Adding ex­per­tise for busi­nesses

CityPress - - Business - SUE GRANT-MAR­SHALL busi­ness@city­

Men­tion the word ‘Roth­schild’, and im­ages of wealth and power, vested in a cen­turies-old Euro­pean bank­ing fam­ily dy­nasty, come to mind. To­day, Roth­schild & Co is one of the world’s largest in­de­pen­dent fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sory groups, em­ploy­ing 3 400 peo­ple in 40 coun­tries.

Head­ing the com­pany’s South African sup­port func­tions is young char­tered ac­coun­tant Theven­drie Brewer, the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Roth­schild Global Ad­vi­sory in South Africa. She is also the deputy chair of the Net­care health­care group.

Brewer has a rep­u­ta­tion for fiercely fo­cus­ing on the job at hand and, for a full hour, she de­votes her­self to an in­ter­view that’s punc­tu­ated by peals of laugh­ter and candid in­sights into the bal­anc­ing act that comes with com­bin­ing fi­nance and fam­ily.

“There are only 30 peo­ple working in the South African busi­ness of Roth­schild, yet we are pretty well known in the group for punch­ing above our weight,” says Brewer.

“We are top of the league ta­bles in South Africa from an ad­vi­sory per­spec­tive. What dif­fer­en­ti­ates us from the bal­ance sheet banks is our abil­ity to of­fer in­de­pen­dent, ex­pert and im­par­tial ad­vice, cou­pled with a deep un­der­stand­ing of the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment,” she adds. Her lead­er­ship role at Roth­schild, which con­sumes 75% of her working week, in­volves man­ag­ing busi­ness op­er­a­tions that range from le­gal and fi­nan­cial is­sues to in­fra­struc­ture and hu­man re­sources.

A great deal of her time is spent on de­vel­op­ing strate­gies for clients.

At the mo­ment, a top min­ing house in the coun­try is one of Rothchild’s clients, “so we’re de­vel­op­ing a strat­egy around the Min­ing Char­ter in terms of its po­si­tion in it and how the com­pany com­mu­ni­cates that po­si­tion”, says Brewer. Such ad­vice re­quires a huge amount of back­ground in­for­ma­tion about South Africa’s eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal and so­cial sit­u­a­tion.

Brewer’s job is to read in­ten­sively, follow the news and in­ter­act with knowl­edge­able peo­ple in all sec­tors that will help Roth­schild ad­vise its clients.

Ahead of the ANC’s pol­icy con­fer­ence last month, she was tasked with study­ing all of the party’s pol­icy doc­u­ments as a client wanted her to ex­plain the im­pli­ca­tions of the doc­u­ments.

“We feel that the po­si­tions taken on land re­form and the Min­ing Char­ter will be crit­i­cal to the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic land­scape go­ing for­ward,” says Brewer.

Roth­schild ad­vised Wal­mart when it de­cided to in­vest here by ex­plain­ing, among other things, the reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment and BEE com­pli­ance rules.

The rest of Brewer’s working week is taken up by Net­care, where she chairs the au­dit com­mit­tee and sits on the board as its deputy chair.

Brewer says she is for­tu­nate to work at Net­care along­side chair Meyer Kahn, as well as with Roth­schild CEO Martin Kingston.

She worked with Kingston at Deutsche Bank in 2000 and moved to Roth­schild at his re­quest in 2008, and he has con­tin­ued to men­tor and sup­port her.

“I’d not be who I am to­day or achieved what I have from a work per­spec­tive with­out him,” she says.

But the pres­sure af­ter her two sons ar­rived – she’s a ded­i­cated, hands-on mother – be­came so in­tense that she resigned and later ac­cepted the po­si­tion of nonex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor on the Net­care board.

“Martin in­vited me back to Roth­schild in 2012 by of­fer­ing me an eighthour week – and look at me now,” she chuck­les.

Dur­ban-born Brewer was raised by “uni­ver­sity-ed­u­cated par­ents who gave me the same op­por­tu­ni­ties as they gave my older brother. They let me make choices, which was cul­tur­ally un­usual at the time.”

It’s no won­der the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer doesn’t like the term “pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged”, as she says she was given “every pos­si­ble op­por­tu­nity”.

Brewer is able to man­age her hec­tic work sched­ule “be­cause my hus­band Grant is so sup­port­ive. He knows that so much of my iden­tity is based on my work.”

She de­scribes man­ag­ing mul­ti­fac­eted roles as “chang­ing gears all day long. I start by get­ting the boys [eight and 11] up, their lunch boxes made and then it is off to school. Then I put in a six- to eight-hour working day. I col­lect our sons from school sev­eral times a week and spend the af­ter­noons with them. I some­times read while cook­ing and then work some more once our sons are in bed.”

She re­laxes by go­ing to gym four times a week and play­ing squash with her fam­ily. Fan­court in Ge­orge, where the fam­ily walks, swims and cy­cles, “but does not play golf”, is a favourite place for hol­i­days, as is Mau­ri­tius.

Brewer ends our in­ter­view by em­pha­sis­ing how crit­i­cal en­trepreneur­ship is to grow­ing our econ­omy.

Favourite book: Wow! mo­ment: Busi­ness tip:

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