The inside story with Tobie van Heerden, 10X CEO

2 October 2023

- Tobie van Heerden

Why did you choose to get into this industry?

I love working with people, building relationships, applying my technical skills and then seeing the tangible results of my work. The asset management industry is a good fit.

How did your stint in Asia influence your view of the industry and what was its application at 10X?

Asia is a multicultural and cosmopolitan mix of societies, which requires adaptation depending on the market you are working in. It’s very competitive, with large global and domestic asset managers fighting for market share. Positioning and differentiating your investment product is critical to success. There is an absolute meritocracy as relationships don’t drive decision-making. During my time there, fintech businesses started to disrupt traditional finance and the rise of passive investment strategies starting to gain serious momentum, to the point where close to 30% of all investment is now held in index or passive mandates. We have pivoted 10X in a similar trajectory by: using technology and passive building blocks to build high-quality, low-cost outcome-based investment products; using the increasing adopting rate off a low base by South African investors (8% investments are in passive/index funds); and focusing on specific market segments to generate exponential growth.

Why did you join 10X as CEO?

Part of my motivation of coming back to South Africa was to build a business that would give South African investors the benefit of a home-grown, technology-led asset manager. I knew the larger asset management firms would not be ideal due to their slow rates of adoption and inability to change as a result of entrenched legacy systems and ways of thinking. The beauty of 10X at the time was that it was still a small business, but with a 15-year investment track record. The opportunity was to use its established infrastructure and revenues to pivot the business into “start-up mode”, but with the benefit of being an established firm. Shifting technology into the core of the business, applying it to index investing, focusing on fast iteration cycles of development and growth — while having the backing of the shareholders and a board —were all ticks I needed. We’ve been given the mandate to build something “home grown” to rival any of the global players, with the potential to make a real difference in terms of helping South Africans create wealth.

10X is a fairly small player in the industry: what sets it apart from the competition?

We ’re independent, which means a few things. We don’t have conflicts of interest with our investors or partners. We can drive cost efficiencies without large group overheads. We can apply fast iterations in our development and growth without corporate politics or long decision-making processes. We focus only on index investment and building wealth for our clients. We can work with partners and corporates in the B2B space with trust and transparency. Another differentiator is our flexibility. We define this not as the ability to provide a long list of complex investment products, but the ability to focus on an initiative, then to either double down or pivot to something else, depending on what the data tells us. The quicker these cycles become, the greater the flexibility. This isn’t possible in a larger business with legacy systems and institutional DNA. Without the benefit of a big brand budget and co-operation from a mothership”, every potential or current client is important to us. This means we provide unparalleled client service and ensure a quality investment outcome to every client, no matter how big or small.

What changes would you like to bring into the industry?

I’d like to demystify investments by making it simple and easy to access a savings solution, which will intuitively help South Africans to grow their wealth. Active and passive investment can co-exist and both need each other in a healthy investment environment. I’d like to see more transparency and a consistent way of making fair and equitable comparisons for investors across investment products and enable the adoption of technology in the savings environment.

What’s your vision for 10X?

We want to change the local industry by building the asset manager of the future.

10X Investments is an authorised Financial Services Provider (FSP number 28250). The content herein is provided as general information and is not intended as nor does it constitute tax, legal, investment, or financial advice as defined by the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act, 2002.

The 10X Living Annuity is underwritten by Guardrisk Life Ltd.

10X Fund Managers (RF) (Pty) Ltd is an approved manager of collective investments schemes in securities in terms of Section 42 of the Collective Investments Schemes Control Act, 45 of 2002.

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