Interview with Johan Hattingh – CEO of PMR and Gary Mockler – CEO of GTC.
Johan Hattingh: Morning Gary. For the readers – Gary Mockler is the CEO of GTC. Congratulations on this year’s PMR Arrow Award. GTC has won the top-ranking Diamond Award of Excellence for the past five years. Additionally, over the last five GTC has the highest score of any company in your category. We’d like to know some more about you guys.
So specifically, who is GTC, where did you come from, and is GTC an acronym for a longer name?
Gary Mockler: Whew, a short question which requires a longer answer. We used to be Grant Thornton Capital, integrally part of the global audit practice – Grant Thornton. In fact, we pre-date Grant Thornton Capital. In 1991 we started our business as part of the audit practice, Kessel Feinstein, which in turn was a member firm of the international accounting network firm Grant Thornton.
In 1994, together with just about everyone else in South Africa, naming conventions changed from focussing on the local name to adopting international brands. Though GTC began in 1991, it adopted the Grant Thornton Capital moniker in the mid 90’s.
Fast-forward to 2017, when the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) in the USA regulated that an audit practice couldn’t own any equity in an asset management business. The reasons were logical and weren’t argued. Constructive and cordial negotiations between Grant Thornton and GTC resulted in a transfer of ownership and the name becoming GTC. Whilst formerly Grant Thornton Capital, GTC is now not an acronym but a name in its own right. We’re very proud of it.
What does the GTC “brand” represent?
Gary: Being part of one of the world’s largest audit and business consultancies for nearly 30 years obviously affects one’s DNA. Back then, the global firm ran a clever (and successful) ad campaign about Grant Thornton being in ‘a category of one’. The logic was that the Big Four were difficult to separate and shared a common identity, whilst Grant Thornton was very specifically different from them whilst still a major player. The differentiation was true. This defined GTC’s identity too, and it still prevails today. I realise I’m talking a lot about Grant Thornton, but you did ask about our heritage.
GTC is operated and managed by shareholders. We’re able to make big decisions quickly. At the same time, we run our business on solid corporate structures (that’s the audit DNA I spoke about earlier, I guess), and I believe we would be the envy of many larger, listed financial service companies. My opinion, of course.
We’re able to compete with any of the usual providers, but with more zing, more innovation. Quicker, less expensive, and more accommodating. So, as to your question, GTC represents innovation and speed-of-delivery expected of a start-up, combined with over 30 years of experience and industry wisdom – in a category of one.
On which core values do you specifically manage GTC, and which values contribute most to your reputation?
Gary: Johan, now you’re talking our kind of language. Values, and reputation are two very important qualities we have always lived by. Yes, we’re a financial services provider, considerably invested into the retirement management sector – an industry with its share of politics, user frustrations, and ever-increasing regulation.
Above everything else, and this includes GTC’s own economic objectives, everyone within GTC lives the mantra that we are the custodians and gate keepers to many thousands of South Africans and their journey to financial wellness.
So, GTC and all our staff share a bunch of core values (and I mean more than the usual vision-and-mission stuff we all got taught at Business School) which go to the centre of what we do. We all recognise the fiduciary responsibilities we have. We get a kick out of seeing the incremental gains that responsible investors make for themselves, based on the foundation of a well-operated retirement fund.
In our environment, there’s no such thing as ‘a minimum rand amount’ before we take notice. Every fund member is an investor in their own right and is due the utmost respect and appropriate assistance, counselling, and advice as they require.
Our interaction with a client will not just be a consequence of some algorithmic LSM segmentation. I personally get enormous satisfaction from seeing the stats on our counselling engagement, noticing the ever-increasing decline in the pre-mature withdrawing of retirement benefits. I gain this warm feeling in the knowledge that – with very few exceptions – the long-term compounding of retirement savings far exceeds the short-term benefits of spending retirement savings before retirement.
But I digress, I haven’t answered your question properly. Let me get off my soap box. As regards our clients, be they private investors or retirement fund members – respect for each of them and their monies will be reflected in our appropriate behaviour, administrative diligence, procedural accuracy, and quality of our advisory input.
As to your question about what makes a company’s reputation – in a service industry it can never be the product. A reputation which is admired or sought can only ever be earned when people – lots of them – over a long period of time, themselves say that GTC delivers on their commitments. Repeatedly. I believe our delivered commitments are our core values. You shouldn’t be asking me what our reputation is. I’m biased, and it might be that I see life through rose-tinted glasses.
You guys interviewed a minimum of 200 people who use GTC, and you asked them a bunch of questions? I don’t know who you called, and I can’t influence their responses. On the basis that this is the fourth or fifth year that GTC has not only won a Diamond award, but you have advised me that we’ve been the highest scoring company in the category of retirement fund members between 100 000 and 150 000, I think that these interviewees’ responses are more credible as to GTC’s reputation than me saying it.
Access the PMR article here