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New CEO for Wonga SA

The online lending company, Wonga, has a revitalised presence in South Africa thanks to the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO).


Taking the helm with effect from the 20th of April 2015 is Brett van Aswegen, probably one of the most experienced candidates for the job, having already served more than 20 years in the retail credit and financial services sectors in Africa.


Van Aswegen’s immediately previous post was with the Lewis furniture group, which he joined back in 1999, according to the website Money Web, before rising through the ranks to take his seat on the board in 2006 as the Group’s credit risk director.


The appointment seems a more than natural progression, therefore, to a company like Wonga, which has been reshaping the very concept of short-term lending here in South Africa since its emergence in 2012 – or to put it in the words of the company itself, “shaking up” this particular business sector.




Van Aswegen has an especially firm grounding in the finance industry’s provision of short-term credit, not only in South Africa, but in the continent as a whole.


His career started out in this broad sector of the financial services industry when he joined the Edcon Group to begin work in the credit division, before later taking up a position in the retail banking department of Standard Bank.


Probably the major part of his career began in 1999 and spanned twelve years employed by the Lewis Group of furniture stores, becoming a member of the board and assuming the role of Credit Risk Director in 2006.


But van Aswegen also spent a stint at an African consumer finance company called afb. It was here that he and his team of around 500 people forged a partnership with Navias in Kenya to launch the very first credit card facilities at affordable rates of interest to the mass market in that country. The novelty of such a move paved the eventual way for the concept of the payday loan which van Aswegen is now championing on behalf of Wonga.


The credit cards devised by afb – the Navias Retail Credit Card – followed the now familiar format of granting customers at Navias stores the facility of unsecured, short-term borrowing on revolving terms. For the first time, therefore, customers could buy goods on credit and have six months to repay the debt in equal instalments.


The scheme also spearheaded the kind of in-built control on consumer spending which have become a feature of this sort of short-term borrowing. In the Kenyan example, for instance, customers were first offered credit facilities of between Ksh12,000 and Ksh15,000 (equivalent to the relatively small total of US$175).


In order to encourage sensible and responsible use of these credit facilities by customers, however, it was possible to increase the amount borrowed only when the customer had been able to demonstrate the ability to repay the smaller loan in time and on the agreed terms.


Thanks to the deal with Navias, afb rapidly became the driving force behind the issue of the greatest number of credit cards in the Kenyan market.


With such a solid foundation in opening up Southern African markets to new forms of consumer credit, therefore, van Aswegen appears to be ideally suited to his new role at the head of Wonga, South Africa.