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Corporate citizenship

The value of time

At Allan Gray, we believe that the future counts and is worth investing in. We understand the value of time and the importance of keeping our eyes firmly fixed on tomorrow. We work hard at freeing ourselves from the constraints of the short term by looking beyond the distractions of the day. We are galvanised by our purpose: creating long-term wealth for our clients.

In our 50 years of existence, we have grown from a little-known brand to one of South Africa’s most recognisable investment managers, servicing a wide cross section of Southern African clients. Zwelethu Nkosi guides us through the chapters of the brand’s advertising history, revealing consistency and a true commitment to our values.

Since our founding in 1973, the Allan Gray brand has been diligently built on three distinct pillars: superior investment performance, excellent service and administration, and an enviable reputation earned by continuously doing hard things well and always putting our clients’ interests first.

Excellence in all our endeavours, big and small, is something we continuously strive towards. Our obsession with excellence is a badge of honour, and one we wear proudly. It has always been the cornerstone of our business, and by extension, our brand.

Over the last five decades, we have learnt that trust is built every single second of the day, with each investment and business decision and through every interaction with our clients, both directly and through our digital platform, Allan Gray Online. We understand that trust and confidence are hard-won, but easily lost.

In applying our business values, we are challenged to be long-term in our approach and thinking, client-focused in our decision-making, individually accountable in our day-to-day execution, independent-minded in our engagements, performance-driven in our quest to add value for our clients, and to act with integrity at all times.

Our brand remains true to our essence

Our brand, which is outwardly experienced by our clients and prospective investors, reflects who we are internally and how we operate as a business. It is the culmination of our business values, investment philosophy, approach and beliefs. Collectively, these elements act as a lighthouse, guiding us through our interactions with each other, our stakeholders, clients, prospective clients, and broader society. They instruct and inform how we are organised as a business, how we achieve our goals, how we communicate and how we deliver on our promise to our clients.

Our obsession with excellence is a badge of honour, and one we wear proudly. It has always been the cornerstone of our business …

Our marketing approach

Our marketing ethos is informed by the following words of our founder, Allan W B Gray, which constitute one of our founding principles: “I believe that financial services should be bought by the client, not sold by us.” This statement is the bedrock of everything we do: It guides our educational approach to marketing communication, and informs how we measure our success.

To ensure that investors and advisers gravitate towards our brand and actively choose to partner with us on their investing journey, our marketing efforts are geared towards building an understanding of who we are in an insightful, honest, and compelling manner. In so doing, we hope to attract individuals who share our beliefs and approach.

It is our strongly held view that the best client is a well-informed client. We therefore focus our efforts on providing our clients and prospective clients with information that will empower them to make considered and well-informed investment decisions.

As the business, and by extension our brand, has grown in stature over the last 50 years, we have been encouraged by the diversification of our retail client base, which has evolved as we continue to attract a wider cross section of South Africans, making our services and products accessible to an increasing number of investors.

Our advertising journey

Our advertising journey began in 2002, not long after the launch of our flagship unit trusts – the Allan Gray Equity Fund, Allan Gray Balanced Fund and Allan Gray Stable Fund.

In our quest to make our services available to more South African investors, our advertising objective was simple: to increase Allan Gray’s public profile, broaden brand awareness beyond the institutional market, and educate the retail investor and adviser market about our firm. We adopted a simple, yet powerful advertising strategy designed around the characteristics of the company – an approach we still follow today. We continue to use advertising to build brand awareness and to deepen understanding of our approach to investing.

Our advertising communication has grown to become a rich tapestry of stories, representing a textured catalogue of work that is based on universal human truths, and conveys who we are as a business, our brand purpose, our investment philosophy, our beliefs, and our approach. In true contrarian style, we avoid typical investment-speak, industry jargon, and advertising our investment performance.

While the business of investing remains rational, we believe it is important to connect with our clients and prospective clients on an emotional level. We understand that investment management is complex, and we have borrowed from the age-old art of storytelling to demystify investment concepts by making them understandable, universal, inclusive and accessible. We believe in the magnetic power of stories to capture the minds and imagination of our audience. We continuously strive to deliver meaningful messages, in a memorable way, that resonate with investors and transcend generations.

It is our strongly held view that the best client is a well-informed client.

While our advertising messages have evolved over the years, our tone of voice has remained insightful and thought-provoking, with an unassuming sense of warmth. We have kept the black-and-white visual language, tone, and style, across television, airport billboard, magazine and newspaper adverts, making them instantly recognisable as Allan Gray.

Over the past two decades, black-and-white television adverts have become synonymous with our brand. With a slight deviation from emotive storytelling, our radio advertising communicates our investment pillars in a more rational manner. Our advertising style has, to a large extent, played a role in defining financial services advertising for the past 20 years.

