Finweek English Edition - - COMPANIES & INVESTMENTS -

Tal­ent is prob­a­bly t he most im­por­tant as­set in as­set man­age­ment, as with any other busi­ness. But a s k R o me o Makhubela, chief ex­ec­u­tive off icer of Vunani Fund Man­agers and he will mes­merise you on the sub­ject.

Once the chief in­vest­ment of­fi­cer of then Met­ro­pol­i­tan As­set Man­agers (MetAM), Makhubela says he’s build­ing some­thing spe­cial at Vunani; an in­vest­ment house with a very ca­pa­ble team with four of the man­agers be­ing former CIOs. Makhubela re­cently made new ap­point­ments of Pa­trick Nt­shal­intshali from Old Mu­tual and, un­sur­pris­ingly, re-re­cruited two of his former charges at MetAM, Safs Narker and Jo­han de Kock, who look af­ter fi­nan­cials and re­sources, re­spec­tively.

When Makhubela joined MetAM in 2008, re­plac­ing veteran money man­ager Lis­ton Mein­t­jes, his man­date was to re­build the shop af­ter the as­set man­ager went down with the eco­nomic re­ces­sion, los­ing cat­a­stroph­i­cally in its off­shore of­fer­ings. As CIO un­der the ste­ward­ship of Robert Wal­ton, Makhubela says he re­cruited Narker and De Kock to join MetAM right af­ter he too joined and “they de­liv­ered bril­liantly”. Armed with good tal­ent, Makhubela re­struc­tured MetAM and just when he was about to reap the ben­e­fits, the Metro­men­tum (Met­ro­pol­i­tan/ Mo­men­tum) merger to form MMI Hold­ings hap­pened. Like any ma­jor merger, t here are ca­su­al­ties, although Makhubela says he was not one.

“Vunani pre­sented me with a great op­por­tu­nity to lead the busi­ness and take it to the next level and I took it,” he says.

At the time, Makhubela was one of the ex­ec­u­tives of the newly formed R300bn Mo­men­tum In­vest­ments where the woes of the merger were most ap­par­ent. The merged in­vest­ments busi­ness of MMI was tal­ent from MetAM and RMB As­set Man­age­ment and cul­ture clashes were sure to en­sue and roles du­pli­cated. Sand­ton was cho­sen as the base for the head of­fice and Bel­lville a satel­lite of­fice, which meant trav­el­ling and/or re­lo­ca­tion for MetAM staffers. Many stuck it out all the way through the un­cer­tainty, though feel­ing un­easy, while some de­cided to leave im­me­di­ately in a bid to spare their fam­i­lies de­struc­tion. Narker and De Kock opted to travel be­tween the two of­fices for two years but fi­nally gave in and re­signed from Mo­men­tum As­set Man­age­ment as the ar­range­ment was be­gin­ning to im­pact ad­versely on their fam­i­lies.

Mo­men­tum As­set Man­age­ment CEO Sibusiso Mabuza says it is both dif­fi­cult and dis­ap­point­ing to lose such good tal­ent but con­cedes it comes as no sur­prise. He says many of th­ese guys had been lead­ing es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult lives due to the trav­el­ling and this took its toll on their fam­i­lies. Mabuza says he con­sid­ered their ap­point­ment “risky” in the sense that they could leave any­time a good op­por­tu­nity in Cape Town arose. He says De Kock had been driv­ing the com­pany’s ESG (En­vi­ron­men­tal, So­cial and Gov­er­nance) team af­ter the busi­ness re­struc­tured last Au­gust and was do­ing a fine job of it.

“Be­cause of t he na­ture of t hese ap­point­ments, we pri­ori­tised suc­ces­sion plan­ning and put con­tin­gency plans in place, so we were able to an­nounce a re­place­ment for Safs within days and we’re go­ing to an­nounce our new ESG head very soon,” says Mabuza.

He reck­ons there are no more of th­ese risky ap­point­ments but still says any­thing is pos­si­ble so suc­ces­sion plan­ning i s st i l l im­por­tant.

Tandisizwe Mahlutshana

Romeo Makhubela

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