It was a coup for Old Mutual Investments to recruit Khaya Gobodo as the new head of asset management. And it took a while — 15 months have passed since his predecessor Diane Radley left.

One of his roles will be to clarify Old Mutual’s often confusing "boutique" model, which includes mature businesses such as Futuregrowth and Customised Solutions, with about R150bn under management each.

Neither of these outfits is likely to be confused with a 10m² scarf shop in Parkhurst.

Gobodo is well versed on the subject.

"I don’t believe that boutique primarily refers to size. The key factors are autonomy, nimbleness and specialisation. One boutique looks at SA equities and nothing else, another at emerging markets. And we don’t keep subdividing for the sake of it. We can’t see a rationale for splitting Futuregrowth into a vanilla bond and a credit business — they don’t make sense in separate silos," he says.

One of the main reasons for setting up boutiques was to compete with independent managers such as Coronation, which provide more generous incentives. Gobodo says a range of schemes has been introduced — Futuregrowth as a separate company has hard equity, while other boutiques offer phantom equity, though he argues the economic effect is the same.

Gobodo will have the challenging task of launching Old Mutual’s newest boutique, Titan, into the highly competitive global equity area. In due course it should take over the assets now managed by Old Mutual US firms such as Acadian and Barrow Hanley, though it will have to build up a track record first.

He certainly has the varied experience needed for a multistyle collection of boutiques. In his first stint at Investec he co-ran its growth fund as an apprentice to the veteran Mark Breedon.

Gobodo says in his personal account trading he still favours well-run businesses with good underlying prospects which would fall into the growth camp. Gobodo believes Investec gave him well-rounded experience as an analyst, on the dealing desk and in private equity funds.

At the age of 27 in 2005, he and Investec colleagues Tebogo Naledi, Khulekani Dlamini, Nothando Ndebele and Andrew Joannou formed Renaissance which later, to avoid confusion with two other Renaissance businesses, changed its name to Afena. There was huge optimism about BEE managers at the time, but growth was slow and all the founders have now left.

"We never believed that being a BEE manager and high levels of investment delivery were mutually exclusive. But I don’t believe that black investment professionals, whether in establishment or BEE firms, get their fair share of assets."

He was back at Investec by 2014, though no longer managing money. As strategy director for Africa and SA he was responsible for ensuring that the product mix worked and the clients were being serviced. He says he would not have left Investec but the opportunity to run a large manager was too tempting.

Gobodo (40) has two children and leads a simple life in Cape Town. He enjoys cycling and golf.

He is still trying to come to grips with the different culture at Old Mutual. "But it is a myth that funds from the life company fall off a tree for us to manage. Old Mutual Life is a very demanding client," he says.

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