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Top 100 Interview: Zaheera Ahmed

Group Head of Privacy, Absa Bank

Zaheera Ahmed has over a decade of experience in data privacy for the financial services industry. She first joined Absa in 2010 and is now the Head of Data Privacy for the Absa Group. In this role, she leads the bank’s data privacy strategy and compliance program.

What were your greatest achievements in 2020?

Just getting through 2020, which I call our COVID year, was a huge achievement – especially as I have four children, including a set of 2-year-old triplets. Empathizing with our teams and the people around us has become absolutely essential and is a positive outcome resulting from COVID-19. Earlier this year I received my certification as an information privacy manager, and I have also been designated as a Fellow of Information Privacy by the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

How has the pandemic affected the cybersecurity posture in your organization?

The pandemic has certainly highlighted the importance of a number of factors. It has made us aware of the great amount of trust that we place in our employees and, ultimately, that the human factor is the weakest link. So, we have really needed to inspire our colleagues to understand the rules relating to cybersecurity and data privacy, and to make sure that they implement them even whilst being at home. Sometimes it is the simple things like learning to lock your laptop that makes a big difference.

Those are the types of things we have needed to inculcate into the culture to ensure that we achieved that objective.

It is really important to bring your colleagues on the journey to ensure that they understand what these risks are all about and how they can mitigate them.

This is an excerpt from the Top 100 Global Leaders in Information Security Report. Click here to read the full list.