Pro­file: Quin­ton van Rooyen, MD, Trustco Group Hold­ings

Trustco Group Hold­ings


In 1992, Quin­ton van Rooyen bought an in­debted com­pany for N$100. He has since trans­formed the com­pany into a suc­cess­ful and ex­pand­ing en­ter­prise. Now man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Trustco Group Hold­ings, Quin­ton shares his unique out­look on busi­ness, his pas­sion for fam­ily and his dreams for the fu­ture of Trustco Group Hold­ings.

What made you de­cide to buy Trustco in 1992?

I wanted to make a dif­fer­ence in my life and the lives of oth­ers. As I pro­gressed through my ed­u­ca­tion, I learnt that while it pays to work for in­sti­tu­tions and oth­ers, it is im­por­tant to al­ways hold your life in your own hands. Be­ing in­de­pen­dent thinkers, my fam­ily and I of­ten think out­side con­ven­tional busi­ness mod­els. We bought Trustco in 1992 be­cause we saw an op­por­tu­nity for busi­ness call­ing, and we were con­fi­dent that our ideas would pay off. Now, we have to sus­tain that level of think­ing.

You ex­ited the le­gal sec­tor shortly af­ter com­plet­ing your law stud­ies. Have you found your law de­gree use­ful since then?

Yes, I have found my le­gal stud­ies ex­tremely help­ful in what­ever I do, whether it is in my pri­vate or for­mal life. Law is an in­trigu­ing field of study. It ap­plies to ev­ery­one and ev­ery­thing. How­ever, as I pro­gressed through life and got ex­posed to global eco­nomic in­ter­ac­tions and trends, I re­alised that there is more to life than the le­gal pro­fes­sion. In fact, the le­gal pro­fes­sion de­pends largely on eco­nomic pros­per­ity to thrive.

Since 1992, Trustco has man­aged to main­tain growth in dif­fi­cult eco­nomic cir­cum­stances. To what would you at­tribute the group’s suc­cess?

Our growth has been a func­tion of de­ter­mi­na­tion, clar­ity of thought and hard work, but also our ca­pac­ity to in­vent non-con­ven­tional meth­ods of con­duct­ing busi­ness. For in­stance, we do not be­lieve that hav­ing huge of­fice space, reg­i­ment­ing sta­tus or staff wear­ing ex­pen­sive at­tire has any pro­gres­sive bear­ing on the bal­ance sheet. We have a lean model of or­gan­i­sa­tional man­age­ment that is per­for­mance driven, with all em­ploy­ees sub­scrib­ing to the growth of the com­pany by meet­ing tar­gets.

This is what drives us and makes us tick: the self-con­scious ca­pac­ity to un­der­stand the need for ob­jec­tives, the wis­dom of set­ting tar­gets and the ben­e­fits of meet­ing those tar­gets to help the com­pany grow. Our growth as a com­pany has been driven by th­ese prin­ci­ples, and all our em­ploy­ees un­der­stand the mean­ing of tar­gets and the re­la­tion­ship be­tween tar­gets and pre­dictable in­come at the end of the work­ing pe­riod.

What about your own suc­cess? You were voted Busi­ness Com­mu­ni­ca­tor of the Year 2003 and sec­ond Most Ad­mired Busi­ness Per­son­al­ity of the Year 2007 and, have cer­tainly built an im­pres­sive pro­file.

I have al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated what oth­ers say about me, be it neg­a­tive or pos­i­tive, for I have learnt much from this ex­po­sure. How­ever, my abil­ity to leave a pos­i­tive im­pres­sion in the pub­lic eye has re­sulted from a col­lec­tive ef­fort by fel­low trav­ellers in the jour­ney of build­ing our busi­ness. I am there­fore highly in­debted to all whom I have worked with at Trustco.

Listed on the JSE Africa Board in 2009, Trustco has ma­jor plans for its Africa ex­pan­sion. How has the list­ing aided th­ese plans and what African coun­tries has the group set its sights on next?

We were the first com­pany to list on the JSE Africa Board, and we did not re­gret the de­ci­sion, as it was rooted in fore­sight. Our move to the JSE Main Board was the cul­mi­na­tion of the re­al­i­sa­tion that African com­pa­nies can­not func­tion in iso­la­tion, but should com­pete with South African and global com­pa­nies on a world-class plat­form, the JSE. We are proud to have made th­ese strides.

The list­ing served as a shot in the arm as we were able to rub shoul­ders with the best in busi­ness the world has to of­fer. This fur­ther ex­panded our hori­zons and en­hanced our ca­pac­ity to move for­ward with our plans to the cen­tre of Africa and be­yond. As we speak, we are ex­pand­ing our ser­vices to African coun­tries like Ghana, Nige­ria, Kenya and oth­ers. Africa has its own rhythm and we must move along or lag be­hind. This trend has taken root on the hori­zon of new busi­ness de­vel­op­ments and we in­tend to stay on course.

At the end of March 2011, Trustco Mo­bile boasted 1.6 mil­lion reg­is­tered cus­tomers across Zimbabwe. What are some of the chal­lenges of dis­tribut­ing through mo­bile?

Zimbabwe was a learn­ing curve and we re­gard it as a suc­cess in terms of speed of up­take and com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion as­pects. The con­tract ex­pired in March 2012, at its peak with 1.8 mil­lion cus­tomers. The pos­i­tive side is that our ex­pe­ri­ence in Zimbabwe lead us to mod­ify the prod­uct of­fer­ing for sim­plic­ity.

How would you de­scribe your man­age­ment style?

I guess I would say un­con­ven­tional and peo­ple­fo­cused. We are not man­ag­ing in­sti­tu­tions driven by pub­lic pol­icy man­i­fes­ta­tions, but rather busi­ness projects driven for re­sults. Our meth­ods are tai­lored to achieve our re­sults as ar­tic­u­lated in our ob­jec­tives, the tar­gets we set and the ex­tent to which we reach our tar­gets. This un­con­ven­tional model in cor­po­rate man­age­ment sus­tains open-mind­ed­ness in the com­pany and cre­ates com­plex aware­ness among stake­hold­ers.

Be­ing the MD of a large com­pany can be tax­ing on an in­di­vid­ual’s per­sonal and fam­ily life. How do you main­tain a bal­ance?

It is in­deed tax­ing and chal­leng­ing and you are un­der pres­sure to strike a bal­ance at all times. We are for­tu­nate in that this is largely a fam­ily com­pany and ev­ery­one feels the obli­ga­tion to get in­volved and un­der­stands the pres­sure on oth­ers. This pulls us to­gether as a fam­ily, and we strike a bal­ance by stick­ing to­gether as a fam­ily. This has been a bless­ing.

Do you en­cour­age your kids to fol­low a ca­reer in the in­sur­ance in­dus­try?

My el­dest son grad­u­ated from univer­sity and is al­ready sucked into the throes of the com­pany, be­ing ex­posed in­ter alia to the in­sur­ance in­dus­try and all its man­i­fes­ta­tions. Does he like it? I want to be­lieve that he does, be­cause I be­lieve that he un­der­stands why.

If you weren’t MD of Trustco Group Hold­ings, what would you be do­ing?

I guess I would have been caught up in the nar­row con­fines of the cor­ri­dors of the ju­di­ciary. There are so many op­por­tu­ni­ties in Africa and the world, more so if one can read and write. The chal­lenge is to be en­ter­pris­ing.

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