Shabhana Thaver unpacks SA tech community hybrid townhall

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Virtual gathering connects with South Africa’s tech community.

Townhalls are not a new concept for Investec, as they run them on a regular basis to encourage the participation and interaction core to its culture. Before the pandemic, townhalls were a face-to-face event. However, when the country started to open up a little to allow for a specific number of people to gather in person, Investec started running a hybrid model of the townhalls.

“Our townhalls are a form of connectivity with the tech community in South Africa. This year’s townhall was intended to be a connection between our CEO and the SA tech community,” says Shabhana Thaver, CIO Specialist Bank SA at Investec.

The townhall was held at Investec’s auditorium, where 320 people gathered and around 400 attended the event virtually. “Investec prides itself in connecting through stories. Our CEO gave us a glimpse into his life. He talked about his experience as a CEO in the last two years in running a business in the current Covid situation, the challenges for the business going forward, our positioning in terms of growth and what he perceives is the role of technology in that growth.”

Shabhana says that the experience itself of having 320 people physically gather and another 400 attending online was what stood out most for her. “Navigating across mediums and ensuring that all attendees interact in the townhall, and ‘feel’ the messaging and a sense of inclusivity, is very different from having all 720 people sitting face-to-face in an auditorium,” she explains.

In addition, from a technical and virtual perspective, there is some room for improvement. “For example, we were limited by the collaboration software we utilised on the day in that not all participants whose cameras were turned on could be seen at the same time. This is something we're looking to improve.”

“Technology was previously seen as an enabler to the business, but in actuality there are different business models from a technology perspective that can drive business growth, and this is the direction most companies are heading toward,” Shabhana says.

“Some of the challenges with experimenting with these new models are determining the potential return on investment. For example, scaling product distribution or monetising tech assets through banking as a service.” she adds.

Investec intends to host another SA tech hybrid townhall in May, but this time it will be more of a debate under the theme, “To metaverse or not to metaverse”, where Investec leaders and the tech community will argue the pros and cons of the new virtual world.

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