BACKSTORY: Sanlam Investments CEO Nersan Naidoo
We question the CEO of Sanlam Investments Nersan Naidoo on his biggest regret, how he’d fix Eskom and his top tip for doing a deal
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
Be dogmatic about achieving and beating your return on capital hurdles. Strong discipline around capital allocation is extremely important.
What was your first job?
I was a control and instrumentation engineer at Hendrina power station — yes, Eskom!
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
My first pay cheque was R4,000. I spent half of it on my cellphone account (Hendrina was a lonely place, I had a girlfriend in Cape Town and my family was in Durban). The rest went to rent, food and a petrol contribution for a weekend trip to Durban.
What’s the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
Avoid debt for as long as possible and invest at every opportunity, however small the amount.
How would you fix Eskom?
The long-term solution must be in clean energy. The smart people will have to help figure out the bridge to get there.
What is the one investment you wish you had made, or made earlier?
This is going to be a toss-up between Naspers and bitcoin! I’m sure some would argue that bitcoin is more speculation than an investment, though.
What is your biggest regret?
Not realising soon enough that you can’t depend on time in the future to fix today’s mistakes.
What are you reading at the moment?
Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13 000 years by Jared Diamond.
Was there ever a point at which you wanted to trade it all in for a different career? And if so, what would that career be?
Not quite yet, because I really enjoy what I do. If I did have to trade it all in, though, I’d want to be a Michelin star chef!
If you were president, what would you change tomorrow?
Take decisive action on a few important things to demonstrate implementation of my plans.
Is there such a thing as "enough money", and if so, how much is it?
I’d say it’s enough if it provides security, shelter, food, clothing and education.