Why CFO Rick Martin chose South Africa over New Zealand


With his roots and family in South Africa, Rick Martin knew he had to embark on a career back home after growing up in New Zealand. Now the CFO of Satrix, he hopes to have a positive impact on the country.

Rick Martin's journey to becoming the CFO of Satrix, a leading index-tracking and exchange-traded fund (ETF) provider in South Africa, began amid the breathtaking landscapes of New Zealand.

During his formative years, he had the privilege of immersing himself in the beauty of the country, and experiencing its vibrant culture. However, fate had a different path in store. With his mother, sister and extended family remaining in South Africa, and having immigrated with his father, he faced a momentous decision – whether to return to his homeland and pursue a career as a chartered accountant or to remain in New Zealand.

At a time when many talented individuals were leaving South Africa for foreign shores, Rick chose to return to his homeland. His love for South Africa ran deep, and he believed that the challenges and opportunities within the country had played a pivotal role in shaping his success.

Returning to South Africa, Rick set his sights on achieving his professional goals. His educational pursuits and early career steps paved the way for a remarkable trajectory. He climbed the corporate ladder steadily, eventually finding himself at the helm of the group reporting department at Murray and Roberts at the age of 26, a testament to his dedication and growing expertise in finance.

But his entrepreneurial spirit yearned for more significant challenges. It was time for a new chapter in his career, one that would test his mettle and bring fresh opportunities to the forefront.

A fortuitous connection

In a twist of fate, Rick's connection to Satrix came through his wife, who had previously worked at the company. Her affiliation with Satrix piqued his curiosity and interest. He joined Satrix as head of finance and operations, a pivotal moment that would set the stage for his entrepreneurial journey.

"I was intrigued by it," Rick reflected on his decision, emphasising the significance of his wife's prior involvement with Satrix, which ultimately fuelled his motivation to take on this new role.

Rick's decision to join Satrix not only marked a career transition but also introduced him to a team of dedicated professionals who shared his values and mindset. This collaboration would become a cornerstone of his success.

Fast forward to the present, where Rick has spent almost 14 years with Satrix, and he attributes his success to three key factors. First, his inherent entrepreneurial inclination, a part of his identity since his youth. Second, impeccable timing that aligned with Satrix’s unique market position. And lastly, a strong and like-minded team at Satrix, who share his vision and values.

"I believe having a strong team that believes in what we do is essential," Rick emphasises, underscoring the role of a cohesive and passionate team in the trajectory of success at Satrix.

Despite facing challenges such as economic fluctuations and the complexities of scaling up while preserving Satrix's distinctive culture, Rick remained resolute. He emphasised the importance of “maintaining high standards while growing,” a mantra that guided Satrix’s transformation.

Remarkable growth

As a significant part of a visionary leadership team, Satrix has achieved remarkable growth. What was once R10 billion assets under management has now skyrocketed close to an impressive R200 billion. This extraordinary accomplishment is a testament to Rick’s entrepreneurial spirit, his exceptional leadership skills, and the invaluable contributions of his dedicated team.

Rick’s vision for Satrix extends far beyond its past achievements. He envisions further product offerings and accessibility following the addition of a significant offshore component to the business, providing South African investors with the opportunity to diversify their investment portfolios.

This venture, which originated from organic growth, has flourished into R22 billion in assets under management, attracting the trust and funds of esteemed investors. The ultimate goal now is to leverage this unprecedented success as a platform to further enhance Satrix’s offerings and solidify its position in the market.

In the relentless pursuit of staying relevant, Satrix finds itself in a phase of rationalisation and streamlining within the business. It's crucial to assess existing resources and adapt to meet the ever-evolving needs of valued investors. Change isn’t just an option; it's an absolute necessity to maintain a competitive edge in the market.

A lasting legacy

In South Africa, Rick encountered both challenges and opportunities. He acknowledges that the country faces difficulties, such as crime and economic issues, but he also believes in the transformative power it holds.

“The challenges I encounter in the corporate environment are instrumental in shaping my unique mindset,” Rick explains. “They influence the way I approach things, enabling me to prioritise collaboration over seeking the limelight.”

Rick takes great pride in the accomplishments of his company, particularly in the recent inclusion of Satrix’s journey as a case study at Harvard Business School. This privilege is only extended to a select few companies across the world. "The case study delves into the decisions we made in our business, providing a comprehensive analysis of our strategies," Rick explains. "In fact, I was invited to participate in a Q&A session at Harvard in October, where I had the opportunity to share insights with second-year MBA students during a 20-minute quad.”

Amid his professional endeavours, Rick’s personal life is equally compelling. He shared insights into his family, including his 10-year-old daughter, who faces the challenge of type one diabetes. Rick himself has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, adding another layer of complexity to their lives. Despite demanding careers, family life remains a top priority for Rick and his wife, and they rely on a robust support system to navigate life’s challenges.

Beyond finance

At 41 Rick’s life isn't solely defined by finance and entrepreneurship. He has a deep passion for nature, relishing the beauty of Hermanus, where the sea meets the mountains. As a trail runner and hiker, he finds immense joy in exploring the natural wonders of South Africa’s scenic passes.

Moreover, his fascination with history is evident. He immerses himself in historical narratives through documentaries and visits to museums and galleries during his travels. His diverse interests paint a vivid picture of his multifaceted personality.

But Rick’s family remains central to his life. They share a love for good food and good wine, making their home the heart of family gatherings. Their open doors create a dynamic atmosphere that underscores the importance of connection and togetherness, further cementing his unwavering commitment to South Africa, a place he simply cannot imagine leaving.

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