One on one with Nigel Payne
On big bets, what he would like to say to President Jacob Zuma, and the most important investment anyone can ever make.
At a glance
Nigel Payne is Chairman of Mr Price Group Limited and Bidvest Bank Limited, and a director of a number of other listed companies, including the JSE, Bidvest, Bidcorp and Vukile.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m a husband, father, a family man, and I’m sporty. As a company director, I’m strategic and good at seeing the big picture.
What essential money lesson did you learn, and from whom?
I learnt about money from my parents. My mom left school at 13 and my dad at 14, so the message from them was that education is the biggest investment you can make in yourself.
What passion does money allow you to indulge?
Time. It gives me family time, or time to go mountain biking or canoeing.
Does personal wealth make one happy – in what way?
I know most people say no but I’m going to say yes, because it removes the stress of those things at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s hard to be happy when your kids are hungry or you can’t educate them, or you don’t have a roof over your head. So it creates the opportunity to enable you to find happiness.
What’s your fundamental wealth-growth strategy?
Mine has been investment in property. It’s a great long-term investment. When I started out, listed properties didn’t exist, so I’d probably invest more in those now, just for diversification. The other important strategy is time.
What financial advice would you give your 20-year-old self? And your 60-year-old self?
At 20 I’d advise myself to invest in me – in my health, my education and my big life choices. I did all of that but there’s one thing I didn’t do – I’d advise myself to pay for advice from experts if necessary. Sixty is looming, so I’d probably say it’s time for a new mountain bike. I’ve been riding the current one for six years and I’m being mocked at all the big races!
Low risk or high?
High. I tend to make a small number of big bets.
What did you do with your first pay cheque?
I paid my university fees as I was working full-time to put myself through university.
Who would you most like to have a one-on-one with, and what would you ask?
Ideally, my late dad, but that’s not possible. So I’d like to chat to Jacob Zuma and ask him why. About everything.
Why would you hire yourself (or not)?
As a young person, I’d hire myself because I was bright, hard-working and focused. Now, I’d hire myself for my experience and my potential as a good partner.
What are your views on philanthropy?
I think it’s an opportunity to invest in others as people I don’t know invested in me – take the person who gave my dad his first job, for example. For me, philanthropy must be sustainable, first and foremost.
What gives you hope?
So much – if you just look at our progress as humanity over the past 150 years, the good stuff overwhelms the bad stuff.
What makes you happy?
My family, my health, my friends, being fit, overcoming challenges, a job well done, and seeing my kids succeed.
Who or what inspires you?
Many different people every day. My parents. And the founders of the Mr Price Group – they shared ownership so that every employee is a shareholder. And security guards everywhere – they’re always so friendly!
What is your greatest failing?
I don’t suffer fools gladly.
Which of your qualities do you most appreciate?
My tenacity and my sense of humour.
Which of your qualities do you like least?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Nothing. I am what I am, and the bad bits create the good bits. And I’m very fortunate – it would be churlish to want to change something.
If you were a superhero, who would you choose to be and what power would you most like to have?
I think some kind of super Florence Nightingale, with the power to heal broken bodies, broken hearts, broken minds and broken families.
What have you learnt from failure?
To take one day at a time – it will pass.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I don’t know if it’s a talent but I’d like to have more empathy.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being dad to my two kids. My daughter had a horrendous motorbike accident five years ago, which triggered the anorexia that nearly killed her. I’m proud of our family for overcoming that. People really need to take anorexia seriously.
What’s your greatest ambition?
To see my son and daughter happy, healthy and well balanced.
What do you value most in a person?
Integrity and transparency.
What possession do you treasure most?
My health. My wife would probably say my iPad!
Have you achieved everything you want to achieve?
I haven’t even thought of everything I want to achieve yet.
What do you still want to do with your life?
I’m very happy with my life – I’d just like a lot more of it!
What do you fear most?
Not being there when I’m most needed.
What is your single biggest regret?
That our country hasn’t done more with the opportunities it was given in 1994.
What book changed your life?
George Orwell’s Animal Farm. But more importantly, next year’s diary – and I still use a paper one. Because every day is a blank page that I can fill in as I choose.
Mr Price’s share price has taken a pounding in recent months. To what do you attribute this – and how will the retailer bounce back?
The South African consumer is under serious pressure. This has been reflected in the results of most of the retailers, with those that performed best over the past few years being hit the hardest. It’s part of the economic cycle – cash retailers like Mr Price take the hit first, but also recover first.
As Chairman, do you take this kind of performance personally?
Everyone at Mr Price, executive and non-executive, always wants to do better. We all feel it. We’ll keep focusing on the needs of our customers and doing the basics well – the results will follow.