Congratulations to the Department of Business Management's own Ms Sumaiya Sidat, who completed her Master of Commerce degree and graduated during the April 2020 graduation period. Sumaiya shared her experience and provided some great insights into her research and what it takes to be a researcher.


While one might think of financial planning as a straightforward profession with little room for innovation, Ms Sumaiya Sidat saw things a little bit differently. Ms Sidat recently graduated from Nelson Mandela University in April 2020 with a Master of Commerce degree for her study titled “South African financial planners’ perceptions of Robo-advisors”. Sumaiya is currently also a Junior Lecturer in the department of Business Management.


The study aimed to gain an understanding of how local South African financial planners perceive innovations such as Robo-advisors and other possible transformations that such technologies can impose on the profession of financial planning. Robo-advisors are digital platforms which aim to generate financial advice based on algorithms, with little to no human intervention. Currently, most Robo-advisors are focused on providing investment recommendations, however there is great potential for them in other areas of financial planning. Given that Robo-advisors are not yet widely used in South Africa, the study provided valuable feedback on the subject. The key findings of the study highlighted that although Robo-advisors offer a number of advantages, such as improved accuracy, time efficiency, affordability and providing financial advice to more people – it is unlikely that they will replace human financial planners. This is due to the fact that financial planning is perceived to be a relationship-based profession. Since Robo-advisors cannot exhibit human emotion and develop meaningful relationships with their clients, they will be best utilised in partnership with human financial planners. Furthermore, the findings reflected that there are various misconceptions on the topic of Robo-advisors, thus highlighting the urgent need for increased education, training and awareness to be provided on the topic. It is inevitable that financial planners are eventually going to have to succumb to technology, and it is best for them to stay ahead of the curve and adapt to changes as they occur. Those who best adapt to it will be able to maintain a good standing in the industry.


After initially studying BCom Financial Planning, Ms Sidat continued her studies and completed her Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Planning in 2017. During 2017 she also undertook the research modules from the BCom Honours in Business Management programme, which is where she was initially introduced to the topic of Robo-advice. While specializing in financial planning throughout her university career, Ms Sidat always had a keen interest in technology. Once she discovered the topic and how little research was available on it, she realised that it would be the perfect opportunity for her to merge her interest in technology with her field of study, subsequently getting the “best of both worlds”. From there, Ms Sidat did just that by commencing with her MCom degree in 2018 - and the rest is history, as they say.


However, completing a Masters degree is not a mere walk in the park, and it didn’t come without its challenges. Ms Sidat was not only a full-time student, but also offered her services to both her department and her faculty at the Nelson Mandela University. She started off as a student assistant in the Department of Business Management before spending a few months assisting in the faculty office on a full-time basis. Thereafter, Ms Sidat returned to the Department of Business Management on a full-time basis as the departmental research assistant before entering the world of lecturing in 2020. She is currently a junior lecturer in several financial planning and marketing-related modules conducted in the department.


Ms Sidat revealed several challenges that she encountered throughout her Masters studies. Time management was a major challenge, given that with a research dissertation there are no scheduled tests, assignments and exams, so your success is fully dependent on how well you manage your time. This also tends to make it easy to lose focus and motivation. In addition to this, sticking to the topic of one’s research can also be a daunting task as times, given how easy it is stray onto other topics that are interesting but are irrelevant to your current study. On top of this, managing research while working a full-time job is also no easy feat!


To offset some of these challenges, Ms Sidat payed credit to her supervisor, Dr Tony Matchaba-Hove. “My supervisor played a huge role in the success of my studies. His guidance, advice, active involvement and willingness to always assist was vital in my success. I think it is important to have a good relationship with your supervisor and to keep in constant contact to ensure you are always on the same page. I was lucky to have known mine from my undergraduate studies, and that contributed to the degree of understanding and comfort.” She also mentioned how working in the same department as her supervisor and other academics assisted in advising and motivating her along the way.


When asked about what advice she would give to current and future researchers, Ms Sidat had some compelling words of wisdom:

  • “I think it is very important that the topic you choose is something you enjoy and are interested in as you will invest approximately two years of your life in this topic. It is easy to grow tired of the topic and lengthy processes (it happened to me) but it gets better!”
  • "Don’t rush – it is easy to measure yourself against others and some people might be moving at a faster pace than you, but everyone’s journey is different, and each study is different. Rather take your time and produce a piece of work that you are proud of and confident about.”
  • “You definitely need to learn to discipline yourself, although there are no classes, you need to set deadlines of your own.”
  • “It can be a journey of growth. Often, I look back at how I approached research when I just started and now sometimes I don’t recognise my own previous work! You have to be open to criticism and new ways of doing things, it is part of the process.”
  • “Attend as many workshops as you can, they all have something new to teach. Often after attending workshops, I felt a refreshed sense of motivation which was needed. This is also a good way to meet people who may be facing similar challenges to you.”
  • “You need to be patient with yourself sometimes, often I felt like I had no idea what I was doing! Later I learnt that was a part of my learning process and I look back and it all makes sense now.”


To end off, Ms Sidat shared that one of the greatest life lessons she learnt during her academic journey was to never be afraid to admit that you don’t know something, as there are no stupid questions when you are genuinely trying to learn and understand a new topic or concept. At the end of the day that is why we do research – to find answers to things we do not know!

Contact information
Ms Sumaiya Sidat
Junior Lecturer in Business Management
Tel: 041 504 4102