Finance

The man running South Africa’s most exclusive bank

Fani Titi went from considering dropping out of school at the age of 12 to becoming the CEO of Investec, one of South Africa’s most exclusive banks.

Titi was born in South Africa in the early 1960s, where he grew up on a farm in the Free State with his 13 siblings under the height of Apartheid oppression.

At the age of 12, Titi was set to drop out of school and go into the farm labour system permanently.

However, his family unexpectedly relocated to Qwa Qwa, where Titi grasped the chance to attend high school and university. 

“That was a change in direction that changed my fate. Otherwise, I would still be on a farm, probably driving a tractor,” Titi told 702’s Bruce Whitfield

“Education became the escape valve for most of us. Doors open when you have the ability, and you partner that ability with commitment, dedication and application.”

This paid off, as he won a Fulbright scholarship to study mathematics in the US at Berkeley before he returned to South Africa to become a maths lecturer. 

However, this did not last long, as Titi’s ambition drove him to cash in his pension and savings in his early thirties and embark on an MBA and a business career.

For years, Titi built a career as a private equity investor, which led him to become an Investec client. 

After a successful working partnership with the company that lasted many years, he became part of Investec’s board and then co-chair of the group. 

In 2018, he became the company’s co-chief executive, succeeding Investec co-founders Stephen Koseff and Bernard Kantor. Today, Titi is Investec’s sole Group CEO.

“I escaped that particular fate of the farm labour system, but I took from that experience lessons that were imprinted on my mind,” he said.

“I hated poverty because I had lived in abject poverty, hated the deprivation of dignity from Apartheid oppression, I also hated a life of insignificance.”

“I looked for significance. I looked for an opportunity to make a difference – an opportunity to win and win big. That’s why Investec provides me and the 10,000 colleagues a platform on which we can build and make a difference.”

Investec under Titi

Titi has served on various boards over the years. He has been a member of Investec Limited and Investec plc boards since January 2004 and has been non-executive chairman of the two companies since November 2011. 

He has also been a member of the Investec Bank Limited board since July 2002 and has chaired its board since June 2007. 

He has been a member of the Investec Bank plc board since August 2011 and its chairman since August 2014. He has also served on the board of Investec Asset Management since November 2013. 

In addition, Titi was a founding member of the private investment group Kagiso Trust Investments – now Kagiso Tiso Holdings – and later cofounded and led the public offering of Kagiso Media on the JSE as its CEO. 

He was the founding executive chairman of the private investment firm the Tiso Group, which subsequently merged with Kagiso Trust Investments to form Kagiso Tiso Holdings.

Titi stepped down from the Tiso Group in 2008 to concentrate on his duties at the Investec Group while managing his private investment portfolio.

Under Titi, Investec has gone from strength to strength to become one of South Africa’s most exclusive – and unique – banks.

Unlike many other banks in South Africa, Investec targets higher-income clients, making it considerably more resilient than other banks to external shocks.

This has paid off well for the company in recent years, as it has been able to withstand major shocks like the Covid-19 pandemic and the country’s current cost of living crisis.

This focus has also helped the company maintain its competitive edge and effectively cater to its niche market.

The company’s banking segment has also remained very traditional under Titi’s leadership. It sticks to traditional banking and does not introduce many new products like its competitors.

However, this is not to say that Investec has not undergone significant strategic changes under Titi’s leadership.

For example, Titi oversaw the demerger and public listing of Investec Asset Management as Ninety One, which was completed in 2020.

He also oversaw Investec’s entrance into commercial banking in 2021, when the company launched a business banking offering that provides a full portfolio of products, services and capabilities for established entrepreneurs and mid-sized businesses.

Under Titi’s leadership, Investec has performed exceptionally well, with its share price growing by over 120% since he took the reins in October 2018.

In the company’s latest results for the 2024 financial year, Investec’s revenue grew to £2.09 billion (R49 billion), and headline earnings per share increased by 22.7% in rand terms to 72.9 pence (R17.16). 

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