Make Money Mondays

SA’s richest woman opens up about being a refugee and becoming a billionaire

Sygnia CEO Magda Wierzycka. Picture: @Magda_Wierzycka/Twitter.

As much as I’ve had a tough childhood, I’ve also been incredibly lucky in life…

Magda Wierzycka, CEO - Sygnia

I only invest in Sygnia products and I only invest in passive products…. Since I’ve started working; 20% of my salary goes into retirement savings… Right from the age of 24… invest and forget!

Magda Wierzycka, CEO - Sygnia

I live on debt, which is a terrible thing to admit… The difference between paper wealth and cashflow wealth is quite material…

Magda Wierzycka, CEO - Sygnia

Every week The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield interviews a famous person about her or his attitude toward money (hopes and fears, successes and failures, etc.) as part of his “Make Money Mondays, Personal Edition” feature.

This week he interviewed Sygnia’s renegade CEO and anti-corruption activist, Magda Wierzycka.

She arrived in South Africa as a 13-year-old refugee from communist Poland and rose to the very top of the male-dominated world of finance.

…I spent about a year in a refugee camp - very much like the pictures you see of Syrian refugees… arrived in South Africa not speaking the language and with no money whatsoever…

Magda Wierzycka, CEO - Sygnia

When Wierzycka was still at school in Pretoria, she worked at a supermarket to help her family make ends meet.

She struggled with English, but excelled in maths and science, and earned herself a bursary to study actuarial science.

Wierzycka cofounded Sygnia Group and became its CEO in 2006.

Sygnia is a leader among asset managers in South Africa when it comes to the provision of low-cost, passively managed investments.

The financial services industry in South Africa spends enormous amounts of money making sure (financial) literacy is kept at a very low level… So the amount of jargon that is used, the amount of emotive advertising to make you believe fairy tales is enormous…

Magda Wierzycka, CEO - Sygnia

Wierzycka is by some estimates the richest woman in South Africa.

…South Africa has been very good to me and I am a proud South African rather than being a very proud Polish person which I'm not…

Magda Wierzycka, CEO - Sygnia
  • What does Wierzycka believe about money?

  • Does it keep her up at night?

  • Does she spend like crazy or save compulsively?

  • How did her childhood experiences shape her views on money?

Listen to the interview in the audio below (and scroll down for more quotes from it).

In Poland, everyone had the same. Which wasn’t very much… It [fleeing Poland] was a very traumatic moment… There are scars you have for the rest of your life…

Magda Wierzycka, CEO - Sygnia

He [Iqbal Survé] has never sued anybody in his life! I’m suing him!... I put my money where my mouth is. I don’t think he does… If I win anything, I’ll donate it to the GEPF (Government Employees Pension Fund), which he is stripping bare.

Magda Wierzycka, CEO - Sygnia

He [Mzi Khumalo] exposed me to the politics of this country… He told me a lot about Zuma. He told me a lot about Mandela… He lives in London now, because Zuma drove him out of South Africa… He’s been a pivotal figure in my life.

Magda Wierzycka, CEO - Sygnia

I don’t actually think about money…

Magda Wierzycka, CEO - Sygnia

I like nice clothes… I love online shopping…

Magda Wierzycka, CEO - Sygnia

I don’t have a huge attachment to material things… We live in an apartment…

Magda Wierzycka, CEO - Sygnia

Money is a great enabler. I have been to every corner of the globe from Antarctica to the Galapagos Islands…

Magda Wierzycka, CEO - Sygnia

I like art… We don’t buy anything complex…

Magda Wierzycka, CEO - Sygnia

Bitcoin! Bitcoin! Bitcoin! Bitcoin! [When asked if she’s ever wasted money in her life.] I bought my first Bitcoin at $4000 and my last Bitcoin at $18 000…. I was completely caught up in Tulip Mania…. I don’t care what it is; I’ve lost so much money!

