SA businessman knighted by the Queen
It isn’t often that South African businessmen are knighted by the Queen of England, but then Cape Town-born Sir Bradley Fried, the chairperson of the Court of the Bank of England, isn’t your average man.
Fried, who chairs the 5 000-strong British bank that boasts a trillion Pound balance sheet, has been awarded a knighthood for public service in Queen Elizabeth II’s 2022 Birthday Honours list, published on 1 June.
Fried received a letter from Downing Street about six weeks ago informing him that the Queen would be granting him the knighthood and it would be announced on the Jubilee long weekend, 2 to 5 June.
In the next few months, Fried will be attending an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London. “I’m delighted that my mother, Joan, will be flying in from Cape Town to attend,” he says. “It is, however, of great sadness to me that my beloved father, Louis, who passed away a few years ago, won’t be there. Endlessly supportive of his three children, he would have loved it.”
Fried grew up in Claremont in Cape Town and attended The Grove Primary School and Westerford High School before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in commerce, awarded with distinction, from the University of Cape Town.
He says his Jewish identity is “absolutely pivotal” to who he is. “My heritage, in common with many of your readers, is predominantly Lithuanian – with the addition of a Jerusalem-originated grandfather. Some of my most important life lessons were learned in my early years, growing up in the warmth of the Cape Town community and being part of the incredible Habonim family. Those experiences taught me the central ideas of being accountable and responsible for one another. The community leaders of those years were great role models, and they remain so.”
Fried started his career as a chartered accountant trainee at Arthur Andersen in Cape Town. “I left South Africa on New Year’s Eve, 1990, to study and build my career,” he says. “First, I travelled for a while, and then I went on to study for an MBA [Master’s Degree in Business Administration] at the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania.”
Fried then joined the management consultants McKinsey & Company in New York. “I became a partner in its financial services practice, and was then hired to run Investec Bank in the United Kingdom (UK). We moved to London to do that.”
In 2009, amid the global financial crisis, he started to work with Her Majesty’s Treasury in the UK. “That led me to apply to join the Bank of England’s board of directors, known ever since the bank was founded in 1694 as the ‘court’. I was appointed chair of the court in 2018.”
The court exists to ensure monetary and financial stability in the UK, and reports through its board (the court) to parliament.
“In addition, we set interest rates for the country, run the currency, and manage the payment system – processing about £700 billion [R13.5 trillion] a day,” says Fried. “I chair the court, and ensure that the bank fulfils its mandate and that, to the best of our ability, we deliver our mission of keeping the financial system stable in the UK.”
Fried has played a vital role in supporting the bank through the COVID-19 pandemic, helping it to play its part in the national economic response.
“When COVID-19 hit, the country shut down rapidly, and the economy declined dramatically,” he says. “There was a response across Western markets to ensure that globally, all remained stable, and the bank was critical to this response. We needed to ensure that a health crisis didn’t become a financial crisis. This was the fundamental challenge of central banks around the world.”
Fried has also pioneered a major overhaul of the bank’s approach to diversity and inclusion, culminating in a landmark court report on ethnicity in the bank.
The bank aside, Fried is the co-founder of private equity business Grovepoint, founded in 2010 with his childhood friend, Leon Blitz, from Cape Town. “This business was backed by Investec and by Natie Kirsh,” says Fried. “The Kirsh family, as well as Stephen Koseff and Bernard Kantor of Investec, have been central to my past 23 years.”
Fried says the biggest highlight has been the opportunity to work with some of the world’s great leaders and teachers, many of whom are South African. “Natie, Stephen, and Bernard, together with some extraordinary mentors in the United States and the UK, have taught me great lessons. In addition, I have known both of my business partners, Leon Blitz and Gary Narunsky, for 50 years – and I’m 56. They grew up with me in Cape Town, and their presence is a constant reminder that it’s important to understand the value of things rather than the cost of them.”
Fried visits South Africa every year. “My mother, Joan, and my brother, Greg, and his family, still live in Cape Town. My wife, Lauren, spearheads some amazing social-impact projects in Cape Town. My sons, Daniel and David, regard Cape Town as a warm and loving home.”
Some years ago, Fried and his family visited the Habonim campsite for the 60th-anniversary of Habonim in Onrus in the Western Cape. “I met my wife at Habonim camp, and it was a complete joy to take our sons to the place where such incredible relationships and memories were formed,” he says. “When things get really tough in the world and tension starts to increase for some utterly awful reason, I shut my eyes for a very brief moment and imagine that if I wish and wish really hard, I’ll be back on the Habonim camp bus heading to Onrus.”