17 Aug 2020

‘My journey is one of change and hope’

A better future is always possible. Fani Titi shares his story of progress, from humble beginnings in the heart of the Free State, South Africa, to CEO of Investec.

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Discover more about Fani Titi

Read the full transcript of the video

  • Fani Titi - Possibility

    My journey is a journey of change and hope. My father believed fundamentally that one could change one’s future. That sense of possibility, that sense that you can create a better future for yourself and for others, that’s driven me for the better part of 25 years.

     

    I was born to a poor family of farm workers at the time where South Africa was very divided, and we have in all 14 siblings. Having as big a family as we had, existence was quite tough.

     

    In the first few years of my life my highest ambition would have been to be an expert tractor driver on the farm and that would be my destiny.

     

    At the time that I got to Grade 6, it was that time where the Nationalist government was separating African people on the basis of tribe. In the tragedy of being moved to a homeland, I escaped permanent poverty in that I could get education.

     

    So, I was accepted at the University of California, Berkeley to do a master’s degree in mathematics - a big opportunity really that I thought I would take with both hands.

     

    It was a mind and world changing experience to be in that type of a set-up. The quality of education was incomparable to what I had before and shifted the way I thought about the world as it were.

     

    I couldn’t really see myself for the rest of my life in a highly specialised area of study, I thought I wanted to break out. So, I took my savings, my pensions, cashed those in, decided to go and do an MBA at Wits.

     

    The journey began in the mid-90s, I was part of a small black business called The Kagiso Trust Investment Company and we had Investec as an advisor and really at that early beginning it was amazing for us that Investec gave us their most senior corporate financiers and advisors.

     

    In 2008, I decided to step down as an executive from my own business. I concentrated most of my time to Investec as non-executive director.

     

    In around 2017 the board of Investec was looking at the transition from the founders Stephen Koseff, Bernard Kantor and Glynn Burger.

     

    The board asked me to step in as a joint Chief Executive.  I felt that Investec provided a platform that one could use to achieve a lot. I accepted the role of joint Chief Executive.

     

    [In meeting]: "We need to be clear what strategic actions we are talking, in the previous reporting."

     

    The role is quite a significant role, a powerful role and it can easily get to your head. You always have to remind yourself that you are in a role and your role is transitory and that you have to rely on the wisdom of the people that work with you, both your immediate team but the rest of the 8500 people that work in the bank and wealth team.

     

    You need a group of professionals that are steeped in markets and have a proven track record and they can declutter the noise and the volatility and bring their insights for the benefit of our clients.

     

    We have the Global Investment Strategy Group, what we call the GISG. A group of very experienced investment professionals that are based around our offices across the world and they bring their insights to bear on the work that we do.

     

    Whether it be Annelise from Switzerland, it be John from London or Prof Kantor from Cape Town, they bring the collective experience of markets to the benefit of our clients.

     

    While the founding generation is moving on, the DNA of the business remains. So, we remain entrepreneurial. We remain highly people focussed. We remain highly client-centric in our approach and we remain a business that is very optimistic, that embraces change and diversity and that continues to look for opportunities in any environment.

     

    I think no-one is an island. I am where I am because I was part of a particular family. Having given our daughter the chance to study and to further her own life as it were, it gives me enormous strength to see them succeed in life. To see my grandson grow up and to see in him the hopes of the country as it were.

     

    I think I am somebody who has always been hopeful about building a future that is better than where I am. I am passionate about the power of education both at an individual level but also at a community and societal level. But for education, I think my life would have turned out very differently.

     

    The force of progress will continue to sweep everything aside, my life is such an example.