An industry mover and shaker
Sygnia’s reputation of being the ‘disruptor’ among its industry peers has paid off with a series of innovations
Sygnia CEO Magda Wierzycka is not always popular with other asset managers. This is not just because she heads one of the fastest growing businesses in the industry — but because she has broken the unspoken rule of not criticising competitors.
Wierzycka has not been afraid to speak her mind on practices that she believes are not in investors’ best interests. She has been particularly critical of unnecessarily complex products, and the high fees that they charge.
Her outspokenness has alienated a number of her peers, but she is unapologetic. She says The Sygnia leadership team, clockwise from top left: Magda Wierzycka – chief executive officer, Simon Peile – head: investments, Niki Giles - chief operating officer, Andrew Steyn – head: client services, David Hufton - head: strategic projects, Willem van der Merwe – Sygnia Securities CEO Clayton Christensen the industry has been crying out for disruption.
“It is about bringing simplicity back to a service proposition that has become too complex and making it accessible and understandable to the average customer,” Wierzycka says. “It is about offering fairly priced products which do not have layers of fees under layers of complexity. And we have the technology to achieve simplicity and convenience at an affordable price.”
History of innovation
Sygnia has been a disruptor since its beginnings in 2006. Its first product was an investment administration platform that took on the existing market by offering investment strategy customisation and cost transparency.
This is a theme that the company has focused on ever since — bringing down costs while introducing simplicity, convenience and accessibility.
“The financial services industry in SA has remained largely unaffected by change despite the global financial crisis,” Wierzycka says. “The same players, the same products, the same high and often hidden fees, are all competing for the same customer. This has left the field wide open for someone to come in and upset the status quo by, literally, lowering the costs, improving the product proposition, bringing more transparency to the industry and simplifying access.”
Becoming a disruptor
Wierzycka says the theory of “disruptive innovation” was formulated by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen in the 1990s.
His argument was that disruptors introduce innovations which “make it so affordable and simple that normal people can do what only the rich and very skilled could do before”. She says this means that disruption and innovation are not the same thing.
“All disruptors are innovators, but not all innovators are disruptors.”
“Traditional competitors fight each other, offering the same product to the same target market,” Wierzycka says.
“Disruptors, however, do not compete against other suppliers. They compete against ‘non-
Magda Wierzycka: chief executive officer