Meet Johnny Mutton

Jannie Mouton is the founding CEO of the PSG Group of companies.

His story is not unique to the world of investment banking, entrepreneurship and basically helping yourself. Mouton was fired by the stockbroking company, SMK, about twenty years ago. He was their CEO. The South African financial paper, Moneyweb, christened him as the “Boere Buffett” (Afrikaner Buffett) of South African investing, an analogy which, and Mouton will tell you this, is not apt. While he does glean from Buffett’s investment philosophies, the story is more about how Jannie Mouton founded one of South Africa’s most successful investment companies.

The latest PlexCrown Fund Ratings show that PSG has leaped into second place overall, sandwiched between Coronation and Allan Gray.

Being compared to the world’s most successful investor is one thing. Warren Buffett is world-famous for his resilience and discipline, always studying the fundamentals of what it takes to create a successful enterprise, or empire, if you will. More importantly for the investor, Buffet wants to know whether companies have the potential to become a source of financial growth and profitability over the long-term. Mouton tells us though, that he was more of a risk-taker, and, boy, did he burn his fingers over the years. To me, Jannie Mouton is better known for applying the Buffet principles of investing to two of his most cherished creations, Capitec Bank and the lesser  known Curro, now a serious contender to Advtech.

Capitec Bank started life as the proverbial money lender before the 2008 prime lending crash. Today, unsecured lending is still frowned upon, particularly after the collapse of African Bank. But Capitec Bank, as Mouton points out, is more than that. It is a full-fledged bank, relying more on daily transactions than loan repayments for part of its capital outlay. It is the fastest growing bank on the African continent.

The other Mouton success story is Curro Holdings. It began life as a small, private school started by Chris van der Merwe, a visionary school teacher and entrepreneur. Mouton recognised these inherent qualities at an early stage and decided to underwrite this school’s growth. Today, it is still growing, its share price is affordable and its price to earnings ratio is healthy. Apart from taking a leaf out of Buffett’s book on how to make the right purchases, this product is principled. Today, hundreds of South African school children who may not have been able to benefit from private tuition in the past are reaping the benefits of a high standard of education. The Curro group, I believe, has a staff compliment of dedicated (and well-paid) teaching professionals.

jannie mouton

I was initially attracted to the title of Jannie Mouton‘s modest-looking and unpretentious biography. Like Mouton, I was fired. Like, Mouton, I did my job rather well. Like Mouton, I believe that creativity, rather than the archaic mission, vision and values statements, is far more important and effective. While PSG continues to grow, SMK and SA Eagle Insurance Co. no longer exist. Around the time that I walked through the exit doors of another declining insurance giant for the last time, I had been searching for inspiration and motivation to help kick-start my new career. Unfortunately, owing to personal distractions and a huge dose of negativity, I only grabbed Mouton’s book a few weeks ago.

In the book’s earlier pages, the groundwork to Mouton’s success is expounded upon rather modestly for a man of Mouton’s brash and straight-talking personality. Some who have worked for, rather than with him, explain that he can be intimidating at the worst of times. But, truth be told, Jannie Mouton is a humble man. Thanks to his ghost-writer, Carie Maas, his prose is engaging. Mouton outlines his lust for the stock market alongside that of his early family life, living in the Little Karoo. Like, Buffett, Mouton’s father was a cautious investor. Not so, Mouton. He was ambitious and bloody-minded when following his father’s philosophy of sheer hard work.

Briefly, Mouton also talks about personal loss. More emphasis is placed on the Mouton family values. Naturally, he is nostalgic in his praise of his children and their own success. If he pats himself on the back, it is to tell us how he managed to entice the Mouton siblings into working full-time for his favourite child, the PSG Group of Companies.

PSG is his family. While Jannie explains in more than enough narrative detail (Jannie Mouton: And then they fired me is merely 250 pages or so, long), he does not omit mentioning his investment failures and errors of judgement.

More importantly, he explains to his readers the importance of staying positive. There are noteworthy tips on how to become your own boss.

Jannie Mouton: And then they fired me was first published by Tafelberg, an imprint of NB Publishers, in 2011.

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