Meeting Niall Carroll in person, you could be forgiven for underestimating the depth and breadth of expertise standing in front of you. Understated yet self-possessed, the South African entrepreneur is happy letting his results speak for themselves. Digging a little deeper reveals a corporate businessman and a calculated risk-taker who today chairs the team behind the dynamic investment portfolio CG Tech.
The story of Niall Carroll is anything but dull. Born in Cape Town and after earning a degree in accounting and economics from the University of Cape Town, Carroll worked his way up in the investment banking world, earning his corporate stripes with companies including Deloitte, Ivor Jones Roy & Co and Deutsche Bank, before moving over to the advisory realm, where Carroll left his indelible mark.
In 2012, Carroll was ready for his next challenge. While many would have stuck with the same success formula, Carroll decided to forge a new path, teaming up with his former Deutsche Bank and Royal Bafokeng Holdings colleague, Andrew Jackson to establish CG Tech, an investment holding company with a varied portfolio bringing revolutionary technologies to reimagine traditional industries. Living just outside London with his wife and two children, Niall Carroll’s unique brand of sustainable venture capitalism serves as a playbook for those interested in sustainable investing, a concept that puts people and communities before profits.
Looking back over 25 formative years, Niall Carroll was part of one of South Africa’s top equity research teams, working for Ivor Jones Roy & Co. When the division was acquired by Deutsche Bank, Carroll soon found himself traveling the world, speaking to some of the largest asset management firms and hedge funds. With a strong interest in research and writing, this period helped to form the basis of Carroll’s sharp analytical rigour, shaping his unique perspective on investing and giving him a better global understanding of financial markets and trends.
The lessons learned during this time of his career would play an important role in Niall Carroll’s next move, establishing Royal Bafokeng Holdings at the request of the King of the Royal Bafokeng Nation. Here, Carroll was educated in the importance of community and culture.
“With a suit and tie on, we were flying around the globe effectively selling the South African story. It was a tremendous time in my career as I was traveling with a great group of colleagues and being exposed to a variety of global perspectives,” remarks Carroll.
With a bold vision and the willingness to make things happen, Carroll brokered a landmark deal between the Royal Bafokeng Nation and Impala Platinum. An arrangement that was four decades in the making.
“Dealing with the platinum dispute was a huge task. Animosity existed on both sides, but we were determined to secure a fair deal for everyone. In the end, the success of the agreement proved how a corporate mining firm and traditional community could work together for a common goal and the mutual benefit of both parties,” says Carroll.
Carroll’s success as the CEO of RBH went beyond platinum. During his tenure he helped the Royal Bafokeng Nation to diversify their assets and grew the portfolio to an average value of over US $4 billion, offering a higher return rate than that of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway during the same time period. The experiences of RBH were instrumental in forming Niall Carroll’s views on sustainable capitalism and set him up perfectly for his next opportunity.
In 2012, Carroll and Andrew Jackson decided it was the right moment to consolidate the lessons learned during their time at Deutsche and RBH, forming CG Tech with a distinct vision in mind.
“We have always thought that this is bigger than us. With CG Tech we want to be financially successful, of course. But we want to make sure we’re doing it in a way that uplifts and serves the communities around us,” explains Carroll.
Finding their own niche, CG Tech has created a varied portfolio centred around traditional industries with a twist. For Niall Carroll the secret to success within the group has been being able to identify these traditional markets and augment them with new technologies to create greater value. From oil and gas, to virtual reality, construction and sound stages, CG Tech is forging its way ahead with one goal in mind – disruptive innovation to unlock new value contexts.
The results speak for themselves, as CG Tech businesses like The Virtulab have been at the forefront of solving emerging global challenges such as remote work and virtual events. Another subsidiary, Al Laith was recently involved in building a series of field hospitals across the UAE to support medical facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Called on by the government because of their rapid building capabilities, Al Laith also employed drone technology for ground scanning that will be able to assist with emergency builds in the future.
The ecosystem approach used by CG Tech has created a group of owner-manager investee companies all working towards a common goal. Synergies are quickly recognised, and visions are aligned to create an environment of openness, where value added to one subsidiary equals success for them all.
For Niall Carroll the key to sustainable capitalism rests in the ability to remain balanced.
“I’m not interested in finding the next unicorn,” Carroll says. “For me, the value lies in nurturing multiple businesses that can add real value to the market. I want to make sure we are creating companies that are sound and ready to move into the future. That’s how we make sure what we’re building today will last into the future and continue to generate impact.”