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Old Mutual Wealth’s Farhad Sader on the Double Century, Bikes and Investing

· By Press Office · 1 comment

Farhad is a passionate road and mountain biker and managing director of Old Mutual Wealth, the business that partnered South Africa’s premier long distance amateur road bike race and is adding real value to riders.

When the annual Double Century no longer had a sponsor and was cancelled by lockdown protocols, many feared the holy grail of long distance bike races in SA was doomed.  18 time DC finisher and cycling journo Paul Ingpen took a slow coffee ride over Chapman’s Peak with Farhad to find out what makes the man tick, how he finds balance, why South Africa is a great place to invest, and why he chose a bike race to build his prestigious brand.

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Paul Ingpen (PI): Farhad, every time we chat you’re on your way to host a conference, to speak at an event or attend meetings. We know you’re a real family man yet have done many mountain bike stage races, Double Centuries and posted an impressive Cycle Tour finish time. How do you find time to ride your bike and be a hands-on husband & father? 

Farhad Sader (FS): I would hardly describe my Cycle Tour finish time as impressive!  But I’ll take the compliment!  I don’t spend nearly as much time on the bike as I would like to, but I believe balance is important.  Being a dedicated family man, I am efficient with my time so that I am able to do both without it being a trade-off.   What has helped is setting up my bike on a Wahoo KICKR in my home office.   It makes it much easier to squeeze in a short ride during the day.  I make a point of getting outdoors on weekends.

PI: You’ve mentioned that riding your bikes is less about competition and more about health, and that you came to cycling via a role model whose story will always remind you to value health first. Tell us about that?

FS: I grew up playing sports and more so now I try to remain active.  Aside from the enjoyment factor, I believe an active lifestyle is probably the single most important thing you can do to improve your health.  Growing up, I never really took to endurance sports, but about 5 or 6 years ago, a former boss and mentor (also a recreational triathlete himself) bought me a helmet as a gift and insisted that I buy a bike to match!  Eventually I caved, bought the bike, and the rest is history.  He sadly passed away shortly after that, but his attitude towards life, fitness and the people around him continues to inspire me every day.

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PI: South Africa has seen an exodus of leading minds as doctors, lawyers and other professionals get lured abroad by welcoming foreign countries. Many successful achievers ride bikes and openly acknowledge that their cycling lifestyle here is sorely missed. Why is that you are so optimistic about South Africa with the proof being your company’s local investment? 

FS: To be honest, I’m as frustrated about the state of our country as many others out there.  But my optimism stems from a couple of things.  Firstly, we are an incredibly resilient nation where, despite the noise, all of us just want to do the best for our families and create a better life for the next generation.  As a country, we just need to harness this enterprising nature and create the right macro-conditions for success.  I have huge conviction that the opportunities are endless – mostly because we have such low participation levels in our economy right now that there is significant room for growth.  We also have a relatively young population (especially compared to more developed nations) which means that the labour force and potential consumers of tomorrow will be much larger than today.  Lastly, for all the issues we have in SA, there are equally significant, if not, greater challenges elsewhere in the world today.

PI: Many of those who have ridden the Double Century fear it based on legendary tales or personal experiences of salt-encrusted, solo suffer fests. That said, even they still love to dread it, because apart from being a uniquely beautiful long loop through the Klein Karoo, it’s the one team sport that remains with us post school and university life. It’s not possible to have a good day out without teamwork and therein lies the spanbou gees that we saffas love to suffer in, together. Have you experienced this ambivalent emotion bond and is this one of the reasons you sensed a brand affiliation? 

FS: Absolutely.  There is something about suffering together that makes it exponentially easier to get through!  I don’t think I would have even entered my first DC if not for the comfort of the team of experienced riders I could count on to get me through both mentally and physically!  And this is what matters, whether you’re racing all the way to the finish line, or just having a fun day out on your bike.

Similarly, the nature of our business, and what we do (building wealth) is a team-effort from a mix of specialists that provide the right amount of guidance, motivation, coaching and support to the most important member of the team – our client.  And sometimes a bit of a push too!

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PI: Tell us about some of you and your teammates experiences that made you recognize that this event was something different and special? 

