The Bank of Singapore’s Chief Investment Officer was in the Bay this week to collect an Alumni Achievers Award from his alma mater, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
Having spent 15 years’ abroad, living in Jersey, England and now Singapore, Johan Jooste, 45, was thrilled to return to the city where he attended school and university, and where he married his wife, Mada, also 45, who was raised in Namibia.
Jooste still calls South Africa “home”, particularly Cape Town, the city of his childhood holidays, where his mother and brother still live – and where he hopes one day to retire.
He said his award from NMMU was an opportunity to “renew the links” with his alma mater. “I’m proud to be attached to this university … It has the potential to make a big impact nationally and globally.”
His “overseas adventure”, as he calls his thriving career abroad, happened “half by luck” with the right opportunities coming up at the right times. His successful corporate climb through several leading financial institutions, culminated in his latest position in Singapore earlier this year.
“Singapore is a very easy place to settle, make friends and feel at home. It’s so efficient and organised – it’s a Westerner’s dream.”
Littering carries a spot fine, drug dealing comes with a death sentence and gun ownership is banned. “Crime is unheard of,” said Jooste.
People have a high work ethic, and the finance industry is tech-savvy and rapid-paced.
“The Bank of Singapore is a very impressive entity. We’ve just acquired the wealth and business of Barclays Asia. When the deal is complete, it will make us the seventh wealthiest bank in the world [after predominantly American and Swiss firms, including the likes of JP Morgan and Credit Suisse].”
The Bank of Singapore is the investment arm of the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Limited, the second largest bank in South-East Asia.
“We are client-facing. We invest for our clients, not just for the bank.” Jooste’s primary role is to head up the investment research efforts of the bank. “We publish a lot of research – about 800 to 900 reports per year – which is essentially high-end investment advice for the wealthy.”
Prior to Singapore, he lived in Jersey and then London – where he experienced the most trying times in his career, but also his most successful.
Jooste’s time in London coincided with the world’s most serious economic recession since World War II. “I joined [United States-owned private bank] Merrill Lynch on August 4, 2008. I remember the date because six weeks later, Lehman Brothers [then the fourth-largest investment bank in the United States] collapsed and we were effectively bankrupted.”
The business was sold to the Bank of America and later sold again to Swiss company Julius Baer.
“Working for the Americans when things were going so badly in the markets, I experienced my greatest career uncertainties, but I also learned the most from that four or five-year period. It’s the best part of my CV … If I had to give advice to anyone in a similar situation, it would be: Never let a good crisis go to waste, never ever stop learning.”
He left Julius Baer to become Managing Director at Signia Wealth and then CIO at Azure Wealth LLP. While living in the UK, he was often interviewed by the BBC for expert opinion on monetary policy announcements made by the European Central Bank.
Born in Johannesburg, Jooste moved to Port Elizabeth at the age of seven, completing his schooling at Summerwood Primary and then Pearson High.
He completed his BCom (Economics) undergraduate and honours degrees in the early 1990s at what was then the University of Port Elizabeth (now NMMU), where his father Gert was a professor in literature and his mother Estelle worked as a librarian.
He returned to Johannesburg to complete his master’s degree in economics at the University of Johannesburg. His first job was teaching economics at Vista University, where he met his wife, then a linguistics lecturer. A move into corporate finance saw him working for Absa (now Barclays) and then Telkom, before shifting to fund management.
He worked for the Metals Industries, and then Rand Merchant Bank (RMB), which offered him a position in Jersey – that effectively kick-started his “overseas adventure”. He also spent some time working for RMB in London, prior to joining Merrill Lynch.
“We didn’t actively immigrate. Opportunities came along and we took them.”
Although he now lives abroad, one of Jooste’s hobbies is to collect books on South African history, from around 1850 to 1910.
Jooste and Mada have one daughter, Madalé, 20, who is completing a BA degree in international relations in the Netherlands.