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ACROSS THE BOARD

Anton Eser, the man tasked with taking 10X Investments to the next level

Anton Eser, the man tasked with taking 10X Investments to the next level
Anton Eser, chief investment officer at 10X Investments. (Photo: Luke MacGregor / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Anton Eser, recently took the helm as chief investment officer at 10X Investments as it enters its next growth stage.

What are your three B-HAGs  (big, hairy, ambitious goals) for this job?

I joined 10X to be part of something that helps more ordinary South Africans save. We have a pensions crisis in this country and I believe 10X has a unique opportunity to change the industry for the benefit of the consumer. We need to build significant scale – we want to have 10 times the amount of assets under management over the next five years. As an investor in corporate SA, we want to be a force for good in helping companies improve corporate governance and policies on social and environmental impact.

What would you say was the best investment you ever made?

Back in 2008 during the financial crisis I had the daunting task of managing the R400-billion balance sheet of a large UK insurer. It was a very stressful time with all our assets sinking day after day. It really felt like we were on the brink.

Thankfully, I had a great relationship with the CEO and we were able to work through each situation. We flipped our mindset through calmly analysing the difference between liquidity and solvency risk and, instead of being forced liquidators, we became the buyers of some very distressed assets. We more than offset all losses throughout the crisis and over the long term created billions of pounds in profit. From there, the company went from strength to strength.

I learnt valuable lessons – most importantly about the importance of being analytical in investing and not allowing irrational thoughts of fear or greed to influence decisions.

The best business book you have ever read?

The one that probably influenced me the most was Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (he wrote Black Swan a few years later). I read it very early in my career and it helped me get a very different perspective about skill versus luck, as well as the false confidence we gain through hindsight.

What would you prioritise if you were president of SA?

There are so many priorities but if I was to pick one with the most far-reaching impact it would be the energy transition. As a country we must ensure we have an energy mix that is reliable and sustainable. The transition from coal to renewable energy could create hundreds of thousands of jobs for South Africans over the next few decades. The energy transition touches every challenge we face. It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to attract hundreds of billions of rands in long-term investment and transition our economy into a renewable leader. We just need to get on with it!

How much was your first pay cheque and what did you do with it?

I honestly don’t remember my first pay cheque in the business world. I had worked in restaurants and bars since I left school. I do remember arriving at my first proper job at a small merchant bank in Johannesburg and the boss sending me away with a small cheque to buy a suit.

Tell us about 10X’s transition to a fully fledged asset manager.

10X is built around providing one simple, low-cost product for retirement. It has worked well, but to really reach the scale we need requires a strategy that caters to the broader market. Internally, we call the next growth stage 10X 2.0. It is being driven by a new management team with diverse global experience.

Our objective is to build the largest index business in the SA market. To do that means we need to broaden our distribution channels and our investment products. We are also investing a huge amount of time and money in technology. DM168

Neesa Moodley is associate editor at Business Maverick.

In this column, Business Maverick seeks to shine a spotlight on board appointments at director and C-suite level across corporate South Africa. We are looking specifically at transformation and gender diversity. Please send appointments to [email protected]

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

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