Finding the Empowerment Edge

Many corporates and financial institutions talk the empowerment talk. But one investment company, WDB Investment Holdings (WDBIH), really walks the talk.Faith-Khanyile-awards

From CEO Faith Khanyile, through the founder of WDB Trust, Mrs Zanele Mbeki, to the company’s investment executives, all are women who know how empowerment can energise businesses, careers and lives.

“We live out our vision – women investing in women,” says Mrs Khanyile, a founder member of WDBIH who has been associated with the company for more than 20 years. “We ensure that we invest in our colleagues as carefully as we do in well-chosen companies.”

“We nominated Daphne Mashile-Nkosi, our non-executive chairperson – who also serves on the boards of several mining companies, among others – to study development economics in Nagoya, Japan. This was part of WDB’s vision of increasing women’s capacity to control their environment and to take their rightful place in the development of a democratic and non-sexist South Africa.”

WDBIH was founded in 1996. By 31 December 2014, the company had a net asset value (NAV) of just over R2.7 billion, following a compound annual growth rate of 28% cent over the past three years. “We achieved this by leveraging our extensive experience and relationships in raising significant amounts of capital to finance our investments,” says Mrs Khanyile. “The NAV performance has also enabled us to distribute dividends to the WDB Trust to the extent of R165 million so far.”

WDBIH targets investments in a range of sectors, from property and consumer goods and services to education and financial services. Recent new investments include a limited partner interest in an affordable housing fund, International Housing Solutions; a direct equity investment in Ascendis Health, complementing its anchor health investment in Discovery Limited; and a direct equity stake in JSE-listed IT services provider Adapt IT. In January this year WDBIH increased its shareholding in the FirstRand Group, one of its earliest investments.

“We are active investing partners and seek board representation in all our key investments,” says Mrs Khanyile. “We believe this allows us to have meaningful strategic influence while we add value to our investments, as well as to bring the women’s perspective to business.

“In turn, the WDB Trust, which turns 25 in 2016, helps us fulfil our mission – the economic upliftment of women in South Africa, particularly focusing on rural women. The rural household is our key target that allows us to access both women and children, as well as the wider community.”

In 2012, WDBIH founded the WDBIH Enterprise Development (ED) Fund to address the gap in funding and business support for SMMEs – with a specific focus on women entrepreneurs. “We are aiming to increase access to unsecured debt financing and business development services by supporting women entrepreneurs to build financial security,” explains Mrs Khanyile. “This includes training and facilitating access to markets, working with a number of strategic partners in target sectors.

“To help grow this fund, our strategy is to leverage corporate CSI and ED spending. In the medium term, we aim to increase the fund size to R50 million.”

Generating steady cash-flow is vital to allow WDB Trust and WDB ED to carry out their mission, points out Mrs Khanyile. “We also generally arrange to receive trickle dividends or performance management fees to sustain our cash-flow.”

She further notes that “Our all-women management team has a combined experience of more than 40 years in banking and finance, investment management and enterprise development.”


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