diners Club Pan-Africa won the hearts of the guests and media attending the glitzy function. One journalist wrote about the ‘wonderful new MD who welcomed us in her sparkling blue gown.’ He was charmed by the way in which she walked up to the stage lip-syncing to Rihanna’s ‘Shine Bright Like a Diamond’. Chauke-Motshwane laughs when asked about this side of her work: ‘I did glam up for the evening, because Diners Club is involved in fine dining and wine, and was hosting the awards. But, normally, glamour does not form part of my job.’ So what does her role usually entail? Hard work and long hours labouring away with her Diners Club and Standard Bank teams on strategies, execution plans and growing the business – plus a bit of travel to attend sessions hosted by Diners Club International and its holding company, Discover. Her strong work ethic, deep-rooted discipline and academic brilliance have taken her on a steady trajectory from Pretoria convent schoolgirl to MD of a multinational company. Along the way, she obtained a masters in engineering (cum laude) from the University of Pretoria and an MBA from its Gordon Institute of Business Science. She credits her mother – a professional nurse who raised her single-handedly – with providing her with a solid foundation in life, as well as the confidence to achieve anything that she aimed for. ‘My mom was a very strong believer in good education. At the time, convent schools were the only fully multiracial schools, so she ensured I attended one,’ Chauke-Motshwane says. ‘When I look back, my mother was also instrumental in developing my relationship with money, teaching me that we had limited amounts at our disposal; I needed to budget, live within my means and plan ahead.’ So her first-ever pay cheque – and a few that followed – went towards a project to express gratitude for all the maternal support. She says: ‘My mom had planned to retile her house. I was still living at home and secretly decided to help her. So, for five or six months, I saved a portion of my salary. When the time came, I was able to say, “Thank you! This is my contribution to your project.” ’ Sadly, her mother passed away just over five years ago. ‘Today, I have an equally good support system in my husband, Tebogo. He really supports me in all my endeavours and provides a safety net when I need one,’ she says. Mr Motshwane, who also works in the financial-services industry (in the insurance sector), has been by her side since 2000, and the couple have been married for seven years. Chauke-Motshwane started her career as an engineer at Denel Aerospace Systems in Centurion. The technical aspects of the job appealed to her, but she felt her curiosity wasn’t challenged: she wanted to explore the bigger picture. Over coffee with a friend, who’d also studied engineering, they got to talking about their jobs. ‘She was working at Accenture at the time and the seed was planted. I went through the rigorous processes consulting houses have and got myself into Accenture’, she told listeners in a recent KhayaFM interview. ‘Those formative working years were the best! They grounded my work ethic and discipline. I moved up the ranks in consulting. Then I decided to test my mettle and went into retail banking as a project manager.’ After a year at Absa, in 2007 she joined Standard Bank, where she rose up steadily through the ranks, from project manager in credit collections to her current position at Diners Club (a Standard Bank subsidiary), which she took up in November 2016. She explains that, while the company’s main focus is on SA, it is expanding into the African regions in which the Standard Bank Group has a footprint, starting with Namibia and Botswana in 2017. ‘Diners Club used to be widely thought of as “unattainable”,’ she says. ‘We want to change that by positioning the brand as attainable (with an element of exclusivity) to different target markets. ‘Our customer profile is predominantly male, so we are evolving our propositions to attract young female professionals (and men) who have an affinity for travelling, an active lifestyle and a love of various types of entertainment. These are all presented to them through the Diners Club experiences our customers have access to through our business model, as well as our extensive network of local and international partners. The Diners Club Card unlocks access to wonderful privileges and experiences for our customers, while still facilitating their everyday spending needs. This is what we are communicating as Diners Club South Africa, for 2017 and beyond.’ While the new managing director may put in long hours at work, she also enjoys spending quality time with her husband, watching movies and reading. Oh, and she loves shoes…Indeed, part of that hard-earned first salary also paid for a stunning new pair of shoes. She recalls, ‘I wore them for my graduation ceremony: black heels, pointy toes and a strap across the ankle.
I still have them.’ They have sentimental value and serve as a reminder of a milestone in her journey, which continues at the helm of Diners Club Pan-Africa.
Photography: anne laing/HMimages.co.za