Paul Harris is a South African businessman. He is the former CEO of FirstRand Limited. Also, Paul is on the board of numerous high profile companies. Some of these includes Rand Merchant Investment Holdings Ltd., Remgro Ltd., and FirstRand Bank Limited. He joined Rand Consolidated Investment soon after it was co-founded by his friends, GT Ferreira and Laurie Dippanaar in 1977.
Paul Harris Background
Paul grew up in the family farm in Greytown Natal. He left home at age eight to go to Maritzburg College which is 77 kilometers away in Pietermaritzburg, coming home at weekends. In 1974, he went to Stellenbosch University where he majored in Economics and Finance. Harris went to Stellenbosch speaking only English and came out speaking
He is married to Jeanne and they are blessed with two children, Kevin and Nicola. He loves watching Sport, Art, wildlife and playing golf.
Paul Harris Career
In 1974-1978, Paul worked as the Investigating Officer at Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). Thereafter, in 1978, he joined Rand Consolidated Investments (RCI) soon after it was co-founded by GT Ferreira and Laurie Dippenaar in 1977.
In 1985, RCI merged with Rand Merchant Bank (under the leadership of Johann Rupert). In 1987, he started Australian Gilt Securities in Sydney. He later renamed the company as RMB Australia. They dealt with private equity, resources and the energy markets in New Zealand and Australia. In 1991, he returned to South Africa. Paul Harris became the CEO of Rand
Merchant Bank in 1992.
That same year, RMB Holdings took over Momentum Life and started a number of other companies such as Discovery Health, Origin and OUTsurance.
In 1998, RMB merged with First National Bank to form FirstRand. Then, in June 1999, Harris became the CEO of FirstRand Bank.
Paul Harris Net Worth
According to Forbes.com, Paul Harris is worth $250million
Boards Where Paul Harris Served
- RMB Holdings Limited, Non Executive Director
- Rand Merchant Investment Holdings Limited, Non Executive Director
- Shalamuka Foundation Trust, Chairman
- Shalamuka Capital (Pty) Ltd, Chairman
- Quarme Investments (Pty) Ltd., Director
- Rand Consolidated Investments (Pty) Ltd, Director
- Multisource Telecoms (Pty) Ltd, Director
- 180 Kloof Road (Pty)
- Business Venture Investments No. 51 Pty Ltd, Director
- Cedar Falls Properties 142 (Pty) Ltd, Director
- Cedar Investments (Pty) Ltd, Director
- Ernie Els Wines (Pty) Ltd, Director
- Ernie Els Vineyards (Pty) Ltd, Director
- Everard Read Holdings (Pty) Ltd, Director
- Kevnic (Pty) Ltd, Director
- Rand Consolidated Investments Corporate Services (Pty) Ltd, Director
- Newshelf 656 (Pty) Ltd., Director
- Kaalhock Farm Holding CC, Director
- PK Harris Property Investments CC, Director
- Soliprops 1106 CC, Director
- Rand Merchant Holdings Ltd., Director
- First National Bank Ltd, Director
- Advent Sport Entertainment & Media Pty Ltd, Director
- Quarme Conservation Pty Ltd., Director
Paul Harris Quotes
“Wherever we have gone, it’s always been grassroots and a new approach to something. Innovation and change are what we are all about.”
“A lot of tech in Africa has been quite far behind the developing world. But the new wave of the world, the internet and mobile, has enabled Africa to leap frog.”
“The African can go into industries that have been doing something from the 1980s and in one shot update them into the 21st century.”
“Young people should know something about everything and everything about something. You must find areas you are obsessed about and must become the world expert in that particular field.”
“When you start as a new business, the thing you need to do is get the next deal done, you have to pay your bills, you have to work really hard at surviving; exploiting the opportunities that come your way.”
“It’s only after you have got some more stability that you start looking at bigger things.”
“Entrepreneurship is riskier if you don’t understand the market.”
“All good businesses are built on a good corporate culture. The culture is the single most important asset of a company.”
Business Lessons From The Life Of Paul Harris
Jump On The Moving Train
In Paul’s word, “In the nineties, you would go to a board meeting, people would say ‘what’s the internet’? I then went and registered this proposal called Cyberbank. We put together a small team. They used the internet in the business under the name Origin. It eventually became RMB Private Bank. Right from that stage, we were into the internet.”
If something new is evolving and it can help you scale your business, don’t be ignorant about it. Learn it and jump on the moving trend.
Stay True To Your Innovation
According to Paul Harris, it took eight years to convince hundred of millions of Africans to use their phones rather than a bank teller. But they didn’t give up on educating people on the importance because they know that banking would soon go mobile.
Actually, not everyone will buy into your vision at the beginning but you have to stay consistent at educating your prospective clients on why they should key into your vision.
Sell The Vision To Your Employees
According to Paul Harris, in the first 10 years after RMB merged with FNB and formed FirstRand, Sizwe Nxasana, the banking CEO, and himself as group CEO, spent a full day each month with staff and new recruits. They spoke about their culture and got buy-in to what they call the FirstRand business philosophy.
In business, not all your employees will immediately key into the company’s mission and vision. However, continuous orientation will help them get integrated into the system.
Paul Harris mentioned in an interview that they started RMB with R10,000. Also, Discovery and OUTsurance started as small companies with little
amounts of capital. It is better to start your business small, then scale gradually until you become a big business.
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