The concepts of management and leadership are overlapping and often conflated, but for Robert Roux, CEO of Sanlam Investment Group, there is an important distinction. “I’ve got a very experienced business leadership group, so they don’t need management,” he explains. “They need leadership, because they are strong in their capabilities and already know exactly what they need to do. The main thing for me is to be as inclusive as possible and to be decisive, because that’s a challenge for people when they are in the situation themselves.”
After spending a decade as COO at Sanlam Investment Group, a trusted name among South Africa’s investment management firms, Robert moved into the CEO chair in late 2015. During this period he also served as CEO of Sanlam Employee Benefits and later headed up the Sanlam Investment International sub cluster which includes Sanlam Asset Management Ireland, Sanlam UK, Sanlam International and Sanlam Investment Management (SIM) Global. He worked closely with his predecessor and cites that experience as being invaluable.
Driving investment decisions
“That is a great advantage from a knowledge perspective,” says Robert. “It helped me understand the culture of the company, what works and what doesn’t, and what you need to do to take the business forward.”
The company offers products including unit trusts and pooled retirement funds. It caters to financial planners, institutions and end-investors and offers both actively and passively managed solutions. Sanlam is also one of Africa’s largest insurers and both arms of the business benefit from the synergies across investments and insurance.
While Robert says it was difficult to transition from colleague to boss, it was mitigated by Sanlam’s democratic and flexible culture. However, he also believes it would be challenging for an outsider to come into the business in a leadership role and run it optimally. The culture Robert refers to revolves around company knowledge and rational decision-making. “Being clear about what’s required from the investment team to drive long-term decisions that will be to the benefit of your clients, that’s absolutely critical. We have a pragmatic, value-driven philosophy and we stick to that philosophy. Our investment decisions are never driven by business interests.”
In addition to the extensive research that informs its decisions, Robert says another strength of the business is its ability to offer tailored investment and financial planning solutions. “We have a very diverse offering on the investment side,” he says. “We have a strong traditional asset management business and can offer you equities and bonds, but we also have alternative offerings where people can buy into private equity, unlisted corporate credit and unlisted properties.”
Investing in team development
Sanlam Investments’ Solutions team is an important part of the customisation process and is also the biggest driver of new business in both the retail and institutional divisions of the business. In consultation with the client, the team can package a portfolio that is perfectly suited to each investor’s individual needs and risk profile.
For any player in this market, investment performance is paramount and Sanlam Investment Group has been more than competitive on this score. Coupled with a diverse and extensive distribution network across both retail and institutions, Sanlam Investment Group has grown quickly in recent years, including double-digit growth across most primary indicators during 2017.
The diversity of its staff is partly a product of Sanlam Investment Group’s initiatives around Black Economic Empowerment. These initiatives include formal mentoring programs, an investment professional development program, and a transformation task team.
Robert says diversity is one of the core values at Sanlam Investment Group. “Increasing diversity across the business will lead to better decision-making and therefore it’s a business imperative to drive that across our group. It’s a journey that’s never finished, it’s always morphing and we’re always trying to work on how you can improve each team.”
“Increasing diversity across the business will lead to better decision-making and therefore it’s a business imperative.”
Away from the office, Robert is an avid sports fan. “My children are involved in sport now, so I follow them keenly,” he says. Robert also spends time keeping fit and touts the numerous benefits of a healthy lifestyle. “Being healthy is actually an important part of business. Healthy people work harder. You’re less tired and you’re more motivated, it’s all positive.”