BACKSTORY: Satrix CEO Helena Conradie
We question Helena Conradie, CEO of Satrix, on her top tip for doing a deal, her first job and whether we need SAA
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
The numbers never lie, so make sure they are accurate and conservative, and don’t second-guess them. Interpret them all in the context of the bigger picture. The most important part of a deal, once the numbers give you the go-ahead, is the why, the how and the why not. Take your biases and ego out of the decisionmaking process as best you can.
What was your first job?
I was a statistical analyst/product developer at Sanlam. Trust me, the quickest way to familiarise yourself with a product suite is to (wo)man a "special quotations" call centre for financial advisers! It’s the proverbial deep end.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
About R4,000. After covering my rent and student loan, I bought an NAD music system and huge B&W speakers. That meant more debt and no furniture (other than my bed) for a while, but I was so happy!
What was the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
Listen to all the voices in your life, stay inquisitive, forgo judgment and be open to learn and adapt, but in the end trust your gut and be true to yourself.
Do you think we need SAA?
The short answer is no. We need a strong, profitable business environment that does not rely on subsidies if we want to save our economy and give this country a fair chance.
What is your biggest regret?
Not making enough time earlier in my life for the people I love and the experiences that make me happy.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
My passion for music — years ago I played the piano and violin and sang in a choir.
What is the one investment you wish you had made, or made earlier?
I should have diversified my portfolio into global markets sooner — you can be proudly South African and invest globally.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Self-control — the embedded fear of showing (raw) emotion can hinder creativity, innovation and growth in a big way.
What is something you would go back and tell your younger self that would impress her?
You can’t imagine all the possible scenarios laid out for you, you just have to trust the journey. Today I find joy in contributing to financial inclusion and creating access for all, yet I had no interest in or — even more shocking — knowledge of money matters until I started my first job at Sanlam.
If you were President Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?
I would make the top five most urgent decisions (no matter how unpopular), implement them and communicate the progress from start to end. South Africans are a hopeful and tenacious bunch, but we are losing patience and our sense of humour at an alarming pace. I’d make sure they see positive signs of sustainable change on crime, corruption, energy, education, economic growth and job creation.