Ian Kilbride has been one of the leading figures in the business of private client asset management for well over 35 years. Over the past four decades he has established, and or developed, numerous asset and wealth management operations, as well as built up a number of successful philanthropic foundations. In 2022 Kilbride was awarded an Honorary Professorship by Stellenbosch Business School, where he now lectures on Philanthropy as well as business in society to the MBA, MPhil and visiting overseas students.
Kilbride the Chairman of Spirit Invest and its subsidiaries Orion Investment Managers (who own Cadiz, Starfunds.ai, Capita, Accorn, Palmyra, Fundstore and Pangbourne) and Orion Wealth Managers (who own Warwick Wealth and also Appleton).
In 1994 he established the Spirit Foundation (SF) in memory of his late sister Louise and as an acknowledgement of South Africa’s new democracy. SF has grown over the last 30 years to act as the ‘philanthropic umbrella’ of three focused non-profit companies, these being the Spirit Education Foundation (SEF), Spirit Wildlife Foundation (SWF) and Spirit Community Foundation (SCF).
Born in the 1960’s into a working-class family in Warrington, England, Kilbride attended Appleton Grammar School and in 1981 he was awarded a place at Warwick University to read law, graduating in 1984 with an honour’s degree. Kilbride then entered private client financial services followed by a move into stock-broking and merchant banking and then general asset and wealth management in 1990.
With the historic unbanning of South African political organisations in 1990 and imbued with a growing passion for wildlife protection, especially elephant, Kilbride made the decision to leave the UK and embark on a journey that would see him literally drive out of London, travel across Europe and down the entire length of Africa. A life changing and eye-opening experience that allowed him to see first-hand the rich social and political tapestry of the African continent and its many people. This direct exposure to the culture of numerous regions and countries led to the realisation that the African continent had huge potential and reinforced within him the importance of education and community development.
While crossing Africa (28 countries visited to date) he saw how threatened wildlife had become, due mainly to urban expansion and the destructive impact of international organised poaching. The seeds were thus sown and in 1994 this would lead to the establishment of the Spirit Foundation and its work in education, community and wildlife.
Over the last four decades, Kilbride has been the Chairman, CEO and or a director of listed companies on both the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), as well as many private companies. Arriving in the ‘Mother City’ (Cape Town) in 1990 and applying his experience and determination, Kilbride immediately established himself in South Africa. He formed new and exciting companies, entities that trained and produced great young talent. In the following years, he was to become the founder and director of companies in many jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom, Isle of Man, Guernsey, Mauritius and obviously South Africa. As a financial and technology entrepreneur and a natural builder of businesses in different industries, he has gathered a great deal of experience which, in turn, he applied within both the corporate and philanthropic sides of the Spirit Organisation.
With a strong belief in continual personal and professional development, Kilbride became a member of the South African Investment Analysts Society, a Fellow of the Institute of Directors, and a member of the Financial Planning Institute. He served on and chaired the Legal and Compliance Committee of the ‘Fund Managers Association of South Africa’ (FMASA), being one of the association’s founding members in 1994. FMASA has since developed into what is now the ‘Association for Savings and Investment in South Africa’ (ASISA). Kilbride is also a Commissioner of Oaths in South Africa and acts as a non-executive director for other companies and organisations.
Success within financial, fiduciary, property and technology businesses, has, further allowed Kilbride to develop his philanthropic commitment. Endorsing the African spirit of ‘Ubuntu’ (I am because we are), he continues to develop the Spirit Foundation and its three focused NPC’s into the areas that he and the Kilbride family are passionate about, education, community and wildlife.
Since 1994 the Spirit Education Foundation (SEF) has funded the high school education (Grade 8 – 12) as well as the ancillary needs of scholars and their families, with all scholar beneficiaries coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. With the experience and a track record developed over four decades, SEF has developed a unique mentorship model that has guided thousands of young scholars and helped them to develop into solid South African citizens. The Alumni of SEF are now involved in numerous aspects of South African life and in many varied professions. The range of skills acquired by SEF scholars is vast, from astrophysics, nursing, medicine, education, engineering, teaching, and numerous others. The SEF staff are qualified educationalists, teachers and or alumni, they are dedicated and in 2024, the 30th anniversary of SEF, they will mentor, guide and support 150 high school scholars.
Mindful of his own working-class roots in the north of England, he also established the Spirit Community Foundation (SCF). The aim is to support, in an active way, existing programmes that impact positively on working-class, disadvantaged, or disabled communities, in both South Africa and the UK. In South Africa SCF supports numerous NGOs and charities, including The Big Issue, Hear in Africa, League of the Friends of the Blind (LOFOB), Bonnie Friends, 418 and others. As a fifth-generation Everton supporter, he became an early supporter of EiTC (Everton in the Community) back in the 1990’s and more recently, the Everton Free School (EFS). The important work of both EiTC and EFS has received wide recognition for its remarkable achievements in its socially and economically depressed catchment area. SCF built a library for this community within EFS and is an active and committed supporter of the Everton Disability Teams and the Spirit-Everton Choir, which assists those with social and or mental health issues.
Kilbride’s passion for wildlife led logically to the establishment of the Spirit Wildlife Foundation (SWF) with the purpose of contributing to the survival and sustainability of the continent’s iconic species. To date, the SWF has achieved success in assisting with the survival of orphaned rhino and supported key programmes that support the protection of Africa’s dangerously threatened elephant and carnivore populations.
Kilbride’s has many hobbies, and these include several sports (although now principally as a spectator, rather than as a participant). He enjoys track days, classic car restoration, writing, painting, the study of local and international history, the collection of local art and enjoys studying all forms of politics. In January 2023, his numerous achievements were recognised by Stellenbosch Business School, when Kilbride was appointed as an Honorary Professor, a position that he hopes will allow him to give back, passing on his experience in business over 40 years to young business scholars.
A committed family man, he has five successful children, three sons and two daughters, each are unique and deeply loved for their diversity and varied interests. He is proud of their individual personalities and their determination to succeed and make a difference in their own unique and diverse ways. Although he travels extensively to various parts of Africa and Europe, Cape Town and the Western Cape will always remain his true love. This is where Kilbride was, in his own words, ‘lucky enough to find out who I truly am’. He continues to believe deeply and passionately, in the people and the future of South Africa.
Kilbride continues to be one of the many passionate South African optimists.