AIFMRM alumnus says degree opened ‘so many doors’

It was only once he had completed his MCom in Risk Management of Financial Markets at AIFMRM that Mohapi Mohlamonyane really saw his career taking off in the direction he wanted it to – into a world where the work is stimulating and exciting, and each day brings new challenges.

After finishing his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Cape Town (UCT), Mohapi Mohlamonyane, 30, got a job at SSH Design as a junior public health engineer. It was an excellent position with international travel prospects, and he even moved to Dubai for a year to work on international building projects.

But Mohapi was restless. “I seemed to lose the passion for engineering; maybe I was a little bored. I could see the job was about doing the same kind of thing over and over again.” He had always been interested in the world of finance and started looking into graduate programmes at financial institutions but had no luck getting in. He then called some of his friends who had studied engineering with him, and this is where he heard about AIFMRM for the first time.

“Many of them had done the MCom or the MPhil, and they highly recommended it,” remembers Mohapi. He enrolled for the MCom in Risk Management of Financial Markets and hasn’t looked back since. “The financial sector is so dynamic and exciting. Everything is interconnected, like if you look at what is happening in Ukraine and how the war affects commodity prices, for instance. Every day there is a new challenge, and it is a very fast-paced environment,” says Mohapi.

After graduating from AIFMRM, he got a job at Sanlam Investments as a Graduate Product Specialist, leaving in 2021 to become a Project Manager at Zenysis Technologies before returning to Sanlam Investments in his current position as a Product Analyst.

Coming back was not an issue. “Sanlam Investments is a wonderful place to work. When I left, it wasn’t because I was running away – I was pursuing another opportunity more in software development. When the project came to an end, I talked to people about returning, and I was so happy to see numbers again!” He says the work culture at Sanlam Investments is professional and fluid. “If you don’t burn bridges and have good relationships, they always look for talent – even if you left before. The skills taught at AIFMRM are gold, making you so marketable and in demand.”

He enjoys being in asset management. “Whether you like talking to people, dealing with clients or being in a sales team or more on the quant side, there is a place for you.” He believes it is because of what he learnt at AIFMRM. “The MCom is so practical, so hands-on,” he says. “From the moment you walk into a classroom, you open your laptop and start building models to trade or build instruments. It’s like that from the word go.”

While there is theory too, Mohapi values the practical application and real-world insights he gained during his MCom. “You learn the financial language, how to operate in these spaces, and how to deal with a fast-paced environment.”

He also has high praise for his lecturers, some of whom were more like mentors, engaging and interacting with students. The way complicated and specialised concepts were explained blew him away. “The lecturers were brilliant,” he says. While there were times when he felt out of his depth, he never felt like he was unable to make it. “There were challenges, but they were fun challenges!” he laughs, remembering how he and a few other engineers stuck together throughout the course.

In terms of his career, Mohapi has numerous options and while going overseas is not off the table, he is here to stay for now. “South Africa is a pretty special place to live, and I don’t think things are that bad, even though I believe there’s much work to be done by all of us to help this country prosper. But for now, I don’t think things are so bad that I’d want to leave.”

What is next for him? Maybe an MBA or a more business leadership role. He says, “The MCom has opened many doors for me, and it has given me the freedom to explore my next career move.”

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