Hannelie van der Merwe answers 5 Questions

Beautiful, blonde and smart, on a construction site wearing a hard hat and dusty safety boots.  For Hannelie van der Merwe, relationship manager at Nedbank Property Finance, it’s all in a day’s work.

We asked her 5 questions.


You have to consider, analyse and consult on the lending of millions of Rands.  What are three of the most common pitfalls aspiring developers could avoid in terms of getting their finance approved by the bank?

“Planning for eventualities – the life of a developer is quite stressful – town planning issues usually crop up, for instance: not getting the usual permits can set the project timing back by months. Anything can happen and the developer needs to respond in the best way possible. Surrounding yourself with the right professionals who have “been there” can go a long way in cutting the time it takes to sort out issues in as  short a time as possible.

Cashflow, cashflow, cashflow – and hence the fact that most developers gear their developments by applying for finance. Cutting your reserves and access to alternative funding and using your own equity could have dire consequences.

Contract management – ensuring that your contracts are correctly completed and watertight with the fastest way to resolve matters is the way to go. It becomes critical when you have to act on issues by resorting to the contract entered into between the developer and a professional, contractor or supplier.

World-wide, in a general sense, we have had some doom and gloom in terms of economic prospects over the past few years.  Our own situation at home with all its current instability and uncertainty of the future is cause for more conservative approaches.  What trends in relation to the reaction on the economic outlook are you seeing in the industry at the moment?

For us in the finance industry it hasn’t slowed down yet. Land is available, yet limited, and developers are keen to develop.  This has not deterred any of our established clients to halt or delay the roll-out of developments at all.

Established developers and property owning/management companies will continue to exist and our hope is that they will still thrive and deliver the outstanding results that the industry is used to.

You have travelled extensively in other African countries.  What did you find challenging and encouraging in doing business on the continent?

There is a lot of hope for the future and positivity when dealing with countries in the African continent.  Notwithstanding this, development takes place in a less structured way – the country’s town planning laws, ownership, bylaws and labour laws are very different to what we are used to in South Africa. One has to navigate one’s way and change your mindset in terms of finding your own standards and values instead of depending on the protection of legislation in order to conduct business in certain countries.

It’s certainly exciting, but not without its own challenges. Having a local network of in-country professionals who know the way is crucial and key to doing business in the best efficient manner.

The construction industry and the financing thereof do not have a majority women playing key roles.  What are some of the major misconceptions that you have faced in this field and how do you overcome them?

I think one of the major lingering misconceptions would be that woman will not dare to do or go where men would ordinarily go.  Fortunately I have been blessed with female colleagues and friends in the property industry as well as the engineering industry where they are most certainly showing what they are made of.  We have nothing to prove out there really, except for being the best versions of ourselves.

We climb onto platforms, down into basements, under scaffolding without blinking an eye.  As an antedote may I add that the two men in my office who I normally do site visits with are scared of heights and will not stand on any ledge or platform if there’s no railing – I rest my case!

Corporate Finance is a detailed, structured and responsible industry, which is kicked up a notch if the development of communities and cities are dependent on it. What advice do you have for young people who are at the brink of commencing their careers or who are contemplating career choices in this field? 

The Corporate Finance industry is tough, and one normally starts at the bottom and work your way up.  No matter what the job – treat it with respect and try to learn as much as possible from everything – trust me you will.

See every challenge as an opportunity to grow and don’t stop with further education – even if you think you might not need it – do it anyway.  Growth happens as long as we are open to it.

Copyright © 2017 by Natalie du Preez.

This interview was conducted and authored by Natalie du Preez and is original content,  which is property of the author, all rights reserved. This article or any portion thereof may not be copied, shared or reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the owner.

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