OBITUARY: Former FNB chief economist Cees Bruggemans suffered no fools
Interviewing Cees Bruggemans felt a bit like how I imagined a gladiator might feel upon entering the ring: dry mouth, sweaty palms. Am I going to ask a really daft question?
Bruggemans might not have been a muscle-bound mountain of flesh with a dangerous weapon in hand, but he had a momentous intellect, which you could argue was more dangerous and certainly more cutting.
And yet he was generous with his insight and his ideas and loved a good discussion.
Bruggemans died on Tuesday morning, aged 64. He is survived by his wife Heidi, five children and five grandchildren.
A Dutch immigrant, he joined Barclays National, as First National Bank (FNB) was then, in May 1985 as chief economist, where he stayed until his retirement in November 2012.
Before that, he had worked as a corporate planner for Shell, and an economist for Standard Bank and Senbank. He also lectured at Wits University.
He was a graduate of Stellenbosch University, from which he held a D.Com in economics, and which later named him an honorary professor.
After retiring Bruggemans set himself up as an independent consulting economist, producing work for Avior and others.
But he was probably best known for his Rex columns – a play on the Financial Times’s Lex – which he started in the early 1980s while at Shell. He wrote anonymously to protect his independence and I am told used to have a lot of fun under this pseudonym.
It got him the job at Barclays.
Former FNB CEO Michael Jordaan said it was a “privilege to meet with Cees weekly”.
On retiring from FNB, Bruggemans wrote: “May you continue to live in interesting times as we hopefully (and finally) come to terms with the many legacies of our distant past, even as the continent rises from its 20th century ashes in a world continuing at breakneck speed to seek its true identity and destiny. Enjoy. And Au Revoir.”