Helena Conradie: Don’t question your own understanding of money!

Helena Conradie is the CEO of SATRIX, a leading provider of passive investment products in South Africa. SATRIX is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Sanlam Group. Helena has built up a highly-regarded indexation business with approximately R60 billion in assets under management. Her team manages the largest equity portfolio of exchange traded funds (ETFs) in South Africa. Helena’s previous experience includes three years with Franklin Templeton Asset Management in Cape Town as part of a small start-up investment team. In this interview, she shares the lessons she's learned about money. 

What financial values did your parents teach you growing up?

I grew up in a house where people and experiences were valued more than money. Money was in no way made out to be a bad thing, it was just not the focus of any discussions, arguments or aspirations, we didn’t have an active relationship with money.  In a very unexpected way this has provided very valuable guidance and sanity for me in a world of volatile and artificial values. 
In that context, the concept of financial freedom makes so much more sense for me on a personal level…it is not about the size of your savings, but the recognition of what is important in your life and how money can enable you to be free to  make your own choices.

Were you always good with money, or did you take more of an interest in it as your career took off?

I had no specific interest or sense of money matters, but having to finance my own studies brought a sense of respect and responsibility towards the (given) dependence on money very early on in my life. My interest grew at a rapid pace as I was exposed to the exciting world of finance….probably more out of curiosity than the drive to make money! 

How do you define financial independence?

The ability to make a choice that is important to you…whether it is to buy some flowers for a friend on the spur of the moment, or book a dream holiday for the family.

What's the biggest lesson you've learned about money? How did it transform your thinking?

Start at an early age, save for something you really really want and experience the aspirational aspect of money.  Make maximum use of the very obvious opportunities available for example tax free savings and apply your mind to the rest. Don’t assume “anything money” will just happen…money does not grow on trees! But never make money all about you. Be mindful of all the different levels of wealth and poverty and know that you can experience both at the flip of a coin.

How can women learn to talk about money with ease? 

Talk from experience, have faith in your own insights and intuitions…in most cases you are the one buying the groceries, buying the new tennis racket for your son’s birthday, buying the dog food and making it all add up at the end of the month. Don’t question your own understanding of money! It’s more than a budget, a spreadsheet, it is the everyday experience of financial freedom or concern.

How do you remain positive about money in tough times?

Never lose sight of the purpose and role of money in your life. It is NOT more important than family and friends.  

Do you think husbands and wives should share equal responsibility when it comes to their household finances?

Yes I do believe that husband and wife should share the responsibility. 

How do you make sure you can afford your lifestyle even in old age?

I never lose my respect for money and with that comes a sense of responsibility that keep you mindful and focused on the longer term.

What do you look for in an investment before you put your money in it? 

I need to understand the workings of the company/share, the fund, the property…no black boxes! 

What's been your best and your worst decision about money?

My best investment decision came as a result of a ‘transaction’ with my dad…I took over some of his Naspers shares and then decided to top it up at a time when the share price was at R60. The biggest mistake was not to buy more! 

If you have the choice between buying a home or investing in shares, which would you choose and why?

I’m old school…I prefer to own the house in which I live. After that, I will make a call purely based on investment principles whether to invest in my bond, equities, property or any other opportunity.

What’s your biggest personal indulgence?

Travelling and more travelling. 

What are your favourite resources for learning more about investing?

I’m fortunate enough to have many investment professionals around me every day, so I can just listen and ask questions! But I have to admit…my day starts and ends with twitter and other online reading…not sure if that’s a good thing or not! ;-).

Do you have rules for lending money to friends or family?

If you can’t discuss it in a very unemotional and logical way, don’t do it.

What's your advice to women who are worried about investing in the stock market?

It will be one of your best decisions, but do it for the long term and don’t do it on your own…join an investment club, seek the professional services of an 
financial advisor, read, listen and observe the role of money in and around you…you will not regret it.

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