Below is a compilation of some of the messages we have explored through our television adverts.

Our investment decisions are the output of meticulous research and the consistent application of our investment philosophy.

Focus is key (2002)

Our first television adverts, "Mirsada", "Ballet" and "Shackleton", which launched in 2002 under the campaign banner “Single-minded is good”, highlighted our firm’s single-minded focus on investments since 1973, which we believe is a key ingredient of our success. To quote from an article we published when we launched the adverts: “We are a serious investment firm for serious investors.”

Commitment counts (2003, 2015)

Our commitment to our investment philosophy is what sets us apart. Over the past 50 years, we have applied the same investment philosophy, regardless of market conditions – the theme we explored in our “Commitment” television advert in 2003. It highlighted the scarcity of commitment in the modern world, and contrasted this with Allan Gray’s long-standing commitment to our investment philosophy.

Twelve years later, in 2015, we revisited the commitment theme in our television advert “The letter”, under the campaign banner “When you truly value something, stay committed”. The advert told a simple story of two people in love who endured a forced separation brought on by historic events, putting to the test their commitment to each other. It recognised that commitment takes courage, both in life and in investing.

Given the contrarian nature of our approach, we often make investment decisions that are unconventional and unpopular, resulting in losing favour with our clients when our short-term relative performance looks disappointing. It is during these times that our commitment to our investment philosophy is tested, which requires us to show courage in the face of adversity.

Rationality matters (2004)

Our investment decisions are the output of meticulous research and the consistent application of our investment philosophy. However, it is commonly accepted that the stock market is largely influenced by two human emotions: greed and fear. In investing, setting aside your emotions to remain rational and calm is a key ingredient of success.

We acknowledged the role that emotions play in our lives in our 2004 television advert, “Emotions”, reinforcing the importance of remaining rational when investing. We believe that the most intelligent way of investing is to base investment decisions on research, disregarding emotions.

Patience is our virtue (2006)

Our 2006 advert, “The chase”, explored a theme that is poignantly relevant in modern times: Financial scams and get-rich-quick schemes are the order of the day, often with disastrous consequences for unsuspecting investors.

Through a metaphorical tale that drew on the popular piece of folklore that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, our advert depicted two types of investors: those who chase the quick buck, and those who know that good things come to those who wait. The advert was a reminder of the adage, “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.

… the advert reinforced a pivotal aspect of our investment philosophy: Time is an essential ingredient in the recipe for wealth creation.

Identifying potential (2008)

It was not until 2008 that South Africa and the rest of the world took notice of our advertising, with the launch of our breakthrough television advert, “Beautiful”. It catapulted Allan Gray into the mainstream as it went on to win the coveted Grand Prix award, considered the pinnacle of creative excellence, at the Loeries, an advertising awards ceremony for brand communications in Africa and the Middle East. This recognition was swiftly followed by a silver award at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the largest gathering in the creative marketing industry.

The advert was beautifully crafted, with a quiet intelligence, while also being refreshingly charming and witty. The story is the perfect analogy of our investment philosophy, which is rooted in our ability to identify potential and exercise patience throughout market cycles.

“Although the firm has evolved over the years, it has always been – and always must be – focused on doing what is right for its clients. – Allan W B Gray” 

The value of time (2009, 2011, 2018)

In 2009, we introduced the rich territory of time to our advertising communication catalogue with the launch of “Legend”. The advert went on to win the Grand Prix award at the 2010 Loeries and bronze at Cannes in the same year, cementing our reputation as great storytellers.

With the campaign line “Given more time, imagine the possibilities”, the advert reinforced a pivotal aspect of our investment philosophy: Time is an essential ingredient in the recipe for wealth creation.

The second in our time trilogy of television adverts, “Time flies”, followed in 2011 under the campaign line “Time is valuable, make it count”, winning a silver at the 2012 Loeries. The advert emphasised the value of time in the investing process.

Our third time television advert, launched in 2018, was “Father’s share”, which followed in the footsteps of our “Beautiful” and “Legend” adverts, to win at Cannes, achieving silver in 2019. This advert reflected the essence of Allan Gray’s philosophy and our focus on the long term: Driven by the insight that we live in a world of instant gratification, the message focused on the benefits of delayed gratification – a message that fits perfectly into Allan Gray’s brand positioning of long-term investing, and that is a classic illustration of the discipline, patience and commitment that are required for this pursuit.

Thank you for your trust

As we celebrate 50 years of existence, we recognise that we would not have achieved this milestone had it not been for you, our clients, entrusting us with your hard-earned money, hopes and dreams. Thank you for staying the course with us.

Rest assured that we continue to work hard every day to earn and retain your trust. As our founder said: “Although the firm has evolved over the years, it has always been – and always must be – focused on doing what is right for its clients.”

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