Biznews founder Alec Hogg interviewed Investec's co-founders as part of a webcast series called Noontime Thursday where he interviews the founders of iconic South African businesses.
In this interview, Hogg spoke to the founding CEO and subsequent chairman Ian Kantor; his brother, fellow co-founder and subsequent MD of the UK operations Bernard Kantor; and another co-founder, long-time CEO Stephen Koseff.
Ian Kantor on the formation of the Investec culture:
"You had differences of opinion. The rule became that anybody could veto anything. And that meant that you had to find a way of understanding why someone was objecting and that became a very valuable process.
"The idea that you can make any decision you like as long as it’s unanimous became the basis of what we refer to as Investec’s culture.
"The process as we call it became the motor behind doing things differently, doing things in a new kind of way, finding a different angle to improve the level of service to a client.
"If we weren’t doing something for our environment, our society, we weren’t relevant."
Stephen Koseff on the Investec zebra:
"He [Investec's former CMO Raymond van Niekerk] brought it to our executive committee and we said 'Raymond, why don’t we have a leopard, a resilient animal instead of a zebra?' And then he explained to me how a leopard is a loner, whereas a zebra is a community animal with shades of black and white. It reflects South Africa, it’s an African horse. And we said, 'ok, we will launch it in the UK'... it worked so well, that we brought it back to South Africa and it’s worked exceptionally well for us."
Bernard Kantor on establishing Investec in the UK:
"In 1997, I moved across to the UK. It was a small operation with 50/60 people and I knew nobody and I remember calling Stephen, I’ll never forget it. I remember walking towards London Bridge and I said 'Stephen, you know no one’s interested in a small little bank owned by South Africans'. He said 'just be patient, it will come'. And in the next ten years we made about 8-10 acquisitions."
I've come to understand that the power and magic of Investec lies in the environment where ideas are sought and debated openly, where colleagues are given freedom to operate... where there is an absolute commitment to doing right.
Messages from the founders' colleagues
Fani Titi, Investec Group CEO
"I’ve admired how you’ve operated as a team and yet each of you are very different. Ian, you’re the smartest person I know. You ask the most incisive questions, and yours is a very strategic mind and you’ve always been the guardian of the team.
"Bernard, your dedication to the culture of the business and its values is really quite legendary.
"Stephen, your energy and passion for Investec and its people is unmatched, you’re one of, if not the best banker the country has produced... You will always be credited with the success that is Investec, yet for me your humanity and care for others is what will always be your best legacy."
Hendrik du Toit, CEO, Ninety One (formerly Investec Asset Management)
"What I want to share about them is not their entrepreneurial achievements. Those are well known and well respected. What I want to add is the fact that they’ve always remained themselves. They’ve been authentic, true to who they are, right through the time I’ve worked with them. And most importantly, they taught me the importance of people in business.
"These three great entrepreneurs understood how to harness human endeavour, human energy and the people side of the business for ultimate business success. We can all learn from that. And we should all celebrate what they’ve contributed to SA and the world."
Brian Joffe, founder of Bidvest
"I must congratulate all of the founders of Investec for what you achieved during your stay there, and I’m sure that you created a foundation that many people would envy in order to build upon. It’s up to everybody else to follow in your footsteps. You set a great example from a very moral point of view. You’re upright gentlemen and I think deserving of a good retirement."
Glynn Burger, former Investec Group Risk & Finance Director
"I joined Investec 40 years ago. Working with you guys has been remarkable. The ups and downs are all in the past now. The memories of the people that have graced Investec, including you three, will last forever."
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