BACKSTORY: Michael Arbuthnot
We question CEO at Catalyst Fund Managers Michael Arbuthnot
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
What was your first job?
I think I was 14 — I had a job cleaning tables in a restaurant, acting as a "runner" to the waiting staff.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
My first real pay cheque was during varsity in the US. I think it was something like $10 an hour. I would go to the second-hand book/CD store and buy a bunch of music. I remember buying a Dave Matthews CD and only learning then that one of the biggest artists in the US was actually a South African.
What is the one investment you wish you had made, or made earlier?
It looks like bitcoin or Tesla right now, though I battle to understand their valuation, so probably not. I don’t think you can overcapitalise investment in yourself — I would have invested more time in postgraduate studies.
If you could fix only one thing in SA, what would it be?
Politics. I am fascinated how the world finds itself in a place where public representatives hold a higher status in society than the public they represent. The rule-makers, more often than not, are not competent to perform their responsibilities, but get the authority to govern the experts.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
I’ve backpacked and hitchhiked extensively across North and South America.
What is the hardest life lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Not to worry about what others think (I’m still learning …)
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Moderation — if you’re going to do something then do it all out.
What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
Enjoy the process. Reaching goals and achieving investment returns are largely about doing the right thing day in and day out. I think it’s important that the steps in achieving long-term success need to be fun and satisfying; if not, I think it will be really hard to achieve those goals.
What is something you would go back and tell your younger self that would impress them?
I’m CEO of Catalyst Fund Managers, a wonderful 20-year-old fund management company.
If you were President Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?
Stop the politics and make some pro-business policy decisions around energy and infrastructure spend. This will improve sentiment and stimulate private sector investment in the economy.
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