written by KATE CHANCE
Kimon Boyiatjis is head of Fixed Income at Franklin Templeton NIB Investments, and a regular contributor to Classic Business. He spoke to Kate Chance about wanting to be a rock star and being the dunce in the family!
Kate C: What irritates you most in our business world?
Kimon B: The markets in general have changed over the years, and the ideology of free markets is not always embraced by politicians. This can be frustrating! I’m often confronted with people who don’t want to change; who show a lack of willingness, or ability, to adapt. I’m not saying we should hop on to every new fad or trend, but what’s the point of having a mind if you can’t change it? Just understand why you are changing it! That’s why I like to work in an environment where people talk about things. Nobody works for me; they work with me. That’s important. I like to encourage people to feel free about ideas. This business is part art and part science so I foster a creative environment. We receive a lot of information every day, and we have to see what will affect the market, by how much, etc, and what you can do to take best advantage of it for your clients. We have to remember we are dealing with large amounts of money that don’t belong to us. That’s a privilege and one we can’t abuse.
Kate C: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Kimon B: A rock star! I wanted to be a singer but you don’t ever want to hear me sing. For quite a long period I wanted to be a lawyer, like Perry Mason. I really believed in good managing to win out in the long run. I’ve wanted to be so many things that every single year at Varsity I was changing courses. But I did enjoy business economics. I came into this industry as the assistant to the tea lady, I think – not a very good one! But the great thing about starting at the bottom, which isn’t glamorous, is that you see how a company is run from the bottom up. It’s a humbling but necessary experience.
Kate C: What do you do to forget about work?
Kimon B: I don’t forget about work, I love it too much! I’d rather watch the news or CNBC than a movie. I play guitar, badly. Golf is for people who don’t have Reuters screens.
Kate C: Favourite holiday destination?
Kimon B: I love to travel! I love the Greek islands, especially Santorini and Myconos – the Poms have moved on to Spain so it’s really nice there these days. I have to go to hotels where they have the business channels on TV though! I’m Greek originally, my Dad’s from Cyprus and I have family all over Europe. I’m the dunce in the family: I have a cousin who’s an astrophysicist, another is a nuclear physicist. I feel I’ve been short-changed, somehow!
Kate C: Worst faux pas?
Kimon B: A friend of mine once asked what I thought about a girl and I said “not my cup of tea; have to bribe me to take her out; wouldn’t touch her with a barge pole, etc” then he told me they’d just got engaged. It was 15 years ago so I hope I’ve learned something since then. But how honest should one be? I am sensitive to other people’s feelings. I am. Really.
Kate C: What are we getting right and wrong with the economy?
Kimon B: We’re definitely getting the finances right, the Department of Finance is doing a sterling job – not pun intended! However, I’d like to see government encourage people to save more; this is really important. My parents, who’ve paid taxes all their lives, live off INTEREST INCOME. Now they’re not entitled to a pension due to that income, and they’re being taxed at the marginal rate after a lifetime of working! That can’t be right. Government must understand that by chasing people out of this country, they’re contracting its tax base. I believe in the concept of the sovereign individual (which is also the name of an excellent book). Governments of the world have to accept that they’re competing for tax, and will have to offer services for that tax. It’s a business deal. Technology is shrinking financial and geographical boundaries and people are shopping around for countries as if they’re commodities, and governments will have to start competing like companies. Speaking personally, though, home is always where your friends and loved ones are. People who make it overseas have done so because they’ve made new friends, not just created financial well-being. My parents left another country for a better life here and there is nothing to stop South Africans doing the same.