by degrees he built a career

HOOKED ON BOOKS: Professor Mthuli Ncube is the chief administrator at Wits Business School. Pic. Marianne Schwankhart. © Sunday Times.
HOOKED ON BOOKS: Professor Mthuli Ncube is the chief administrator at Wits Business School. Pic. Marianne Schwankhart. © Sunday Times.

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

For an academic like Professor Mthuli Ncube, a position as the chief administrator at Wits Business School could become a little too comfortable after a lifetime of study and research.

"I'm pleased with the energy I've summoned up here, but I would like to go back into the corporate world and focus more on research," Ncube says.

He was born in Zimbabwe in the late 1960s and finished his first degree in commerce in 1985 at the University of Zimbabwe after the country earned independence.

"I've always been very bright, and I've never really struggled with school. I initially wanted to study physics, but commerce seemed more interesting."

In 1986, he earned a scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge in the England where he completed a master's degree in philosophical economics.

"I was required to return to Zimbabwe and became a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe from 1987 to 1988, teaching public finance."

In 1989 he went back to Cambridge University to study for a doctorate in mathematical finance.

At the age of 25, he published his first book. Development Finance was a focus on his home country.

He stayed in the England and completed a project for the London Stock Exchange's derivative securities division.

"I didn't intend on going back to Africa. I finished my PhD in record time - two years - and I became a lecturer at the London School of Economics."

In 1995 he received a call from an old Cambridge classmate, Investec Asset Management's chief executive Hendrik du Toit who offered him a job

"I did the interview and moved my wife and son to Cape Town. I was glad to be closer to home and to be able to see my mother in Zimbabwe. My wife was also relieved as she didn't like the weather in the UK."

He was appointed the head of Investec Asset Management's asset-allocation strategy. But he left in 1998 to set up a business of his own in asset management.

"I found that business here in South Africa was too tough so I moved back to Zimbabwe where there wasn't that much competition. It worked for a while, and I was profitable until the economy started to take a turn for the worse.

"I started seeing my margins shrinking, and all of a sudden I started to miss academia.

"I went back to England in 2003. After a short while there, I saw an opening for a professor at Wits Business School and thought it would be a good move."

He was appointed as a professor of finance in 2004 and started teaching and conducting his own research projects. In 2006 he took the helm at the institute and has introduced several programmes to the school's range of business courses.

When his contract expires in two years, Ncube intends to stay on as a professor at the business school, but do some corporate work along with his research projects.