Global expansion lessons from Bernard Kantor, builder of Investec UK

Visiting Investec’s managing director Bernard Kantor yesterday was a tonic in a typically wet London. The resulting interview is being transcribed and will be published later today. There were pearls aplenty from the man who felt he drew the short straw when he moved to London in 1997 to spearhead the global expansion. Short straw or not, Kantor, who turns 66 this month, can look back on his efforts with satisfaction.

Bernard Kantor
Investec’s managing director, Bernard Kantor

The small leasing shop from the bottom end of Johannesburg’s rough Mooi Street now occupies a block of real estate near London’s St Paul’s Cathederal; employs more than 8 000 professionals around the world, and manages assets worth twice South Africa’s annual GDP.

Kantor says Investec followed its SA customers to London. But soon realised there were too few of them to sustain a business, so changed its strategy and embarked on acquisitions. Today, he says, South Africans account for less than 0.1% of Investec’s flagship UK operation. And that, he says, is the true measure of its success.

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