From its humble beginnings, Mianzo Asset Management (Mianzo) has within 12 years grown into one of formidable black-owned asset managers holding their own against strong competition from established players.

Founded in 2010 by Luvo Tyandela, portfolio manager, who was subsequently joined by Thembeka Sobekwa, also a portfolio manager, Mianzo entered the asset management industry during a period the sector was relatively untransformed and overwhelmingly dominated by white-owned firms.

Since those days, there has been transformation that has taken place but change is yet to tilt the balance in favour of black firms. In spite of this reality, Mianzo is among a growing number of black companies that are operating in the sector.

The Cape Town-based company manages and invests about R12 billion on behalf of its clients, mainly institutional and retail investors.

In terms of size of assets under management, Mianzo is ranked in the top 15 out of 51 black-owned asset management firms that exist in South Africa today.

In 2009, there were only 14 black-owned asset managers that managed R91 billion.

However, the number of black asset managers has since grown to 51 in 2020, managing about R668 billion (about 9% of total industry assets), according to the 2020 BEE.conomics survey.

From its inception, Mianzo has always been a company characterised by humility even though driven by hugely ambitious founding members. Its name, ‘Mianzo’, means ‘new beginnings’ in Swahili and reflects its vision to create an investment business with the best people, state-of-the-art systems, and an enabling environment for its people to apply their minds when it came to investing.

Even though the company was established immediately in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, it was determined to build an environment where its staff thrives both professionally and personally.

Driven by this vision, the firm has evolved over its 12-year history to becoming a well-established asset manager with a wide client base and a diverse product offering.

Its team has expanded to 15 professionals with varying backgrounds and experience, all of whom are from previously disadvantaged groups. Mianzo’s investment team has combined experience of over 80 years, with three of the four portfolio managers each having experience of over 20 years.

“The Financial Services Sector is very technical. It is important for us to play our part to transform this sector and empower the youth. One way we do this is through skills transfer. Our graduates gain practical relevant experience and knowledge transfer in core investing activities from experiences investment professionals,” explains Tyandela.

The core team comprise of Tyandela, who is the head of the absolute return platform and Sobekwa, who was instrumental in setting up Mianzo’s platform and processes. As part of her responsibilities, she is managing some of Mianzo’s active equity portfolios and index-tracking funds.

Along the way, Mianzo has made key appointments that has given the business traction and scale. One of those appointments is Mark Lamohr, who joined the firm in 2013 as head of equities and the other is Mohamed Shafee Loonat, a seasoned portfolio manager, who joined Mianzo in 2018. Lamohr and Loonat previously worked with Tyandela at Abvest and Associates.

“Mianzo offers a unique investment philosophy that is based on our belief that superior investment performance is achieved by investing in companies that are priced below their intrinsic value with a sufficient margin of safety. Mianzo has a contrarian value style that is benchmark cognisant,” says Tyandela.

The evolution of Mianzo, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2020, has seen the company entering the retail space, where it wants to promote financial inclusion and promote the culture of saving amongst low and middle-income earning South Africans.

Last year, the company launched a R100 million SME Fund in partnership with the Black Umbrellas that extends loans to black-owned small, micro and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs). 

In November 2020, Mianzo introduced two affordable unit trusts products to help low and middle-income retail investors grow their wealth through investing in the stock market.

Since their launch, the unit trusts products, Mianzo Equity 27four Unit Trust and the Mianzo Inflation + 3% 27four Unit Trust, are gaining traction in the market.

These products have been designed for ordinary South Africans, particularly blue-collar workers, mid- level office professionals, emerging business owners, and informal traders, who are eager to invest in the stock market (equities) and listed-debt market (money market and bonds).

The launch of the Mianzo Black Umbrellas SME Debt has been a strong indicator of Mianzo’s commitment to supporting SMME development and employment creation.

The Fund is managed on the Mianzo’s Alternative Platform by investment professional Mr Sifiso Simelane, who has extensive experience in financing broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) transactions.

By investing in the fund, corporate investors will earn Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) points on their B-BBEE scorecards. Furthermore, development finance institutions, pension and retirement funds that invest in the fund will be able to contribute to investments that stimulate the economy and job creation.

The evolving nature of Mianzo and its commitment to deepening transformation through financing black owned SMMEs and serving the low to middle-income investors bodes well for the future of the asset management firm.