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Q1 2021 - (released May 2021)

SA's quarterly Private Equity & Venture Capital magazine

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Michael Avery


Speaking to the outgoing founder of Investec, Ian Kantor, from his Austrian COVID hideaway in the skiing idyll of Kitzbühel recently, I was struck by a comment he made, which about sums up the reason for Investec’s phenomenal growth and success. A far cry from the bucket shop that my late colleague and co-founder of this boutique publishing house, David Gleason, used to rib former CEO Stephen Koseff about whenever the opportunity arose.


In 1974 – 47 years ago – Larry Nestadt, Errol Grolman and Ian Kantor founded Investec as a small leasing and financing company in Johannesburg.

It secured a banking licence in 1980 and after merging with Metboard, a trust company, it was first listed on the JSE Securities Exchange in South Africa in 1986.


In 1988, Investec Bank was restructured into Investec Group, giving Investec management and staff control of the company.


In September 2018, Investec announced plans to demerge and separately list its asset management business, Ninety One.


And here we find ourselves today, the demerger successful and the bank’s share price enjoying a strong period, with Ninety One a globally respected asset manager of some scale.


When asked about the timing of starting the business, Kantor didn’t hesitate to say that, politically, things couldn’t have been worse. Indeed, they were troubled times, with the 1976 Soweto uprising, followed by the 1980s and the State of Emergency.


But Kantor attributes this, at least in part, to Investec’s success. You see, “resources were cheaper, rentals, human capital, that sort of thing,” and thus swimming against the tide of pessimism to grow a business was made that little bit easier. 


Enduring one full year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and another interminable State of Emergency, had clear impacts on private equity and venture capital activity across industries, here on the southern tip of Africa.

But astute dealmakers will be aware that when economic times are tough and narratives are negative, fortunes can be made.

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