What are the challenges and opportunities in South Africa?
Thurstan: South Africa is supported by strong fundamentals. While there are problems, there are opportunities as long as those problems can be overcome. South Africa still has a young demographic, a growing middle class, a significant amount of arable land, and probably some of the strongest access to natural resources on the continent.
What opportunity did you see in the South African market that made you leave your day jobs and start Khumovest?
Thurstan: We feel very strongly about the prospects of the black middle class and black industrialists. A lot of the time people pitch their ideas and they are just not packaged well. If you find the right type of black industrialist who can add significant value to the company but lacks the financial acumen because, we think that is a problem we can solve. We know how BEE transactions need to be packaged and presented in a manner that financial investors can understand. We felt we could add value in that particular space.
Ratirelo: For us, it was about that gap we saw in the market. We noticed that businesses and entrepreneurs needed a guide and we thought we could play that role.
There’s lots of activity in the market which investment banks are not chasing.
How are you adapting to and keeping on the forefront of technology and innovation in your sector?
Thurstan: As part of our advisory business we have to be aware of everything, because we don’t know where our clients are coming from, and don’t know what sector our next client may come from.
We need to make sure that we know enough so that it’s no longer such a big learning curve. We have clients in banking, manufacturing and telecoms so we always need to be aware of the trends in those sectors.
Ratirelo: We’ve seen the influence that fin-tech has on most of our clients, such as M-Pesa; they are on the forefront of reaching the very deep and rural sections of the market that help people do mobile banking.
How have you managed to prove to your big clients, considering your young age, that they can count on you?
Thurstan: To answer your question directly, it was through networks. We worked with a few large companies at the PIC and were acting at an executive level when meeting and negotiating. We’ve been around for one year, but lots of the big fish have known us for 5-6 years. They have seen us develop. A few of them wanted to support us when he started Khumovest.
Ratirelo: It was also through hard work. Not everyone coming out of the PIC knows how to tap into these kind of networks. We worked very hard to earn the trust of the seniors within the institution.
What are you doing to uplift fellow Africans and South Africans in terms of talent development?
Thurstan: It’s a philosophy that Ratirelo and I have. We would rather hire talent that is eager to learn and give them controlled responsibility over time. We believe there are enough intelligent, driven, young black men and women in South Africa to achieve our goals.
Ratirelo: The Financial Services sector in South Africa is skewed towards white males, and the challenge we have set ourselves is to focus on involving black females. You’ll see that about 60 percent of our staff here are black females – we want to develop black females within the industry.
Where do you see yourselves in three to five years?
Thurstan: We want to make ourselves a one-stop shop for investors where they trust that, if they have capital that they need invested, we have funds available for them to deploy that capital.
For the asset management side of things, we will drive hard on the credit side and try to grow our geographic footprint. We want to be a strong and effective financial adviser and be able to execute anything across any sector. We also want to cover Africa solidly on our credit platform.