African elephants helped this businessman settle in SA
CAPE TOWN - In the late 1980s, Africa had lost half its elephant populations due to the onslaught of poaching. You couldn’t help but be affected.
So Ian Kilbride, who admits to being “hung up” about ellies, and a few like-minded friends decided in 1989 to drive from London to Cape Town to see for themselves what they perceived to be the last elephants in the wild and the devastation of the species.
Travelling through 22 African countries over seven months proved to be a life-changing experience: Kilbride, who was working at the time as a stockbroker in London after completing his law studies, decided he would never work in financial services again.
By the time they’d arrived in Cameroon, they realised the elephant population should be “alright” as and populations were not under threat. 1989 was also the year in which the international trade in ivory was banned.
When they arrived in Malawi, he met South African travellers who told him he had to experience a Cape Town summer.
But by the time he finally got to the Cape, he wanted to stay and had no other skills than financial services. So he found a job as an asset manager and settled permanently, working in the financial services sector and eventually setting up his own asset management firm, Appleton.
By the late 2000s, after selling his shares in Appleton, Kilbride toyed with web development, but he was in over his head.
“I realised: this isn’t really me. I couldn’t tell whether programmers were lying to me. If a programmer says they’ve worked really hard for 12 hours and he shows you 18 tins of Red Bull, you’re supposed to believe it. But I can’t look at that code and see what he’s really been working on,” he said.
Kilbride sold his shares in the IT business. Opportunity was always knocking though.
Former colleagues at Appleton contacted him in 2002 to set up their own asset management firm, slightly different and more diverse, which they named Warwick – after the prestigious British university in Coventry where Kilbride studied.
Sixteen years later, Warwick is well-entrenched locally as a wealth and financial services company.
At the beginning of May, they acquired Cadiz from JSE-listed Stellar Capital Partners which lifts Warwick’s assets under management and administration to more than R30billion.
“For a number of years we were focussed on the wealth side of the business but in the past two years, I’ve been focused on building up the asset management side, in retail and institutional business.”
The Cadiz deal is 100percent about the asset management business, he says, to get more skills into the company. The deal allows Warwick to grow and position itself for the future.
“We’re now fully committed to building our asset management business, via retail, institutional, wealth and acquisition businesses, and we’re aiming at a R100billion target.”
It’s now doable, he believes, with the Cadiz acquisition.
By Monday, Cadiz staff will be joining their new colleagues at Warwick’s head offices at the Alphen Estate in Constantia.
Warwick currently has offices in Constantia, Claremont, Durban, Knysna, Port Elizabeth and Joburg, and operates out of Mauritius, Guernsey and the UK. Expansion plans though are limited to South Africa.
Kilbride says he’s a “massive fan” of South Africa: the opportunities are here and he’s firmly rooted in the country.
Through his education fund, which educates underprivileged children from 13 schools in Cape Town, and the Spirit Foundation, which supports the Care for Wild orphaned rhino sanctuary in Mpumalanga that his wife, Jooles is closely involved with, Kilbride is committed to investing in the future.
“I consider myself very lucky: I had no real desire to become a lawyer but I studied at Warwick before they became world-renowned. Then I found stock-broking – I went into a fast-track programme where we’d be sent to the library to work for nine months at a time. You really do start at the bottom over there. We had to introduce ourselves to these massive companies. In those days, you relied on the yellow pages and microfiches.
Then the issue of the elephants came up and I was constantly talking about it. So people said, stop talking and go and see it.
“I never had any intention of not going back. But when we got halfway down Africa I realised I never want to go back. This is where I want to be.”'
- BUSINESS REPORT