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After a huge birthday dinner for student Raul Herrera last night at Balthazar, the cohort went back to work this morning, starting today’s business visits off at Investec.

Private banking institution Investec hosted Stetson's Cohort 8 on June 23.

Investec, one of South Africa’s leading private banks, hosted Cohort 8 students this morning, led by Hugh Herman, the chairman of Investec Group, and Steve Watson, partner with Investec Asset Management. Herman explained that Investec has six divisions, including asset management and wealth management, and it has more than 7,000 employees. The company is poised for international expansion into the United Kingdon, Switzerland, Australia, Asia and India.

“Investec has the responsibility to put the customer first,” said Herman. “We don’t just want to benefit from the customer; the customer must benefit from our products, strategies and investments. We look after our clients by first looking after our internal resources and staff. We value strong ethics, which builds an intellectual force. We learn from one another through open collaborations,” he continued, adding that at Investec, no one has an office so all employees can share positive energy. “We talk to each other, trust one another and share ideas as the norm. We condone mistakes and we keep our employees happy, which in turn allows our clients to thrive.”

The reputation Herman has helped build over his 18-year tenure at Investec is key. His motto — “Adaptive networked organizations with soul to energize are prepared to participate, and values are in place to guide you” — has helped Investec rise to become one of the Top 40 companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Investec is competitive when it comes to capital, and it is ranked 54 of 140 based on being fiscally prudent. Watson said those accolades can be a challenge to maintain because the Rand currency is the most volatile in the world.

“Continued focus on agriculture, mining and tourism are key locally because that’s what we’ve got to work with in South Africa,” explained Watson. “Investec has $7 billion in capital and $600 million in profits. Even in the economic downturn, Investec made it on its own and never collapsed or required bank or government intervention. That was an impressive feat.”

Investec executives described to Stetson students the challenges of running a business in South Africa.

Because of its location, Investec lacks many benefits that companies in other countries may take for granted, such as good education, skilled labor, strong government and quality healthcare.

Student Larry Flory asked Herman if the educational system has been an issue recently or historically. “At one time, there was a solid basis to build from,” answered Herman, “but when the government displaced many teachers and changed to an outcome-based system, the country struggled, and now the quality of trained educators suffers. Job creation is a must, along with an increase in productivity.”

“What country do you feel is poised for tremendous success?” Herrera asked Herman. Without hesitation, Herman said Peru and Chile because of their natural resources.

“He is the perfect mentor,” said student Wesley DuBose about Herman. “He is knowledgeable, current, open and has worldly opinions.”

Herman and Watson helped members of the cohort understand that although there are always challenges in South Africa, Investec is confident in its future because “we find a way, we make a plan, and we are very innovative.”

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