Get­ting to know Bron­wyn Cor­bett

Finweek English Edition - - ON THE MONEY SPOTLIGHT - Cor­bett was born ed­i­to­rial@fin­week.co.za

in 1981 in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, at­tended Carter High School, ob­tained her B.Compt de­gree through Unisa and a B.Com hon­ours through the Uni­ver­sity of KwaZulu-Natal.

She and hus­band Mur­ray live in Mau­ri­tius with their two daugh­ters aged six and nine. HOB­BIES

“My hobby is my work. I have an un­be­liev­able work ethic. It’s dif­fi­cult for me to have down­time.”

She likes to run, though. “I can take my run­ning shoes any­where. It’s also an amaz­ing way to dis­cover the world.” FAVOURITE DES­TI­NA­TIONS “I travel so much, so I like be­ing home and spend­ing time with my fam­ily.” Ski­ing hol­i­days, how­ever, are a fam­ily favourite. READ­ING

Cor­bett’s read­ing The Ob­sta­cle is the Way by Ryan Hol­i­day for the third time… in a row. “It is all about ob­sta­cles and ma­noeu­vring around them.

I love read­ing, but don’t get enough time. When I run, I of­ten lis­ten to au­dio­books.” WHAT’S BEEN UN­EX­PECTED?

“This whole jour­ney. There were many times on the jour­ney of grow­ing an Africa fund that I thought I couldn’t carry on. What’s un­ex­pected is a door open­ing af­ter so many have been slammed closed.” DREAMS

“To al­low South Africans and the rest of the world a bet­ter look­ing glass into [African] coun­tries. The big dream is to leave a legacy; take what we have done and repli­cate that in other coun­tries.” COR­BETT’S BUCKET LIST

To see the go­ril­las in Rwanda when her daugh­ters are old enough to go with and to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with them, some­thing she and her hus­band have al­ready done.

“I can’t wait for the time when the team can take a lead; when peo­ple can make their own le­ga­cies; to watch others take the reins even though I will al­ways be here. I’m oil-rich coun­tries like Nige­ria or Ghana. “Peo­ple tend to go where it’s eas­ier or where peo­ple have gone be­fore,” she says. But not Cor­bett.

“I’m not sorry. I look at what is go­ing on in the rest of the world and I’m quite glad that we are sit­ting at the only fron­tier [in Africa].”

With Cor­bett at the helm, Grit’s as­sets since list­ing on the JSE in 2014 have in­creased from two build­ings to 19 prop­er­ties across five coun­tries in Africa; Mau­ri­tius, Morocco, Kenya, Zam­bia and Mozam­bique.

It’s abun­dantly clear that Cor­bett – and her team – burns the can­dle at both ends.

“When ev­ery­one else is hav­ing a glass of wine or has gone to bed, we are still work­ing to get things over the line.”

The last year has in­volved mov­ing the com­pany from SA to Mau­ri­tius, re­lo­cat­ing 12 South African staff mem­bers and their fam­i­lies to that coun­try, a $121m cap­i­tal raise to set­tle pipeline ac­qui­si­tions, and re­brand­ing the com­pany.

With­out the sup­port of her hus­band, Mur­ray, she says she would never have achieved what she has.

“You have to have a part­ner who stands by you and wants you to suc­ceed. And one who re­alises how much sac­ri­fice it is go­ing to take. Be­cause there has been a lot of that.”

She met Mur­ray when he was train­ing for Iron­man. The re­la­tion­ship worked be­cause both “were do­ing things that seemed im­pos­si­ble to other peo­ple”.

“I was study­ing hon­ours part-time. He would get up at 4AM and go ride his bike, and I would study. He would run and swim at night, and I would study.”

Grit in Mau­ri­tius

not go­ing any­where.” LEAD­ER­SHIP STYLE

“We have a very flat organogram and open-door pol­icy. Ev­ery­one has an opin­ion, but there are times when peo­ple need to be pushed and un­der­stand that if we are to suc­ceed, we have to do some­thing very dif­fer­ent to ev­ery­one else.

“I don’t take no for an an­swer. If we set our minds to some­thing, we sure as hell do it. Noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble – this is some­thing that I have to live and breathe my­self.” CHAL­LENGES

“When every­body else is go­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. It is easy to fol­low what other peo­ple have done and have suc­cess in fol­low­ing. But what is dif­fi­cult is cre­at­ing some­thing new.”

■ Grit is now head­quar­tered in Mau­ri­tius with 30-odd staff.

“We are a dol­lar-based busi­ness and the SA mar­ket does not al­low me to trade in dol­lars. Mau­ri­tius has come a long way launch­ing it­self as the fi­nan­cial ser­vices hub of Africa; there are favourable tax treaties with many African coun­tries and no ex­change con­trol.

“We now have 27% of our prop­erty port­fo­lio ex­posed to Mau­ri­tius. So while South Africa will al­ways be our be­gin­ning, Mau­ri­tius is the right home for the com­pany.”

Grit is al­ready listed on the JSE and Stock Ex­change of Mau­ri­tius and growth am­bi­tions in­clude a pos­si­ble list­ing on the Lon­don Stock Ex­change (LSE). “There’s lots of cap­i­tal for emerg­ing fron­tier mar­kets and the com­pany is try­ing to track that into Africa,” says Cor­bett. “There’s plenty fron­tier mar­ket money go­ing through [the LSE].”

They are look­ing closely at the in­di­vid­ual mar­kets that the com­pany plays in as well as Botswana, Tan­za­nia and Ghana, the coun­tries Grit is ex­pand­ing into, to ex­tract as much value out of these mar­kets.

“We play in mar­kets where there are pen­sion funds and as­sets on the ground.” That could mean work­ing more closely with the Rwan­dan or Botswana pen­sion funds and work­ing with reg­u­la­tors.

“We are al­ready work­ing with the reg­u­la­tory guys in Rwanda around REIT [real es­tate in­vest­ment trust] leg­is­la­tion there. And I will soon be in Ghana meet­ing with the fi­nance min­is­ter for REIT struc­ture dis­cus­sions.” ■

“I look at what is go­ing on in the rest of the world and I’m quite glad that we are sit­ting at the only fron­tier.”

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