Moreover, founder and global head of deVere Group, Nigel Green insists on visiting each area of operation three to four times a year.
That tight schedule sees him spending 22 hours in Cape Town, meeting with company managers from across Africa, before dashing off to Dubai, where he spends just 26 hours.
His family fits comfortably into this globetrotting lifestyle. “I have a son in Abu Dhabi and a daughter in the UK. We talk everyday, technology makes it easy,” he says.
With more than $9 billion (about R88 billion) under management globally, the deVere Group is the fastest growing financial services entity in sub-Saharan Africa. The firm specialises in independent financial planning advice for expatriates and high net worth individuals, and has been in existence for more than 10 years.
Since opening a base in Cape Town in 2008, the deVere Group has also become the fastest growing offshore financial services group in Africa with 16 offices across the continent, including SA (Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Hermanus and Stellenbosch), Botswana, Angola, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, with further plans to open 10 more offices across the continent over the next five years.
Green says conducting business in Africa is the same as everywhere else.
“The fundamentals of good service and good advice are the same and still apply. You want someone to return your calls and give you information in a clear fashion – it’s the same wherever you are in the world.”
Niche offering for global citizens
The company’s niche service offering was client-driven, he says. It was while working in the UK that he was exposed to people working abroad and listening to them speak, he realised there was a gap in the market.
“The world has become more international, people don’t stay in one country anymore and so they need international financial advice. If you are a South African working in the UK, you need a product that will be good for the UK but also good for the country that you end up [retire] in.” Green says.
Green explains that being a citizen means you still need to worry about the tax regime in your country of origin, “because your domicile is still there. So the product you choose has to suit both locations.”
Staying in touch
Irrespective of his expansion plans, Green maintains he’ll continue being within easy reach of his clients, wherever they might be in the world.
He intends to do this by keeping to his punishing travel schedule and meeting both clients and the people that work for him. DeVere has more than 460 consultants and 70 000 clients worldwide.
“I want to be close to what happens in the real world. You don’t want the company to get so big that you lose touch- that means getting out of the office.”
The right people
Green also believes that a company whose goals are aligned to its staff’s personal goals will retain its people. “You have to somehow align what they [staff] want to achieve with what the company wants to achieve.”
When choosing his employees, over and above the appropriate skills, Green looks for individuals with a positive attitude; people who are teachable and don’t have a fixed idea in their mind of how things should be, people who are willing to learn new things and develop.
At college he studied business but confesses he wasn’t a very good student. He got bored too quickly and couldn’t concentrate for long spells. However, he counts this among his positive traits and attributes his success to it.
“I am always looking for a challenge to keep myself interested. Being someone who is a bit restless, with high drive, I need constant challenges.”