Jeff van Rooyen, Chairman at Uranus Investment Holdings (Pty) Ltd. Jeff van Rooyen, chairman at Uranus Investment Holdings, has been a sole practitioner for seven years, a partner with Deloitte for nine, and CEO of FSCA (before FSB) for five. He founded Uranus Investments 17 years ago.
A lifetime of making a difference
He also served as the vice-chairman of IOSCO during his FSB tenure, as well as NED of Exxaro and MTN group for 12 years each and is in his 16th year as NED for PNP. He will be retiring at the AGM in July this year.
However, what Jeff appreciates most of all is the political and economic freedom he enjoys today, the freedom ushered in by the democratic elections in 1994.
‘In that year, aged 44, I was able to vote for the first time. It’s hard to describe what this still means to me. It was a hard-won freedom. Many people suffered, sacrificed, and died in this struggle for freedom and sadly, many of them did not live to experience it.’
Today, he stands on their shoulders. ‘Not only the well-known political and business leaders but also the many thousands of unsung heroes and heroines. We can honour them only by paying it forward.’
This is what drives Jeff to try and make a difference within his sphere of influence. ‘I’ve tried to deal with this theme of freedom in my autobiography, Unshackled: My Journey from the Township to the Boardroom.’
Even though he has had an inspiring career with many achievements, Jeff feels what he has achieved thus far in trying to make a difference in society in general, and his profession, in particular, has been modest. ‘Whilst I felt I was in contention for the Difference Maker award, I was pleasantly surprised to receive it. One never knows for sure how others may perceive what one does, so it is very special and humbling to be recognised by one’s peers in this way.’
His passion for change has not yet waned. ‘We’ve got myriad challenges in our society today. Too many people live in abject poverty. As leaders in politics and business, we promised a better life for all (not only for the few) in 1994. We raised expectations. People trusted us and sadly, we’ve betrayed that trust.’
He does not believe all is lost. ‘Whatever the challenges we face today, as intractable as they appear, they are not insurmountable. It will not be easy, but if all of us commit and do the necessary heavy lifting, it’s doable.’
Throughout his career, Jeff knew one’s reputation is priceless. ‘You need to have the courage to uphold your values and principles whatever the cost. For example, I resigned from the board of Country Club Johannesburg when I felt my values were being compromised in the manner they were treating golf caddies.
‘It takes a lifetime to build a reputation but only a moment to have it destroyed. I’ve had to sue people for defamation on two occasions during my career. Once, when I was an advisor to the Minister of Public Enterprises in the mid-nineties and more recently through the work I’m doing to improve the lives of golf caddies. This typically happens when I step on big toes. In both cases, the adversaries had to withdraw the false accusations in full and make contributions to my legal costs.’
He endeavours to motivate and inspire others, rallies around those with a shared vision and higher purpose and adheres to a universal set of values and principles such as work ethic, discipline, perseverance, integrity, fairness, respect, and compassion.
Jeff wants to spend the winter years of his life working with the youth. He will continue his involvement with ABASA, working closely with the current president, Linda Maqoma, as the transformation of the accounting profession remains a priority.
‘Motivating, encouraging and inspiring them to take a positive view of where we are, what’s possible and for them to do whatever necessary to become the best that they can be.’