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Ola Leepile, CEO of Novare. Picture: Supplied
Ola Leepile, CEO of Novare. Picture: Supplied

What’s your top tip for doing a deal?

Try to find out as much as possible about the person you’re dealing with. Chemistry between business partners is essential for future success.

What was your first job?

I was assistant retirement fund consultant at Alexander Forbes Financial Services. We were helping companies structure and look after the retirement benefits of employees. 

How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?

It was R6,000 net, and I used it to buy four work shirts, two suits and a pair of work shoes from Markhams. The rest was used to pay for my taxi fare to and from work and my lunches.

What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?

Learn to save money as early as possible.

If you could fix only one thing in South Africa, what would it be?

I would provide good education for all South Africans, especially in the foundational phase and until matric. I’m one of those who believe that talent is equally distributed across societies and if we educate our population properly, we will unearth a lot more geniuses than we realised we had.

What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?

I’m not sure if this is very interesting, but I’ve completed two full Ironman races and I’m looking to race again in 2025.

What’s the worst investment mistake you’ve made?

Not saving enough when I was younger. The earlier you save the longer your compounding period, and so the better your overall investment outcomes.

What’s the best investment you’ve ever made? And how much of it was due to luck?

It was investing in myself. Going to university for me was a chance event, because my family didn’t have the means to send me, so I hadn’t planned to study further after high school. By sheer luck I somehow found myself with a bursary from South African Breweries and ended up at university. The earlier part of my tertiary education was thus just pure luck, but from then on everything became intentional.

What’s the best book you’ve read in the past six months and why did you like it?

The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. It’s a very practical book and has good life lessons for just about everyone. It doesn’t use complicated jargon and can be read by anyone. I would highly recommend it.

What is the hardest life lesson you’ve learnt so far?

Nothing is guaranteed in life. Just because you’ve put a lot of effort into something doesn’t mean the outcome will be what you desire. There will be times when you will put in blood, sweat and tears but still fall short; that’s just the way life goes. The key is not to stop trying — you never know when good luck comes your way. 

What phrase or bit of jargon irks you most?

Most investment jargon generally irks me. I think a lot of concepts could be easily understood if less jargon were used. I sometimes wonder if this jargon was created to confuse others and give the impression that investment, as a discipline, is more complicated than it really is.

What is something you would go back and tell your younger self that would impress them?

Just keep going no matter how difficult things get. Focus on the process, don’t give up, and the outcome will take care of itself.

If you were President Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?

I think it’s relatively easy to be on the outside and comment on what should or shouldn’t be done, but South Africa’s problems are varied and complex. There isn’t one specific thing that will help us turn the corner; we have to get a lot right for things to start going well. I think we could do better, though, if we appointed people based on merit. Where we have seasoned experts doing the work the results are clear for all to see.

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