Giant leap for Scott Richards

Delivering sustainable stable returns to policy holders is a job that a young entrepreneur, Scott Richards is good at and so far, he has been flawless as the property executive at Old Mutual Namibia (OMN).

Richards studied at the University of Cape Town where he attained a BSC in Civil Engineering after which he relocated to the UK. Having been based in Europe for five years and being active in the construction industry, which included management and development management, he made a bold decision to track back to Africa to start his ideal job.

His current position at OMN, of which he’s very proud, came in March this year and four months down the line, he tells Prime Focus how he feels about his new corporate move up the ladder: “I am quite proud to be associated with and seen in the same light as the rest of the executives in the group.

“A company like OMN offers excellence in terms of opportunities, challenges and exposure.”

Having run his own company after his university studies, he explains now how difficult it is to run an independent company. He felt as though he was under-utilising most of his potential where he was only active in consultancy abroad.

In his new job, he issues policy holders with the best returns the company can offer from the funds invested in property and this role is purely around the property portfolio and property portion within Namibia.

Richards is at the helm of the management and control of the existing properties; Mutual Towers and Mutual Platz as well as the properties in and around Namibia that OMN rents as offices.

A new line of business upon which OMN has embarked is the casting of its net wider and furthering its interests and investments with its recent launch of the Keetmanshoop Retail Centre. This falls under Richards’ limit and control too; an investment fully funded by Old Mutual Namibia.

Richards points out that OMN has not seen much fluctuation in terms of its rental and property prices as it has been pretty stable.

Outside Windhoek, on the other hand, there has been a good growth (in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay). Property value has been on the increase and this can be attributed to the supply and demand for investment of properties.

“Large portions of infrastructure is from Government spending. For example, in 2011, construction industry held 8% of GDP in terms of its turnover and the 2012 6% mark is a slight reduction in money spending,” states Richards on the view that there has been an upward movement of property prices on overall.

“Lack of funds is one factor that restricts new players in entering the industry as there is not enough money flying around for new players to enter,” he adds.

He feels those already in the ‘game’ have a good portfolio and can leverage on funding of new developments and property finances.

Availability of land to develop is scarce, especially in Windhoek and this is attributable to the ‘red tape’ and bureaucracy in terms of buying land from State and municipalities, as it is a time-consuming procedure to get the deals wrapped up.

Most businesses are free markets and regulating them would impede the basic principles of doing business, which yet again, will always go back to economics supply and demand. “Let the market sort itself out and do not try to change the market!” Says Richards, expressing that it is better off not to regulate and tamper with an already free market.

A lot of foreign money on the market creaties an artificial demand for property. Demand is there, especially in Windhoek, but there is a lack of supply and that will always create an artificial demand, he warns.

In England, Richards says, he would be marred by hectic working hours while at OMN, time is pretty heavy but manageable, “Old Mutual Namibia is a high performance company and delivery is everything. Pressure and stress tend to mount as one has to try and maintain standards already in existence.”

Asked for his views on whether or not prices may escalate with the discovery of oil in Namibia, Richards states without hesitation, “Defiantly, no doubt. Take Angola, for example, in terms of property prices in Luanda; they charge exorbitant prices for it would be the same case with Namibia if oil were discovered.”

Richards further states that business, however, would also be directed to Namibia and a lot of external investments from sound economies would make their way into Namibia. Property would also be an ideal investment due to the stable political environment in Namibia.

“In Africa, we are lucky that we still have land, which serves in our favour, whilst in the EU, you hardly find green sites that have not been built on before,” comparing the Africa/Europe real estate sector.

He adds that in the EU, money is used in the rehabilitation of old polluted areas. The EU has a lot of old buildings and they are costly to maintain and operate. The EU is heavily regulated and getting permits to even plough takes time, although it works in the sense that for anything to be done, it has to be well-planned for and thought over, “The Heritage Councils are very strong and strict as they preserve their heritage and old buildings of significance.”

A positive mindset produces positive results, he believes. Delivering good results makes him passionate about his new job and in the next five years, he hopes to see OMN sitting on a portfolio of around the billion-dollar mark. PF

Air Namibia appointed Harald Schmidt as the chairperson of Air Namibia’s board of directors.

Schmidt is currently the CEO of the Namibia Oil Industry Association, secretary-general of the Namibia Logistics Association (NLA) and the executive vice president of the Windhoek Show Society.

He brings with him a wealth of experience from his vast and noble line of business experiences, which spans for more than 40 years.

Junius Mungunda was recently appointed as the regional managing partner for the Deloitte Southern Corridor member-firms, which include Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

His main responsibility will be to help Deloitte distinguish itself in the Southern Corridor region by steering the firm in these countries to greater operational and financial integrations.

Mungunda is a chartered accountant by profession and has been with Deloitte for over 17 years.

Johan du Plessis was recently appointed the head of Risk Management by FNB Namibia.
He completed his accounting articles and joined Boland Bank in 1999 as the head of Internal Audit.

His main responsibilities will be to build on the success of FNB with a view to create a true world class financial institution in terms of risk management.

Recently appointed to the Agribank board of directors, George Mayumbelo is also currently a strategic executive for Economic Development and Community Services at the City of Windhoek.

He holds a Masters degree in Policy Studies through the Southern Africa Regional Institute of Policy Studies, accredited by the University of Zimbabwe. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in Education from Unam. He is currently pursuing a Med. from Unam as well.

Van der Merwe was recently also appointed as the new branch manager for FNB insurance brokers in Walvis Bay.