To the Indian Ocean for our latest Sovereign Story. Richard Neal recently took the reins as Managing Director of Sovereign’s Mauritius office. We spoke to him to learn more about his journey thus far – and his plans for the future.
Richard is South African and was brought up in both major financial centres in the country. Born in Johannesburg “thirty something years ago”, his dentist father moved the family to Cape Town when Richard was 13. Completing his education, he obtained his B.Com degree at the University of Cape Town followed by a year of post-grad study.
Richard’s first job saw him in a marketing role before he joined Sovereign on 1 June 2012. For the first 2½ years he was business development manager in the Cape Town office before moving to manage the Johannesburg operation in 2015, and appointed a Director in February the following year. Back to Cape Town mid-2018, he became Managing Director of the South Africa operation in December 2019.
Apart from gaining invaluable commercial training, his remembers his time in Johannesburg for another reason. Soon after arriving he met Laura, from Durban, who had also moved to the city. Whilst he avoids saying “it was love at first sight”, within six months the couple had adopted a cat. Luna is still with them and now wants to take charge of their home in Mauritius!
Richard and Laura married in December 2020 although due to the… (we know!), they haven’t yet been able to go on honeymoon. The islands off Croatia’s Dalmatian coast are a likely contender – but nothing is yet decided. The couple love to travel; Greece and Thailand being among their favourite destinations. Richard’s work allows him to see more of the world that he would otherwise have expected.
Keen on fitness, Richard once took part in the Mad2Run relay covering the 1,400 km from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Taking several days, our impression is that for Richard, it was very much a one-off!
Fast forward to June this year. On his tenth anniversary at Sovereign, Richard became Managing Director, Sovereign Trust (Mauritius) Limited. He had mixed feelings leaving South Africa although the office is in the hugely capable hands of Ralph Wichtmann.
Exciting times in his new island home beckon. Richard is responsible for the trust / company side of the business comprising 30 staff. A further 40 colleagues on the back office / outsourcing team means that the whole office is one of the largest in the entire group.
Richard knew the “amazing” Mauritius team well before arriving. They demonstrate a “can do attitude” and “have no qualms about getting stuck in to whatever challenges arise to simply get things done”. With two other executive directors, Richard plans to exploit the team’s collaborative work ethic, aided by the open plan office.
Richard pays tribute to his predecessor, Nico Van Zyl, who has been appointed Managing Director, Gibraltar. He is keen to build on Nico’s magnificent work, readily admitting that he has massive shoes to fill. The team’s focus will be on countries north of South Africa itself such as Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. He points out that Mauritius does not appear on any grey or black list and that recent legislative changes have made the use of the jurisdiction’s structures more transparent and advantageous.
Richard is also keen to develop Sovereign’s links with other island-based businesses encouraging them to turn to Sovereign for non-Mauritius structuring when required. This is especially true for Middle East solutions where of course Sovereign is growing fast. Richard also enjoys a great relationship with colleagues at Sovereign Wealth.
How is expat life in Mauritius? He waxes lyrical about the island’s beauty. He adds that you would need a very long day to drive all around this island nation of almost 1.3m people.
Richard is succumbing to the delights of golf – something he had resisted in the past. It turns out he’s quite good at it. At least that’s what he told Laura when he bought a brand new set of clubs! His lifetime passion though is fishing. His first love is fly fishing (especially for trout) but he is developing an affinity for the sea. Limited presently to casting off the beach or rocks, he plans to acquire a sea kayak in order to develop his skills.
Laura doesn’t share this passion but she is a keen horse rider and avid reader. Together the couple hike every week and are getting to know the beauty of the island on foot.
It all sounds idyllic. “Well, yes” says Richard, “except that we don’t have our belongings yet”. Their effects were shipped on 14 February. Stuck in Cape Town for three months, they‘ve been to Abu Dhabi and an Indian port. Back on the high seas they are once again somewhere on the Indian Ocean.
We trust your goods arrive soon. In the meantime thank you for your time. We wish you, Laura (and Luna) the very best of luck in this exciting new stage of your lives together.