Magda Wierzycka, CEO - Sygnia

Get the 10 most-read articles of the week from Bruce Whitfield’s The Money Show, emailed to you every Friday morning:

Subscribe to our Business Wrap Newsletter


Recommended

by NEWSROOM AI
Read More
Standard Bank says comedy of errors with bond applicant 'a once off'

Standard Bank says comedy of errors with bond applicant 'a once off'

Only when consumer journalist Wendy Knowler chased Standard Bank did they admit wrongdoing that cost a client R41 000.

Prices are rising at 4% per year on average, much more slowly than expected

Prices are rising at 4% per year on average, much more slowly than expected

The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield interviews Kevin Lings, Chief Economist at Stanlib Asset Management.

'Nobody can now claim to be exonerated by the Seriti commission'

'Nobody can now claim to be exonerated by the Seriti commission'

Bruce Whitfield interviews David Lewis (Corruption Watch) and arms deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne.

Trevor Noah – 4th highest paid comedian on Earth – made R430 million in 2018

Trevor Noah – 4th highest paid comedian on Earth – made R430 million in 2018

Trevor Noah cracked Forbes magazine’s list of highest-paid stand-up comedians in the world.

Feeling tired of life and burnt-out? You may want to check this out

Feeling tired of life and burnt-out? You may want to check this out

Bruce Whitfield interviews Judy Klipin, author of “Recover from Burnout: Life Lessons to Regain your Passion and Purpose”.

Benguela Global Fund Managers is buying Naspers, Standard Bank and Pick n Pay

Benguela Global Fund Managers is buying Naspers, Standard Bank and Pick n Pay

Zwelakhe Mnguni (CIO at Benguela Global Fund Managers) shares his stock picks of the week: Naspers, Standard Bank and Pick n Pay.

Popular articles
COVID-19 death toll rises to 18 in SA, cases at 1,845

COVID-19 death toll rises to 18 in SA, cases at 1,845

In a statement released on Wednesday night, the minister said the cases had gone up to 1,845.

Lockdown: Companies with good service on social media - and those without

Lockdown: Companies with good service on social media - and those without

Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler investigates which companies are meeting their customers’ needs on social media.

How to support outdoor entertainment indoors

How to support outdoor entertainment indoors

Theatres across the world have gone dark, but you can still support and watch the arts while at home

How did a single Netcare hospital become the epicentre of Covid-19 in KZN?

How did a single Netcare hospital become the epicentre of Covid-19 in KZN?

Bruce Whitfield interviews Richard Friedland, CEO at Netcare – owner of the hospital at the epicentre of KZN’s Covid-19 outbreak.

Expect no price hikes or shortages (except rice, pasta) from us - Tiger Brands

Expect no price hikes or shortages (except rice, pasta) from us - Tiger Brands

Tiger Brands CEO Noel Doyle assures South Africans that there are sufficient supplies of most of the company's products.

Dis-Chem launches drive-through COVID-19 testing sites

Dis-Chem launches drive-through COVID-19 testing sites

The company says the tests will cost R850 each and it may take 24 to 48 hours to get your results back.

#COVID-19: Old Mutual offers 4bn worth of free life cover to health workers

#COVID-19: Old Mutual offers 4bn worth of free life cover to health workers

The company is making it available to approximately 430,000 registered healthcare workers on the front-line of the pandemic.

Lockdown shelters in Tshwane helping reunite the homeless with their families

Lockdown shelters in Tshwane helping reunite the homeless with their families

Joanne Joseph speaks to City of Tshwane administrator spokesperson Omogolo Taunyane- Mnguni to find out more.

Only fruit and veg, fresh meat, grocery, spaza shop permits to be issued - Cogta

Only fruit and veg, fresh meat, grocery, spaza shop permits to be issued - Cogta

Deputy Minister Obed Bapela says permits fro cooked food will not be issued as well as furniture shots.

Savanna Virtual Comedy Bar launches on Thursday, featuring comedic heavyweights

Savanna Virtual Comedy Bar launches on Thursday, featuring comedic heavyweights

Bruce Whitfield and comedian John Vlismas share a few Covid-19 jokes and discuss the launch of the virtual comedy club.