Magda Wierzycka, the wealthiest woman in South Africa and CEO of fin-tech company, Sygnia, was the guest editor of the career section in the August 2017 issue of Marie Claire. The insights we gleaned from the wealth of knowledge (pun intended) that she shared with us were invaluable. We were keen to get to know this business magnate, how she climbed the proverbial ladder and what her secrets to success are.

The Career Climb

Magda Wierzycka put the first building block of her career in place in 1993, as an investments actuary at Southern Life Insurance. She followed that up with two years as an investment consultant at Alexander Forbes, and in 1997, she joined Coronation as a director and Head of Institutional Business. Wierzycka’s first three steps up the career ladder were more like major strides.

At Coronation, Wierzycka was instrumental in growing the company to becoming one of the largest asset management firms in the country. But she didn’t stop there. In 2003, she left Coronation to assume the position of CEO of the African Harvest Group. After negotiating the sale of African Harvest Fund Managers to Cadiz in 2006, Magda led the management buy-out of the remainder of the group.

This was the beginning of Sygnia – a specialist fin-tech company that focuses on the provision of investment management, technology and administration solutions to institutional and retail clients based predominantly in South Africa. With Wierzycka at its helm, its assets grew from R2 billion to R159 billion in ten years, making Sygnia the second largest multi-management company in South Africa. Sygnia listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange on 14 October 2015. If history is anything to go by, the future looks bright for this industry titan.

Magda’s Secrets to Success

  1. Women have a tendency to be a lot more emotional and to take things more personally than men. This is what we need to overcome. Do not take things personally. Because, actually, they never really are.
  2. Work hard, take on tasks that no one else wants to do, and stand up for what you believe in.
  3. If you work hard and prioritise, there is absolutely no limit to what you can achieve. It’s a fact that women need to work a lot harder than men to be recognised. I have met a lot of women who complain about that, but you need to recognise the fact, embrace it and work harder to prove yourself. Very early in my career, I decided what my priorities were and I compromised on doing other things. I never felt guilty about that. You cannot do it all.