Growing up in the rural Limpopo province, I had very little exposure to the financial sector. It was only in my final year at university that I learnt about the asset management industry. Investec Asset Management did a presentation for students as part of its graduate recruitment programme. I knew very little about the asset management industry when I joined, so I had to learn very quickly. Fortunately, I had a good idea what to expect because of the rigorous interviews Investec conducted during the recruitment process. I met a number of key people and what struck me was how passionate everyone was. I could tell it was a dynamic company and I wanted to be part of this great team. I had a steep learning curve, but Investec provided me with support and training. Shortly after I joined, I had to take on full responsibility for a client portfolio. There was always someone to guide me and it really helped me to settle into my role as a Client Liaison Officer in the operations team. Being given responsibility so early in my new role was very empowering. I have since grown within the business. In 2010, I moved to the client group as a Client Associate and at the beginning of 2016, I was promoted to Client Manager. This has been an exciting journey full of challenges, but I believe with challenges also come opportunities.
I come from a large family, and two of my siblings were already at university when I enrolled for a B.Com degree at the University of the Western Cape. Funding my university studies was a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme financed my studies. Of course, I still needed to fund my living expenses and pay for books and stationery. At one time, I had two jobs – I worked as a computer laboratory assistant at the university and after lectures I had a stint as a call centre agent. I realised I didn’t have time to waste; I knew from the onset that I had to achieve my goals within a set period. So, it required me to be disciplined and to have focus, which helps me today in my role as Client Manager.
When I joined the firm, there was no formal mentorship programme. But from day one, I was welcomed and supported by senior people in the business. This gave me an opportunity to create relationships with people who I felt could mentor me, which was the start of my own development. Five years ago, Investec initiated a formal mentorship programme. The focus of the mentorship programme is to assist professionals at Investec in the earlier part of their career to navigate their development and better understand our business.
In this mentorship programme, people who join the business are paired with colleagues who have been at Investec for a long time. Not only graduate recruits and other new employees have access to the programme, but any staff member can tap into it.
Our business is about people, which is a key area for us in terms of transformation. Our recruitment strategy is strongly focused on promoting diversity. For example, over the last three years, black investment professionals accounted for 65% of new hires within the investment team. We will continue with this drive because we think there is strength in diversity. As a business operating in South Africa, we believe our work force needs to represent the broader society. Our South African leadership team is stable, experienced and has diversity – 50% is black and 40% are women. We have talent development programmes aimed at grooming future leaders across all areas of the business. Staff also have an opportunity to develop through internal and external training courses.
In 2014, we formally launched our Young Investment Professionals Programme. We offer black and female graduates with a business degree a 12-month internship, which entails on-the-job learning. These graduates have exposure to various areas of the business, including the investment, operations and client group teams. We have successfully retained a number of these graduates as permanent staff. Through this programme we have found exceptionally talented people who are making a valuable contribution to their teams.
We have long recognised the importance of investing in our youth at school. Our industry employs people with business/finance degrees, and to enrol for such degrees requires good maths results. In conjunction with the Investec group, we have a CSI programme called “Pro Maths” that has been running for 12 years. It has helped over 8 000 learners from disadvantaged communities to improve their matric results, particularly in maths and science.
We recognise that among our talented black investment analysts, there are those who aspire to be portfolio managers. We are committed to grow the future pool of black portfolio managers. An experienced, lead portfolio manager partners with a potential portfolio manager and trains them to eventually independently manage a pool of assets within their respective investment strategies. Our multi-counsellor approach is already bearing fruit. Two of our investment analysts have already been appointed as co-portfolio managers and the process is running smoothly.
The asset management industry requires people to be passionate about what they do and to remain focused. So I would advise young people that they must be patient, keen to learn, work hard and embrace challenges. They need to be able to communicate at all levels and take ownership of their career development.
There are many successful people that I look up to in the world of business and also in asset management. The person who inspires me outside the industry is my mom. Although, she was unemployed, she worked very hard to provide for us and I’ll always be grateful for that. Despite all the challenges she faced, she never lost focus. She motivated me by saying that it was up to me to create my own destiny. So whatever your background is, it doesn’t determine where you will go. It’s always up to you. This quote always stays with me: “The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” – Author, Vince Lombardi.
Gumani is a Client Manager with Investec Asset Management’s South African institutional team, where he is responsible for servicing some of the large investment consultant firms, multi-managers and retirement funds in South Africa. He joined the company in 2007 as a Client Liaison Officer before moving into the institutional team in 2010 as a Client Associate. Gumani graduated from the University of the Western Cape with a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) degree in Investment Management.
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Investec Asset Management is an authorised Financial Services Provider. Issued by Investec Asset Management, June 2017.