Strong and visionary leadership pays off
Newly listed Liberty Two Degrees is out to push boundaries in the property industry
“If you build a team, make sure that you have the right people with the right attitude and people that are better skilled in what they do than you are.” – Amelia Beattie
“We hope that setting the example in our actions resonates through the broader team but remain constantly mindful of identifying any misalignment and ensuring these are timeously addressed.” – José Snyders
By Sure Kamhunga
It is said a house divided will not stand, neither will a company or any organisation with a divided or weak leadership. At the core of every successful company is a strong leadership team with not only a shared vision or value system, but most importantly “walking the talk”.
This is evident at JSE-listed Liberty Two Degrees, where the Chief Executive Officer, Amelia Beattie says a company’s success depends on how it treats, cares and grows its staff.
“Caring for people to allow and cultivate growth in them is one characteristic that I believe every leader should possess,” she says.
And she has reason to believe in that. Her leadership ethos was influenced early in her career by, among others, Ian Watt, then Managing Director (MD) of Old Mutual Properties. “What he taught me was to always push the boundaries and never accept any mediocrity; also to ensure that I am well informed of all important matters concerning the business,” she says, remembering the days when she was part of the retail property team that developed leading shopping malls such as Gateway and Cavendish.
This is the message she continuously preaches to the team at Liberty Two Degrees, which listed on the JSE in December 2016.
“My most important decisions are around people. If you build a team, make sure that you have the right people with the right attitude and people who are better skilled in what they do than you are,” Beattie continues. “The team has to have unique skills that one can build on and grow the organisation. The hardest decisions are also around people and one needs to make sure that one makes those decisions quickly whilst keeping in mind that we work with people’s hearts and minds.”
Beattie has had an impressive career path, spanning 17 years, which has included holding various senior positions at Old Mutual Property before joining STANLIB where she established the STANLIB Direct Property Investment business, including Property Asset Management and Property Development Management. Since joining STANLIB, Beattie piloted the listing of Liberty’s first Real Estate Investment Trust in Kenya, a first for East Africa; and the launch of STANLIB’s Africa Direct Property Development fund, securing development projects in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria.
She strategically led and implemented the joint venture transaction with JHI Retail Proprietary Limited (JHI Retail) for property management services for the LPP.
Beattie says Liberty Two Degrees is on a journey, and its recent investments, including listing on the JSE, are just the beginning.
“Our journey to list Liberty Two Degrees on the JSE is a continuation of our legacy in innovation and investment leadership in property, dating back more than 40 years with the development of Sandton City,” Beattie says.
“We are still in the very early stages of our growth phase and we will continue to grow to where it makes most sense for our investors. We will have to remain innovative on all fronts and nurture our talent so that we have a strong team of innovators and people who think of the company as if it were their own.”
For FD, José Snyders, while one’s qualifications are key, he also prefers someone with a positive attitude and a diligent demeanour. “I value these very highly. The right fit for the broader team would also factor into the analysis,” Snyders says.
A career finance expert, Snyders holds B.Com (Majors in Accounting and Economics), B.Com. (Honors) (Financial Analysis and Portfolio Management) and B. Com. (Honors) (Financial Accounting) degrees. His career has spanned professional and executive positions at PwC and Rand Merchant Bank, where he was instrumental in the investment banking team that originates, structures and implements real estate debt transactions, both locally and further afield on the continent.
Snyders stresses the importance of ensuring that everyone in the team understands the company’s values and, as a leader, communication is best projected through living the values and validating that these are personal values and “not just an HR gimmick”.
He says at Liberty Two Degrees there are various forums where staff are encouraged to bring ideas for collaborative creative thinking and sharing.
“Continuous engagement in an informal manner is also encouraged, coupled with a philosophy that no contribution is considered inconsequential,” Snyders says. “As a leadership team we strive to demonstrate this in the performance of our work and in our engagements with the team and our broader stakeholders. We hope that setting the example in our actions resonates through the broader team but remain constantly mindful of identifying any misalignment and ensuring these are timeously addressed.”
Snyders says his early career was influenced by several influential people who have contributed to his professional and personal development. He gives particular mention to two people who have had a lasting impact on his life and contributed to his professional development.
These are Herman Rhoda, a past lecturer at the University of Cape Town, who “spent countless extra hours tutoring various students in finance without compensation” and was a selfless teacher. The second would be Greg Mckenzie from Rand Merchant Bank.
He says Mckenzie gave him his first opportunity in investment banking and, in addition to the countless hours spent explaining the intricacies of structured finance, was a great mentor and his work ethic rubbed off on him. It is this work ethic that he wants to ensure becomes the DNA of Liberty Two Degrees.
Snyders says decision making at the company is done with a collaborative approach with everyone’s contributions being considered.
As for the company’s future, Beattie has the last word. She strongly believes the company’s continued success and growth will depend on attracting the right staff. “Competing for talent and being able to attract the right people and to build a resilient and sustainable organisation for the future is important,” Beattie says. “What works today might not work tomorrow and the same skills that maintain a business can’t grow a business, so leaders have to encourage and ensure diversity of skills across all business cycles in order to remain successful.”