Howard Arrand is the man every entrepreneur in KwaZulu-Natal would want to know.
And if you are an entrepreneur going places, he wants to know about you.
He is Mr Business Banking at First National Bank: a guy with enough establishment pedigree to have a touch of cynicism about big corporates and a soft spot for mavericks.
Arrand is a thoughtful and engaging man in his fifties and his official title, though he doesn’t brandish one, is Provincial Head for FNB Business in KZN.
He is a trustee of the First Rand Foundation and chairs FNB’s corporate social investment (CSI) fund, which puts about R100 million a year into education.
Arrand matriculated from Kloof High School, has a Bachelor of Arts from the erstwhile University of Natal and qualifications from Unisa’s Graduate School of Business and the Institute of Bankers.
His father worked at the city engineers department in the Durban municipality.
Arrand has been with the bank for 30 years and took up his current portfolio earlier this year after a six year posting as FNB Provincial Head in Gauteng.
FNB employs about 800 staff at its KZN headquarters at Acacia House on Umhlanga Ridge.
The bank has about a 30% market share of business banking in the province.
Bankers like Arrand have a bird’s eye view of the economy and useful insights into what is working and what isn’t.
He says South Africans need to be more positive about business prospects, especially in KZN.
“There are always things to grumble about, often justifiably, but that shouldn’t stop us from being optimistic. We’ve lost that spirit since the soccer world cup in 2010 and we should pick up that conversation. There is a lot to be proud of: we have great beaches, a world-class international airport, fresh air and energetic, colourful entrepreneurs.”
Arrand says though there are challenges facing entrepreneurs; government is largely sympathetic to entrepreneurs driving key sectors in the economy.
“The Durban port could operate more optimally and we need to extract the potential out of the KZN-Gauteng corridor, but the government understands this and the need to bolster development in this area. There are 6000 trucks moving between Johannesburg and Durban everyday. Our response to this needs to include better rail services. But look at the billions that have been sunk into logistics and warehousing on the N3 near Cato Ridge and Hammersdale. This represents private sector and government solutions to port problems and opportunity, so I’m optimistic.”
Arrand says agriculture in KZN is flourishing, in spite of the drought. And farmers are becoming more entrepreneurial, investing in different crops that command a better price and are more in demand. The move to macadamia nuts is one example.
Arrand says the entrepreneurial culture in South Africa is also taking root.
FNB, he adds, is targeting this sector vigorously.
“We’re looking for entrepreneurs with sustainable, scalable, innovative businesses and we’re excited about the niches in the economy that are being exploited by KZN entrepreneurs.”
Howard’s enthusiasm for entrepreneurs led him to become keenly involved in the Ernst and Young World Entrepreneur of the Year competition and FNB’s Business Innovation Awards, in partnership with Endeavor South Africa.
The Endeavor partnership is remarkable in that it has provided a potential global springboard for South African businesses like BOS iced tea and the WiGroup.
Arrand says the private sector and government should work harder to cultivate an environment that fosters entrepreneurship.
“Instability around the exchange rate does worry me. The challenge for all of us, in business and government, is to help triple the number of self-sufficient businesses. What levers do you pull to create an environment for entrepreneurs to prosper? Entrepreneurs are able to adapt to circumstances, but we have to support them, so they thrive and expand. Corporates and government should work harder, for example, in paying invoices from any entrepreneur more promptly.
“We all need to look at our corporate culture and our values and adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, so we are innovative and responsive.”
Arrand says the private sector, government and civil society should forge a deeper partnership.
“Collaboration in the interests of job creation is vital. And we should all be looking for the next entrepreneur who has a scalable, sustainable enterprise. We need to back those people.”
Four things you didn’t know about Howard Arrand
- His pet hate is: “unnecessary bureaucracy”
- His leisure time is spent: at a holiday home in France. (He and his wife learnt French at night school.)
- His motto is: “Don’t compare yourself to anyone else – it will make you either conceited or jealous”.
- He has an abiding interest in early childhood development in South Africa, saying two and a half million children under the age of 2,5 years in South Africa are undernourished or under stimulated.