Alumnus: Dr Francois Stofberg

Posted on May 04, 2020

During the virtual graduation ceremony at UP on 15 April 2020, 16 doctorates were conferred by the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences (EMS). In the coming weeks, these exceptional achievers will be profiled in a separate Q&A series. This week the spotlight is on Dr Francois Stofberg, Senior Economist for Efficient Group (EFG) and Head of Sales at Efficient Private Clients (EFPC). Read more below…
Q: What was the topic of your PhD thesis and why did you specifically select it?
A: I was very concerned about the poor management of government finances in South Africa and wanted to see if there was a better way of utilising the scarce resources government has at its disposal. For this reason, my thesis focused on analysing government finances and finding a better alternative that would lead to greater levels of economic growth, which, in turn, would result in better levels of unemployment. This is in stark contrast to government's idea of spending more through redistribution in an attempt to create more economic activity - which we've clearly seen does not lead to greater levels of economic activity and job creation. (Click here to access the full thesis)
Q: In your opinion, to what extent does a PhD ensure/boost business/career success?
A: Although I do not want to pursue an academic career, in which case I believe a PhD is a necessity, I believe the skills developed in pursuing a PhD are very valuable in the private sector, specifically the ability to manage various demands such as studying part-time and building your career and family relations. Other benefits include perseverance, determination and especially, consistency. Of course, the ability to understand and solve complex problems is also important.
Q: What is your current position at the Efficient Group and what does it entail?
A: Currently I hold a dual role as Senior Economist for Efficient Group (EFG) and Head of Sales at Efficient Private Clients (EFPC), a boutique investment firm and subsidiary of EFG that specialises in the global active management of various financial instruments. As economists in the financial sector, we interpret prevailing trends for the public, but more so for various investment committees in and outside of EFG. Our input guides investment decisions from a top-down perspective by providing macro-economic, political and technical analyses of key variables.
Q: What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
A: The most compelling aspect of my job is the nature of the financial markets. Nothing moves as fast as the market, trying to keep abreast is enthralling even though I doubt it's possible. Second, is the reward of developing and managing strategy. To see how your plans work and fail, and being able to understand why it happened so you can learn and improve.
Q: Briefly summarise your career since graduating from UP, with special mention of specific highlights/milestones.
A: I was initially appointed as Economist to EFG in 2014. After leading a rebuild of economic models for the division, we (Dawie Roodt and his team) won the Sake Economist of the Year award in 2015.
My next task was to optimise the research department. This three year task saw revenues increasing two-fold while overall time spent on research activities decreased by 30%.
Following from this success, I was asked to join Dawie in starting a new corporate venture, Efficient Private Clients. I played a central role in creating the new boutique investment firm by combining in-house resources and capabilities with another boutique investment firm we acquired. Although I initially assumed a role of Operational Manager at EFPC to implement systems and ensure efficiencies between the administrative, sales and investment management divisions, as with all corporate start-ups the core team helped out everywhere! My role leaned more towards business development and sales where I developed our "Consistently Excellent" initiative, which focuses on high-touch, quality relationships with clients – something that is sorely missing in the financial industry.
Our hard work exceeded all expectations. Most notably, we consistently grew net assets under management by 25% annually. While other asset managers experienced substantial outflows over this period, ours were limited by our personal relationships with clients, and our global portfolios which consistently outperformed benchmarks and peers. As the firm grew and new employees entered, I was promoted to the Head of Sales at EFPC, while continuing my role as Senior Economist at EFG.
Q: What, in your opinion, is the foundation of a successful organisation?
A: Vision. Consistency. Integrity.
Q: To what extent did your studies at UP benefit you in your career and contribute to your success?
A: As in all things, I believe an education is what you make of it, and that's probably a function of what you want out of life. I now appreciate all the extra time I spent studying. UP gave me the opportunity to learn how to think, reason and logically deduce optimal solutions. UP also gave me the opportunity to interact with like-minded peers, people who can encourage and motivate you. Without these inputs the output would have been dismal.
Q: What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learnt from your studies/lecturers at the University of Pretoria?
A: How to persevere in spite of opposition; how to think objectively and inclusively.
Q: Which business/trade-related publications (magazines/newspapers/blogs, etc.) do you enjoy reading?
A: The Economist, Harvard Business Review, and GQ (UK).
Q: What really inspires, motivates you personally?
A: Prodigious human behaviour – that incomprehensible occurrence when an individual perceives purpose and relentlessly pursues it. 
Q: If you could have a face-to-face meeting with an inspiring person – in any domain – who sets an example in transforming the world and inspiring others to do the same, who would it be and what would you like to discuss?
A: Bill Gates. I would like to discuss how he drives himself and those he influences that allows them to push the boundaries of human ingenuity and innovation. I'd like to pick his brain and see what makes him tick – the Netflix docu-series about his life was just too short!
Q: Going forward, what are your career and personal goals?
A: I want to change the world of finance. There is definitely a better way to produce even greater returns that can be enjoyed by all stakeholders.
Q: What is your “golden guideline” in life, in other words, what keeps you on track?
 A: Determine your purpose, the great vision you have for your life, and then stick to it, consistently.
- Author Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences
Published by Liesl Oosthuizen

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