Entrepreneur Douw Steyn’s South African operations have done well. But the billions now being invested in his massive Steyn City project near Johannesburg were mostly generated from outside the country, primarily through Peterborough-headquartered BGL Group.
A company which via comparethemarket.com, holds a staggering 41% share of the UK’s online insurance market.
The company’s CEO Matthew Donaldson, is a Yorkshireman who joined what was then a fledgling operation 16 years ago. At the time, he says, BGL was one of over 100 businesses building price comparison websites.
What made the South Africans different, Donaldson reckons, was their courage. Something reflected in a well capitalised business that kept investing despite early setbacks. And the unique South African-born “gees” (spirit) deeply ingrained in the company’s culture.
Matthew Donaldson, group director, BGL
Because low profile BGL is privately owned, it hasn’t registered with many South Africans. Indeed, I was only able to secure the interview through the good offices of a friend from my Newcastle schooldays, now an executive with the group.
But it was worth the effort. With over £100m a year in annual profits, Steyn’s creation is one of the UK’s biggest financial sector successes of recent years.
And an inspiration, not just to his countrymen.
Read also: UPDATED WITH NEW PICS: Douw’s R250m Palazzo Steyn reflects “confidence in SA”
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