Inextricably linked to the history of Grant Thornton, previously known as Kessel Feinstein, Julius Feinstein was a man who dedicated 75 years to the firm. He was a magnet whose energy and insights attracted the esteem and friendship of many leading professionals and the giants of our country's business world.
Such people include Liberty Life's Donald Gordon and Sage's Louis Shill, as well as Grant Thornton's successive national chairmen, namely Malcolm Segal, Ernest Mazansky and Leonard Brehm. Personally mentoring all of them, he nurtured their growth and influenced their respective careers, as well as the family-like spirit that distinguishes the firm.
“Julius Feinstein, fondly referred to as ‘JF' was an inspirational role model – revered for his wisdom, professional acumen and standards of client service. Yet he was a man, who despite his status was modest, patient and sincerely concerned about the wellbeing of others. His emphasis on integrity, responsibility, respect and compassion will always underpin Grant Thornton's culture and values,” said Leonard Brehm, former National Chairman of Grant Thornton South Africa.
A man with determination
After matriculating in 1933, the young Feinstein was determined to become a Chartered Accountant – a qualification which then took five years, with academic and practical training combined.
He studied at the University of the Witwatersrand but did not initially start his articles as the Great Depression impacted on the number of trainee positions available. Furthermore, his mind was set on joining one firm only – that being Isaacs & Kessel – a small but highly regarded firm that was established in 1920. In 1933, Isaacs & Kessel was based in the Nederlandse Gebou in Johannesburg and consisted of merely two partners, Alder Isaacs and Benjamin Kessel, six trainees (one of whom was Julius Feinstein's late brother), and two support staff.
At that time, the firm could not take on more trainees. However, after he spent a year doing odd jobs, Isaacs & Kessel gave him the break he so desperately wanted. Feinstein joined the firm as an audit trainee on 2 January 1935, earning an initial salary of four pounds a month.
A man with talent
Feinstein qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1939. His commitment and constant achievements led to him being rapidly promoted through the ranks and made a partner at just 26 years of age.
Not only was he an astute accountant, but Feinstein had a talent for building life-long relationships with new clients. These included the law firm, Edward Nathan, and the Glazer family, both of which are still Grant Thornton clients today. Ten years later, the firm honoured his contribution by renaming the firm, Isaacs Kessel, Feinstein.
A man with vision
Julius Feinstein was a visionary. He aspired to expand the firm's presence nationally and growing its capabilities and client portfolio. He also realised that linking to a prestigious international association was an essential step.
With Julius Feinstein at the helm, these goals were achieved. He was instrumental in pioneering mergers with other independent firms in Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria. He brought in more partners who offered a diverse spectrum of professional skills to a broad range of businesses, including listed companies. The partnership expanded into Kessel Feinstein South Africa - a firm reputed for its auditing and accounting professionalism, yet equally for its business advisory acumen. Feinstein also led the firm into joining an international association.
In 1992, when celebrating his 50th anniversary as a partner, Julius Feinstein said, “I have never known another job. Leaving the profession never interested me. Being part of the firm's growth has given me great satisfaction.”
Ten years later, having seen his dreams for the firm bear abundant fruit, Julius Feinstein retired after 60 years as a partner, though remaining on as a consultant.
Today, Grant Thornton South Africa employs over 824 people and has offices in Cape Town, Durban, East London, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria.
A family man
While he was committed to his career, Julius Feinstein was also a family man, devoted to his late wife, Muriel; his children Melanie and Alan, their respective spouses Clifford and Miranda, his three grandsons and great-grandchildren. They were his pride and joy.
A man of culture
As a man who always cherished the finer things in life, he was a regular golfer until well into his eighties. Feinstein was also an avid reader and loved classical music, especially that of the Russian violinist, David Oistrakh. But above all, his greatest passion was for South African contemporary art. While modest about his collection, which includes works by William Kentridge, Judith Mason, Edoardo Villa, Deborah Bell and Derrick Nxumalo, it is reputed to be an outstanding private representation of contemporary South African art. asa