Aug 12, 2020
On 1 April, Ninety One entered its thirtieth year. During the momentous last month of our 29th financial year, we successfully demerged from Investec, listed on the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges, and rebranded as Ninety One, an independent investment manager with 21% staff ownership.
We ended the year with record earnings, a high-quality client base from around the world and a highly motivated and experienced leadership team. None of this would have been possible without the ongoing support of our clients. What could have been a celebration of our accomplishments in building a business from start-up stage to a firm with a £2 billion market capitalisation, was instead replaced by an intense focus on navigating the COVID-19 world. Life has a way of ensuring that we all stay humble.
Ninety One navigated the early challenge from the COVID-19 pandemic well. We managed to remain one coherent firm, in spite of working from more than 1000 workplaces; we kept our nerve and captured the market rebound as one would have expected from experienced investors; and we continue to actively engage our clients and the broader society during this difficult period. As stewards of your capital, we carry a huge responsibility to add value to your portfolios and engage you in thoughtful ways, no matter how challenging the market conditions may be.
The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic will be with us for many years to come. We now inhabit a more divided, poorer, more stressed world than before. We operate in financial markets that are still driven by debt-fuelled stimulus and remain accommodated by ultra-low interest rates. It is therefore vital that we engage this challenging world with maximum strategic clarity.
Notwithstanding the events of recent months, our strategy remains consistent. Ninety One continues to provide a range of specialist, active strategies to our global client base. We are well differentiated from our competitor universe by our blend of global and emerging market investment expertise, and our origins in South Africa.
We believe that the growing weight of emerging markets in the world economy is a structural trend, leading to increased representation in major indices, over time. This underlines the relevance of emerging markets to asset owners. Our investment approach combines this perspective with a global approach to investing, free from “home bias”.
The near-term challenges facing emerging markets have not changed our long-term view. To the contrary, we expect the next few years to provide our investors with compelling long-term opportunities in both developed and emerging markets, and risk assets in general.
We have to grow the business by delivering on the expectations of our clients in terms of performance and service and ensure that we remain relevant to your needs. It is as simple as that.
However, when you have an organisation of smart, independent-minded people it takes more than the formal logic of strategy to marshal the full capacity of that organisation. Culture is the “unspoken language”. Culture is the glue that binds people into an effective team, based on shared assumptions, mindsets and social patterns.
In any organisation, especially an intellectual capital business with a capital-light, organic growth model, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.* Although our people are for now physically distanced, they are all custodians of the special Ninety One culture.
This culture of ours is unique, has developed organically over three decades and has become key to our success. It has been built on a foundation of entrepreneurship and our “founder-owner” mindset. At Ninety One, we are builders, dreamers and drivers. Here we have “freedom to create” within clear parameters of values, team and strategy. We encourage direct, honest and open discussion, benefiting from our diversity of background, lived experience, thought and perspective. Our people have the freedom to be themselves, which facilitates the combination of individual expression with collective ambition and team discipline.
At Ninety One, we have reconciled individuality with teamwork. We have no place for outsized egos or “I-specialists”. It is about the “we”, but in the context of respecting the “me”. We insist on results but not at the expense of the human spirit. Relationships matter. We care about one another and treat people fairly. We are, after all, a people-centred business. We balance relentless drive with decency. A cornerstone of our culture is to “do the right thing”.
We are committed to doing our best for all stakeholders in the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating economic consequences. We will do this by remaining focused on our clients and the investments we make on your behalf. Furthermore, we will engage and support the companies we invest in, care for our people and contribute to the societies we serve.
We believe our staff stability, strategic clarity and culture position us well for the long term. We intend to use this period of market and economic dislocation to inspire ourselves to build a better firm, develop better ways of investing and renew our commitment to building a better world. The people of Ninety One fully intend to pursue our purpose of investing for a better tomorrow.
*This is often attributed to Peter Drucker, but the origin is not clear.