Meet the Boss: Craig Featherby, Africa head, deVere Group

‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series where we pose the same ten questions to business leaders across the continent.

Craig Featherby, head of the deVere Group’s Africa operations.

Craig Featherby, head of the deVere Group’s Africa operations.

Craig Featherby, regional manager for Africa, deVere Group

1. What was your first job?

I used to work for my father as a farm manager but that was when I was in university. Thereafter I started my articles at Ernst & Young as an article clerk.

2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?

There have been a lot of very important people. I guess my father initially, who gave me a phenomenal understanding of how to work and how to work hard, and the principles of business. My mother, on the other hand, kept me grounded and kept me focused on what is true to [me], and that’s friends and family. More recently the CEO of deVere Group, Nigel Green, who is a phenomenal inspiration – just to see what he has basically done in 10 years compared to what I have done in five years. He is a great inspiration.

3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?

I generally don’t worry about my job and therefore I could probably say I have the best job in the world. When I go to bed, I go to bed to sleep. So I’m not that individual who wakes up thinking about things. I am a great believer of ‘come to work at 7am, leave work at 7pm, and then its family time’. So I generally don’t like to worry about work when I am at home.

4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?

I think primarily… [I] understand [my] own abilities and [I’m] prepared to commit to life-long learning. You know, learn about how you can improve yourself. From my father – I think it was back with working on the farm – you know, he worked hard. It was hard work and he taught me that nothing comes for free and [nobody] is going to give you anything for free. Therefore, I think that if you just work hard, and you work in an honest and committed way, you are going to succeed in anything that you do. I guess I try and work harder than the guy next to me.

5. What are the best things about your country, South Africa?

Well we are sitting in Cape Town and it’s a fantastic winter’s day; there is not a cloud in the sky. So that’s not too bad.

Look, I’ve lived and travelled in so many countries [but] to come back to South Africa – people are humble, people are friendly [and] people really want to move forward to the future. There are phenomenal opportunities; it’s a phenomenal place to live. I could live in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, it makes absolutely zero difference the fact that I’ve chosen to live in Cape Town… I just think South Africa has got an incredible opportunity going forward, and I think if everyone realised that opportunity we would be so further forward down the line. So I am hoping that people can wake up and see the opportunities.

6. And the worst?

The winter rain in Cape Town? What is the worst? Sho, that is quite tough because is there something bad about the country? Well… I’ve just started a charity called Signature of Hope for the simple reason that my goal is to change the lives of every African child, and people say “that’s an incredible goal to have Craig, but it’s not really realistic”. Well I’m 38 now, I’m going to live to 100 so I have got another 62 years to try and do it. So the worst thing is that there is very much an abundance of underprivileged children that need assistance and I really want to try channel my focus from deVere into Signature of Hope and see if I can make a difference.

7. Your future career plans?

I want to be the dominant force in offshore financial advice in Africa. I don’t think we are far off from that. I want to change the lives of every single person that comes to work for me or with me. And whether that’s financial, whether that’s social, whether that’s emotional, I’m not sure, but I want to make a difference. I want people to achieve their goals in life and I want them to think that Craig Featherby and deVere maybe had 1% to do with it, and if that’s the case then I reckon I’ve done something well.

8. How do you relax?

My wife and I love to fish. We have a house on the Breede River in Swellendam and we also do a lot of fishing on the Zambezi River in Zambia. It’s one of the great things that my wife and I have the ability to do together. So I like to do that. I also have two Rhodesian Ridgebacks that are two years old and need to be walked on a daily basis. So I like to go to the wine fields and walk them. And I like to talk to people – I like to talk to a car guard, I like to talk to a taxi driver, I like to engage people.

But am I the type of individual that needs to take an hour a day to distress and relax? No, that is not me.

9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?

I think – in summary – I would say, being good is not good enough. You have got to concentrate at being the very, very best that you can possibly be. You have got to be your own alpha male. You can’t aspire to be someone else; you can’t aspire to achieve someone else’s goals. You have got to achieve your own and the only way you can do that is [that] you have to understand your own ability and understand how good you actually are. And if you understand that, success is going to come and it’s going to come quickly.

10. How can Africa realise its full potential?

I think it comes through education, doesn’t it? It comes through educating the next generation, and ensuring that they understand the opportunities that we have. And by educating [this] generation you are going to find that the next generation is going to be bigger and stronger.

You know, I say to the guys that come and work for me… “Your goal has to be to become better than me. You have to achieve more than what I have achieved.” You have got to become greater than your mentor, and if everyone aspires to do that, we are very quickly going to start competing on a global [level].

Craig Featherby joined the deVere Group – an international financial consultancy and investment advisory firm – in 2004 as a senior financial advisor in Tokyo. He returned to South Africa in 2008 to head the Group’s African operations and is an expert in offshore markets, trends and investment opportunities. Over the last five years, Featherby has assisted with deVere’s expansion across seven markets in Africa – South Africa, Botswana, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Ghana – with further plans to open 10 more offices across the continent over the next five years.