An Interview with Milton Samios, Chief Executive Officer, Investec


FST Media: What are your business and digital priorities for the next 6 months?

Samios: For the next 12 months we must be outwardly focused and grow our chosen niches.

FST Media: What are your priorities for the next 6 months?

Samios: For the last five years Investec has been restructuring and simplifying the business. We have made excellent progress but for the next 12 months we must be outwardly focused and grow our chosen niches. I am very excited by our new business model which is unique in the Australian market and plays to our strengths as an organisation. My priority for the next 12 months is to market Investec’s capabilities and grow our client base. One initiative which will help me achieve my goal is Investec Emerging Companies. This is a new business which will help entrepreneurs grow their businesses by providing advice, capital, and access to our network. We won’t be targeting start-ups but companies with an enterprise value of $20-200m.To cover the start-up space we have invested in and partnered with H2 Ventures and Equitise).


FST Media: What technology or innovation is proving to be the single biggest game changer across the finance industry?

Samios: I truly believe we are going through a second industrial revolution and the finance industry, like other industries, will be impacted by hundreds of new ideas and technologies. It’s unrealistic to say one idea or technology will be the biggest game-changer. There is a lot of talk about Blockchain and no doubt it’s a clever innovation which will change the way we do things. But at this point in time the take up has been slow. Maybe we will see more happen over the next few years.

I think the big game changer has been access to capital. You can have the best idea in the world but if you can’t get money to develop the idea it won’t go anywhere. Right at this point in time we are seeing a meteoric increase in the amount of capital chasing new ideas and technologies. Suddenly the impossible is now possible. It’s very exciting.


FST Media: What are the most significant challenges for banks brought by digital disruption?   

Samios: Digital disruption has lots of advantages. It increases transparency and access to products and services. It cuts out the middle man and reduces the price of deliver and service. It also introduces new players and increases competition. For the consumer it’s a great outcome. However, for businesses margins come under pressure and in some cases business models become redundant. The challenge we all face is how do we evolve and find new ways to make a profit.


FST Media: What regulatory changes can help drive Australia’s competitiveness of innovation in the fintech sector?

Samios: Fintech is different to other innovative industries because it is operating in a highly regulated environment. The government has announced its plans for a “regulatory sandbox” which allows fintech start-ups to test their products for a period of time in a less regulated environment. This is very important.

I would also support a more competitive tax regime.


FST Media: What are your personal and business definitions of success?

Samios: At a personal level I view success as maximising your potential. I have three small children and all that matters is that they do their very best with the gifts they have been given.

At a business level I view success as having a positive and material impact on our clients. In Australia Investec is focused on emerging and mid-cap companies. We aim to help these businesses grow through the provision of advice and capital. Their success is our success.


FST Media: What is next big thing for Investec and how will you measure its success?

Samios: We see a lot of blue sky in the Investec Emerging Companies business. This is a sector with huge potential but it is not well covered. Some firms offer advice and others offer capital. I can’t think of another player that offers advice, capital, and access to a network of connected individuals. This business is also complimentary to our main franchise which is focused on mid-tier corporates which have an enterprise value of $200m -$1bn. In effect we are investing in our future pipeline of clients.


FST Media: How do you encourage a culture of innovation in your team?

Samios: Investec is an entrepreneurial organisation which hires and empowers talented individuals. Strategy is developed from the bottom up so each team or business unit is responsible for identifying opportunities, innovating products and solutions, and then implementing. We foster a culture of entrepreneurialism by maintaining a flat management structure which has no titles. Anyone with a good idea can motivate it within the organisation.


FST Media: Where do you look for emerging entrepreneurs?

Samios: There is an eco-system that is developing in Australia that attracts and supports emerging entrepreneurs. That eco-system provides advice, networking opportunities, connectivity, capital, and a home for your team or business. It’s important that you are part of the eco-system if you want to meet emerging entrepreneurs or the next big thing. We have made sure that Investec is a vital part of the eco-system and our brand is associated with the space.


FST Media: What has been the best career advice that you have ever received?

Samios: A good friend said to me the other day that “I must learn to be the bigger man”. The advice was given in the context of my current role as CEO of Investec Australia. The irony is the more senior you become the less power you actually have. In today’s world leadership is about influencing people and their behaviours. You are constantly tested and in order to be successful you need to be the bigger man (or woman).


FST Media: How do you achieve a work-life balance?

Samios: Like many people, there have been times when I have struggled to achieve a work-life balance. To address this, I recently restructured my diary so that I have a set time on family things such as taking my kids to school or spending time with my elderly mother. The allocated time enables me to do a certain number of things outside of work every week and this is important.