After working for various companies across Europe and the Middle East, Ryk Becker’s current role has brought him full circle with a return to his home nation of South Africa. As Executive General Manager, Ryk has been leading the Group’s operations in both our Cape Town and Johannesburg offices since April.
Due to travel restrictions, Ryk only arrived in South Africa earlier this month after five months of managing the team remotely from his home in the south of England. Now that Ryk has had time to settle in and finally meet his colleagues face to face, let’s find out a little more about the new addition to our South Africa team.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Kroonstad, but we moved to Harrismith when I was about 2 years old. Harrismith is a border town between the Free state and Kwa-Zulu Natal. The town lies on the banks of the Wilge river and at the foothills of Platberg which forms part of the Drakensberg range. I spent my entire childhood here quite carefree, playing lots of sport and spending lots of time in the surrounding areas camping with my friends.
Where has your career taken you so far?
My early financial career started in South Africa. I left South Africa in 2000 after an opportunity became available with ABN Amro Bank in the Netherlands. It was too good to turn down at the time and I never looked back. From there I moved on to opportunities in Dubai (UAE) and Doha (Qatar) for 7 years, followed by a long period working for Lloyds in various roles which took me to the Channel Islands (Jersey & Guernsey), the Isle of Man, London and Frankfurt. My role at Capital brings me full circle back to South Africa.
What attracted you to Capital?
I was lucky enough to spend 4 years back in South Africa (2010-2013) working as Country Manager for Lloyds Banking Group, a role I enjoyed very much. Over the years I have kept my eyes open for any similar opportunities i.e. a foreign entity with operations in South Africa looking to grow and expand.
When I saw the position at Capital, it immediately took me back years. The prospect excited me, as there were so many similarities to my previous role. That in itself was just part of the initial attraction. When I started talking to Greg and Anthony, having worked for a very large financial institution like Lloyds, it was refreshing to see how passionate they were about what had grown from a family business to a now very well recognised international business with very ambitious plans. I decided I wanted to become part of that journey. Building and growing a business is what I always loved doing. It didn’t take too much convincing. Meeting the team in IOM gave me a really good feeling about the business. Then of course there was having dinner with Peter Long. As one of the founders of the business, seeing his continued interest and passion as a NED was the deal-maker.
Did you always envisage a career in finance? What did you want to be when you were younger?
No – I never liked maths at school perhaps because in those days in South Africa, I quite often stood in the queue for “6 of the best” for not knowing something.
My passion was nature conservation, so I went on to study Zoology and Botany, followed by a few years working on various game reserves (I specialised in the relocation of rhinos). Nature conservation is a calling and earning a good salary was difficult at the time. I returned to university to study Hotel Management but ended up liking Finance so much that I just continued to major in that.
Tell us about your family...
I have been married to Deana (Dee) since 2003. We met whilst we both worked in Dubai and got married in Mauritius. We have 2 daughters, Saba (16) and Darcy (14). Dee and the girls previously spent 4 years in Cape Town whilst I worked for Lloyds Banking group, so are very familiar with South Africa. As a family we all love food, nature, travel and holidays. As a consequence there is always some cooking or baking going on in the house and we always like to have a holiday planned. Our favourite destinations Greece (Naxos), Italy (Umbria) and South Africa (Cape Town).
What have your first few months at Capital been like?
Well, for one, it wasn’t the most traditional start to any new job. Before I was to start on 6th April in South Africa, their borders closed due to COVID-19, and I had to work remotely from the UK for five months, which brings its own challenges.
Capital use the latest technology so although I wasn’t present in South Africa, I connected everyday with the team via video. I’m lucky to have a very engaging team who accepted that this was just the way it had to be for a while. Because we were all working remotely, being in the UK didn’t make much of a difference. The one thing I missed out on though was buying them a drink in person!
My initial reflections are:
• I have a fantastic team on the ground with a huge amount of knowledge and drive.
• We have very good relationships with our existing customer base that we can build off.
• We can scale the business, as the opportunities remain fantastic in South Africa
What do you do to relax in your free time?
I used to play a lot of sport, but these days if I want to get away from it all, I go running or cycling. I lived in a wonderful part of the UK in the New Forest where I was fortunate to have both forest and coastal areas nearby. I liked to go down to some of the beaches on the English South coast and spend a day with Dee and girls relaxing. I normally sit on the beach as I don’t like the cold water, whilst they go for some refreshing dips in the sea. I also love reading - no specific genre just anything and everything.
What’s your favourite place to visit?
South Africa’s Kruger Park will always be a favourite of mine, but I also love the Greek Islands and Italy. The people, the scenery, the food – it’s just wonderful. I also enjoy spending time in the Maldives which we visited as much as we could when we lived in the Middle East.
What are your aims for the first year at Capital?
Very straightforward – I need to analyse the opportunities to contribute to our next 3-year strategic plan; steady the business following COVID-19; accelerate the growth in SA and Africa by identifying new institutions/entities in search of a quality offshore partner; and continue to support the local team with the various challenges they have.
What was your first record?
The BeeGees and CC Catch
In your opinion, what are the qualities leaders should possess?
• Inspirational vision
• Leading, guiding and protecting his/her team
• Make time to listen, act and support without fail
Post-COVID-19, what do you think the future of office work will look like?
I think there will be a strong drive to have more flexible working arrangements in place, which will cater for a better work life balance; however, we need to counter that with a focus on maintaining the Capital culture. I think we will find a halfway house of sorts.
Three people dead or alive to invite to a dinner party – who would you choose? And what’s your signature dish?
Sir David Attenborough, Elon Musk and Ernie Els. I’d be barbecuing fillet steak and corn on the cob which I’d serve with various salads.
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts and opinions expressed within this article are those of the author, and not those of any company within the Capital International Group (CIG) and as such are neither given nor endorsed by CIG. Information in this article does not constitute investment advice or an offer or an invitation by or on behalf of any company within the Capital International Group of companies to buy or sell any product or security.