PROFILE: Savca’s Tanya van Lill
The opportunity to veer into the world of private equity was somewhat unexpected, but this determined weightlifter-biker-MBA graduate has taken on the challenge
Tanya van Lill can deadlift as much as 145kg and bench press 65kg. This is not something you would immediately assume if you spied her on her mountain bike or Harley-Davidson. It’s true that dynamite comes in small packages.
Van Lill, who is from Johannesburg’s East Rand, is the newly appointed CEO of the Southern African Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (Savca).
The opportunity cropped up fairly unexpectedly. She was at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (Gibs) at the time, where she has worked with some of SA’s largest corporates over the past decade.
"I fell in love with the impact that Gibs makes in moulding future leaders," she says over coffee and a croissant.
Most recently, as director for academic programmes, Van Lill worked on the redesign of Gibs’s MBA programme.
When a recruiter approached her to join Savca, she admits that, initially, she didn’t think she was the right person for the job. "I knew very little about private equity or venture capital," she says, though she had touched on the fields while completing her own MBA some years before.
But after a long talk with her predecessor, Erika van der Merwe, Van Lill knew that this "industry with massive impact" was right up her alley. "The bug just bit."
Besides, she’s not one to be put off by a challenge: as a young, single mother, she has had to demonstrate grit and determination in juggling motherhood, studies and a corporate career.
This 100%-or-nothing attitude is carried through to other areas of her life. Having recently placed second in her first weightlifting competition, Van Lill is working towards qualifying for the world powerlifting championships in Canada next year.
A strategic and creative thinker, she says Savca members have welcomed her and been willing to assist with any gaps in her knowledge of the industry.
As CEO, she hopes the association will get more people to appreciate what private equity is and what it does. "I want to see this country succeed," she says. "Private equity adds value and makes a contribution."
Savca will continue to promote the asset class under her leadership, educating institutions on its value and place in investment portfolios. Pension funds and other institutional investors currently allocate a very small portion of their total funds under management to private equity — far below the 10% allowed by regulation 28 of the Pension Funds Act.
Van Lill hopes to change this, and will address the matter with trustees and other stakeholders at the Institute of Retirement Funds Africa conference in September.
She also hopes to sharpen the focus on the venture capital sector. To that end, Savca will be releasing case studies of venture capital success stories later this year.