Martina Swart made news in 2003 when she successfully passed the New York bar exam without having to attend a US law school first. As a result, today the New York Board of Law Examiners consider applications from South African universities more favourably.
“This was an empowering and humbling experience”, Martina—today the group head of governance at Maitland Group—recalls.
“Other than the hard work and commitment associated with this process, alongside support from family and close friends, the truth remains that we can open up a lot of possibilities by merely asking questions.”
The Maitland Group is a multi-jurisdictional legal, fiduciary, investment and fund administration services firm. Martina describes herself as the executive committee member responsible for the seamless provision of in-house legal, risk, compliance, insurance and other governance functions of the firm.
“I manage a team of professionals located in various jurisdictions across the globe and together we focus on legal and regulatory rules and requirements associated with the firm’s global operations.
The legal and regulatory landscape in which financial services firms operate is ever-changing with new laws and regulations being issued frequently,” she explains.
“As a result, there has to be an interest and willingness to constantly adapt, learn, be creative and find practical ways to support the business within the regimes applicable to the firm.”
In addition, she goes on to say, she has also observed that—if you surround yourself with quality, primarily in terms of the people, experiences, and environments you choose—then every day becomes a quality experience where you have the opportunity to learn and give.
“Time is precious, so I believe one has to ruthlessly prioritise how, where and with whom you spend the time you have. Companies and people can change the world, in big ways and in smaller ways. Every day with every decision we make we have the opportunity to make an impact.”
While she loves her work, Martina also believes that it is important to have a good balance between all aspects of life.
“Time away from the office is spent with family and friends.
Travelling is a constant feature and I love the unique experiences of visiting great cities and natural wonders alike. Paris is a favourite and I often visit to view exhibitions at art galleries, enjoy a morning at the famous flea markets, or visit the many street cafes.”
Despite living abroad for many years, Martina also still spends much time in South Africa, usually in Cape Town, the Winelands (where she grew up), or making trips to favourite places such as Witsand, the West Coast and the Bushveld.
“While living in New York, I completed my training as a yoga teacher as well. I have a daily yoga and meditation practice and still teach from time to time if my travels allow.
“Art is another passion that I inherited from my mother who lectured the history of art. I enjoy visiting art fairs around the globe and meeting artists, as I do believe their art tells a story about life—either on a social or economic level or perhaps both.”
Asked about her memories as a student at the University, she says that the Law Faculty at Stellenbosch University (SU) was outstanding—both in terms of the breadth of the curriculum, as well as the top-quality lecturers.
“I enjoyed living in such a beautiful university town and being on campus surrounded by beautiful historic buildings, oak trees and a crazy community of diverse students was a privilege.
“Being part of the close-knit student community was great fun and the proximity of beautiful beaches and wine estates always posed a temptation on the many sunny days.”
In addition to currently working on a number of exciting professional projects, Martina says she continues to devote as much time as she can to family and friends, the study of art, and the practice of yoga.
She has also recently taken an interest in a company that she feels passionate about and that is challenging conventional beliefs regarding time, beauty and health.
“It’s based on a beautiful story of an old Italian village where many people lived for more than a 100 years having a full and rich experience of life. Much like SU’s 100-year anniversary!”
- By Steyn du Toit -