FS: The fact that it takes almost a full day is long enough that you need to get away for the weekend, but short enough that it isn’t disruptive to the rest of your week.  The gees also starts the day before, with the team staying together the evening before, and the braai and celebrations (and wow can some people celebrate!) after!

Some unforgettable moments which contributed to post race “fines” and team banter include the time when some of our faster teammates who were way ahead of the slower guys decided to go for a swim in a nearby dam to fight the heat while waiting for us slow coaches! Then one of our teammates aptly named “The Buffalo” had 6 punctures and lost several spokes, requiring multiple team stops (and spares!) to support him. Yes, as you say Paul, communication and teamwork is key. When we paired slow-riders and first timers with experienced riders, the “hand on the back” pushes over the last 20km were inspiring to witness, especially when we all crossed the finish line together – literally alongside each other – as a show of team spirit.  There is something to be said for the unique “gees” and spirit of moments like these!

PI: Your team has clearly been motivated to add real value to the DC riders, it’s obvious that this partnership means more than just brand affiliation to you. OMW rider technical support cars and a state of the art podium for pre and post ride team pics means we no longer need to rely on exhausted family members or pose next to a bush or in a car park asking a petrol attendant to take a pic without cutting our legs off. Chapeau to that, thank you! Tell us about those initiatives and what else you plan to roll out over time? 

FS: We love the stage, and it was great to see it being used last year even though the event was cancelled!  We have a few more surprises this year, but I can’t give away any just yet… you’ll have to find out on race day.  Ok, just one – we have upgraded the gift bag!

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PI: Your first year on board the race was cancelled by severe rain in 2021, meaning you never got to share those new designer trophies nor welcome your teams over the line. This must have been extremely disappointing for you and the team. How was that and what learnings have come from it?   

FS: It was extremely disappointing, and even more so after the weather cleared up later that morning.  The reality is that when you have the official health and safety officers advising you to cancel, you carry a lot of risk by ignoring them and going ahead anyway, especially if someone was injured due to the rockfalls that occurred earlier that morning.

This year, the organisers have spent more time thinking about similar scenarios and alternative routes.  You will never be able to cater for every scenario (especially where your road closure time over mountain passes is constrained), but I think we’re as prepared as it gets!

PI: For most people the OMWDC is a frightening and thrilling proposition. As a leader of a large company, entrusted by many to plan strategically, and having ridden the race yourself a few times, what simple advice can you share with both novices and experienced riders to leave as little as possible to chance?

FS: I’m no expert on this, but aside from regular training, nutrition planning, etc. what worked for me the first time was to complete an event or two each month in the few months before DC, especially some of the longer events like the One Tonner (160kms) to get a feel for your level of readiness for the longer distance.  Riding 200kms is not the same as 100km x 2.  I believe this is also great for experienced riders as they can gauge and plan their pace for the DC better.

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PI: One nugget of investment advice to those who think hiding money under the mattress or leaving it in the bank makes safer sense? 

FS: It’s not a new question, but the answer is still no.  Inflation is the erosion of buying power of your money over time. It is important to grow your investments in real terms, meaning the investment returns after inflation are positive (Inflation +). Growing investments in real terms is the only way to achieve your goals and grow your money.  Your hard-earned cash under your mattress is not working for you and it should! 

At Old Mutual Wealth we offer a range of inflation targeted funds, (solutions offering real return, ie returns above inflation after fees) depending on your time horizon and risk appetite.  Our approach limits people from making bad decisions that over time destroys value rather than builds it. For each fund, investors know what the long-term goal is. Each fund also has a suggested minimum investment period to indicate how long you might need to invest to achieve your targeted return. The higher your expected return, the longer you may need to invest. There are no guarantees, but the best way to achieve inflation beating returns is to remain invested in the markets, and not have a knee jerk reaction to inevitable market volatility.

Dependent on your specific needs, and in order to get to you from where you are today to where you want to me one day, there is an investment strategy that is appropriate for you; and gives you the best opportunity of reaching your financial goals. 

PI: Thanks for the coffee, renewed confidence in SA and an insightful spin

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Comments

NickGM

Oct 17, 2022, 6:17 AM

Now might be an interesting time to point out that the german word for bicycle is "fahrrad".

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