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Meet Helena Conradie – CIO at SATRIX

| 1 November 2013

Listen, learn and make things simple

Helena Conradie, SATRIX chief investment officer, likes to do things differently, whether it’s developing a new passive investment product with her SATRIX team or taking a shot of lions licking their paws in the Serengeti. It’s the ongoing learning and fact that every day is different that makes this Applied Mathematics graduate love the investment world.

What do you love most about investing?

It’s never the same and there’s no routine. I also love that it’s a never-ending story, which means you always feel like a student. Most importantly for me is that it matters because you can make a difference in people’s lives.

Why passive not active?

I truly believe in the merits of passive investing (you just need to read Losing the Winner’s Game by Charles Ellis). But I’ve never been a black and white person and can see the benefits of both styles of investing. I think that has been extremely important for me in my career. When I first decided to become what was then called a “quant” (quantitative analyst), I always interacted with the active investment team and was interested in what they were doing. I think that was the only way I was able to successfully bring in new ideas because if they had only seen me as a quant sitting behind a computer, they would never have taken me that seriously.

What traits do you think are most important to have as an investment professional – and a woman in a male-dominated field?

This quote by Steve Jobs says it all for me:

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs

My take out for investment professionals is that we need to…

  • Listen, process and learn without end
  • Question and challenge – yourself, others and the system
  • and then…make it simple.

As a woman, just focus passionately on your job as an investment professional and forget about the noise. Be authentic and true to yourself.

Who do you admire most in the investment world and why?

There are many people but the one who stands out for me most, internationally, is John Bogle, founder of Vanguard and the person who changed the world of investing when he put index funds on the map. I met him, and William Sharpe (of Sharpe ratio fame*), at a conference overseas. Bogle is a huge icon but surprisingly unassuming in an industry full of prima-donnas. He’s just published another book ‘The Clash of the Cultures: Investment vs. Speculation’ at the age of 83.

Who do you admire most in the non-investment world and why?

My parents. From them I learnt all the non-technical things that they are teaching on courses these days: Emotional Intelligence, leadership, even aspects of the MBA programmes. My dad was my philosophical influence and my mum my musical influence and together they gave me a grounding and way of looking at the world that has held me in good stead during my life. They taught me how to think about things differently and to have that goal and belief in what you do and find creative, sometimes even what seems like crazy ways of getting there.

What is your favourite time out pastime?

I have a few. Photography because it enables me to see the world in a certain way; it allows me to capture moments. I like being an observer and seeing and capturing experiences from a different angle.

I love music because it is the language of the soul. I have a 360-degree taste in music from classical music to pop. I am playing Joshua Bell in my car at the moment – an exquisite violin player who I had the pleasure of watching play live recently.

For me life is all about seizing the moment, living it to the full and having FUN!

*As defined by Investopedia, the Sharpe ratio was developed by Nobel laureate William F. Sharpe to measure risk-adjusted performance. It’s calculated by subtracting the risk-free rate – such as the yield on the 10-year US Treasury bond – from the rate of return for a portfolio and dividing the result by the standard deviation of the portfolio returns.

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