M&G Investments CEO Chris Sickle said tenacity and service to other people served him well in his rise to the top of the asset management industry.
Sickle grew up in Athlone in Cape Town and excelled in mathematics and accounting at school, meaning asset management perfectly fit his skills.
However, he initially considered carpentry as a dream career because of his love for working with wood.
It all changed in grade 9 after he read the business section of the Sunday Times, where he learnt that Chartered Accountants (CAs) earned over R10,000 a month.
In those days, it was a very high salary. “It was the dream,” said Sickle. “I would be styling”.
He subsequently attained a BCom accounting degree from the University of the Western Cape and completed an honours degree at the University of South Africa.
Sickle became a CA while doing his articles at Deloitte before spending the next 20 years in auditing, where he worked closely with many of the country’s leading asset managers.
In 2019, Sickle joined Prudential as CFO and became CEO in October 2021 – just as the company rebranded to M&G Investments.
Sickle replaced Bernard Fick as CEO of Prudential asset managers before joining M&G Global in November 2021.
M&G currently manages over R300 billion in assets, making it one of South Africa’s top 10 asset managers by size.
Although he left carpentry behind for a successful career in asset management, his love of woodwork remains, and he still practices it actively in his off-time.
What it takes to rise to the top
Sickle emphasised the importance of tenacity and service in rising to the top of any business.
“Tenacity takes many forms”, but primarily it is about thinking of barriers as a challenge to overcome and not an excuse to give up.
Many people stop when they encounter a barrier and give up. For Sickle, challenges spurred him on to strive to overcome them.
Another facet of tenacity is focus – to overcome challenges, one needs to focus on what you want to do and where you want to be.
Sickle calls on individuals to constantly ask questions to learn from others wherever possible, “no question is a stupid question”.
The other side of Sickle’s rise to CEO of M&G came after he started working in the asset management business.
“We are here to serve our clients and not to be served,” he said. M&G’s strategy is determined by its client’s expectations and demands – not by what M&G want to do.
When he took over as CEO, Sickle “put his ear to the ground” by meeting M&G’s clients personally to find out what they want from an asset manager.
The strategy must come from the outside and not from the inside out.
Sickle views himself as a “caretaker of a business” whose job is managing and growing M&G, leaving it in a better place than when he took over as CEO.