BCom UCT, BCOM (Hons), Economics UNISA
Head of Asset Management Research at Glacier by Sanlam
Like a lot of young people, Leigh didn’t have a clear idea of the career he wanted when he started university, which is one of the reasons he studied a broad BCom in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. While a lot about the future seemed unclear, he knew that one day he wanted to work for a company that reflected his values and that gave him room to grow; a place where he could have ambitious career goals, but still maintain a human balance. In the end, it was this desire, and the opportunities for innovation, that drew him to the financial services industry and to the Sanlam Group.
Leigh heads up a team of highly qualified investment analysts, who support the sales function within Glacier. “Our research helps people make better investment decisions”, he explains.
The journey to his current position has been an interesting one, and he’s played a few different roles along the way. “My first job was an admin assistant and it was about getting my foot in the door, about proving things to myself”, he says. After 6 months he became an ops consultant, which he describes as “an awesome opportunity to develop my decision-making capabilities”. From there he moved to a call center role and was then was given the opportunity to manage the ops team. Armed with key leadership skills he then moved into senior management, heading up the investment administration team and finally moving on to become the Head of Asset Management Research at Glacier, and Associate Director as well. Being exposed to the business from the bottom up as been a huge highlight for Leigh, and has given him both insight and capacity to lead others in different roles.
He credits much of his successful career growth to the environment at Sanlam, “The Group understands that there are individuals who are ambitious and provides opportunities for them. That’s what keeps me interested and excited. I’ve also realised that people are watching you, seeing what you can do. They are honest about where they think you can add value to the organisation. They have your back, present opportunities to you and help you grow.”
Leigh’s journey is directly linked to his desire to continue the learning process, with a hope to touch more lives and create a greater impact. He explains further, “Since leaving university, I’ve continued to study. Glacier sponsors an MBA every three years or so and I was fortunate enough to be approached. It’s a huge opportunity and the past few years have been a high point in terms of growth.” Progress and advancement are big motivating factors for Leigh, whether the growth is in terms of professional experience, academic achievements, or personal developments in his family life.
Leigh has learnt well how to balance the demands of the work place with his life outside the office. To destress and clear his head, he often goes running. He also finds that spending time with his family replenishes him and fills his tank for the next day. His biggest inspiration is his two little girls. “What a child does is give a lot of context to a lot of things. Having this being in front of you, completely innocent and unfettered, and to know that you’re completely responsible for them is intense. So, whatever I do, I make sure that I am able to equip these two beings with everything they need to make a bigger difference in the world than I ever could.”
Having spent so many years at Sanlam, Leigh is acutely aware of all that has changed, but also of how much has stayed the same. “Glacier started as a Sanlam unit 20 years ago. Back then it was a very ‘family values’ business, driven by honesty, integrity, respect. Twenty years on, these are the values the company really tries to protect.”
He has seen the workforce change a lot too, becoming increasingly diverse; “Ultimately from a business perspective you want a diversity of thinking. So that’s why diversity is important. If we’re all the same we’re all going to tackle the world in one way. Once you’re able to think about the world differently due to diversity, that’s when you remain relevant and your business becomes sustainable going forward.”
He’s seen many more women join the ranks and in more senior positions, but he still sees a lot of room for transformation in this area. “I don’t think it’s a Sanlam specific issue. It’s an issue our country is facing and in many ways we’re trying to address the problem. I would like to see more female empowerment and see more women in positions that count. The time for a discussion about the issue has past. We need to address this now, from both a societal and professional perspective. I don’t think that there are any excuses anymore. There are plenty of competent and above competent women around to take on very senior positions, and I honestly think men have messed things up enough in leadership positions, broadly speaking. Balancing out some of all that testosterone is important.”