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The Origin Story of Leigh Kohler

Leigh Kohler is Head: DFM at INN8 Invest – the latest proposition offering from INN8 – and the past two decades have landed him exactly where he needs to be. We asked Leigh how exactly he got to where he is today, leading the most exciting DFM offering out there. 
4 min read

The head of INN8 Invest’s DFM team, Leigh Kohler, is exactly where the universe intended him to be. Curious and interested, open to learning and sharing those lessons, Leigh has climbed his way up the ladder, landing in the world of discretionary investments. 

Before we get into Leigh’s journey to INN8, watch the short video below to learn more about what INN8 means to him – as well as what the future might hold.

Tell us about the career journey you have been on to land where you are today –

After graduating from UCT, I started as an administrative assistant at Glacier in 2003. I was responsible for typing out client letters and posting client statements. My career advanced quite rapidly after that – I got exposure in the operations and client services areas as a consultant and then soon after that started managing people at the age of 25. I was then promoted to the senior management team at Glacier at the age of 28 as Head of Investment Administration. It was from here that I I started to get involved in some amazing strategic projects.

A few years later I was promoted to associate director and head of asset manager research. It was from this point that I started to become extensively involved with the broader asset management industry, including DFM. I was eventually promoted to Head: Investment Solutions – a portfolio that included Glacier Research, Glacier Manco, and Glacier Invest (DFM)). I then joined Sanlam Multi-Manager in 2019 as Head: Business Solutions, continuing my role within the DFM, but a role that included a broader mandate including product; distribution; proposition; and institutional business. 

In 2020 I moved to STANLIB Multi Manager as Head: DFM and here we are today with the launch of INN8 Invest.

What made you choose the financial services/investment industry?

To be honest, I think financial services chose me – so maybe the real question is, why am I still working in financial services? I believe that I can make a difference to the lives of people. I was born on the Cape Flats – so I didn’t come from wealth – and I’ve seen and still see how normal people struggle out there. I want to help people to achieve some level of financial freedom – or even just retire with dignity. I can’t help them directly but by partnering with and empowering financial advisers to make informed investment decisions, I believe I can make a difference.

What has been the most significant turning point in your career – or describe an accomplishment that shaped your career?

There are a few accomplishments that I’m quite proud of, including heading up manager research at Glacier, launching one of the first funds in SA managed completely by artificial intelligence (AI); partnering with US asset manager Dodge and Cox to launch a feeder fund; heading up the largest DFM in the country, and; completing an MBA cum laude (while having two really young kids). The biggest move of my career was moving to STANLIB Multi-Manager after 17 years at Glacier and Sanlam.

Connect with the INN8 Invest team. Follow this link to connect with them on LinkedIn.
Is there a personal project within the business or out of it that you are currently working on?

The only personal project I’m currently working on outside of business is starting a succulent garden at home😊 I’m no gardener so it has been quite an experience.

What advice would you give to someone who is wanting to take your current position?

I know my job is done when others working with me can take my position. When that day comes then I’ll know I was doing something right.

My advice would be to stay humble, be willing to get your hands dirty, look beyond the obvious, compete hard but fairly, relationships and connections are very important, and think and dream big. Clarity is crucial – know what it is you want to achieve and then build a strong team around you to execute on it.

What makes you excited about Monday?

Taking the INN8 Invest DFM out into the market is such a special project – so working with my team and engaging with advisers gets me excited every day, not only Mondays.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

My wife is the smartest person I know. If I could do anything differently it would probably be to have listened to her advice more over the years. There have been crucial moments in my career that would have turned out differently if I had taken her advice.