When Sygnia CEO Magda Wierzycka was asked whether she ever wasted money in her life her answer was simple – “Bitcoin! Bitcoin! Bitcoin! Bitcoin!”.
Wierzycka is the richest woman in South Africa, but she did not always have it easy in life. In fact, she had a tough childhood.
She grew up in Poland, but with the gradual economic collapse of the Polish economy, her family moved to Austria where they lived in a refugee camp.
Her family moved to South Africa in 1983, when she was 13, and she made the most of the opportunities the country offered.
She learned English and Afrikaans quickly while attending the Pretoria High School for Girls and obtained business qualifications from the University of Cape Town.
Wierzycka rapidly climbed the corporate ladder and became the CEO of the African Harvest Group in 2003.
She established Sygnia Asset Management, a financial technology company, in 2006 and became CEO of the company she helped to start.
Since 2006, she has grown the company’s assets from R2 billion to R200 billion in 13 years, making it one of the largest financial institutions in South Africa.
In October 2015, Sygnia was listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), which immediately made Wierzycka one of the richest people in the country through her shareholding.
She is, however, quick to point out that she lives in debt. “The difference between paper wealth and cashflow wealth is quite material,” said Wierzycka.
Magda Wierzycka’s worst investment
In a recent interview with Bruce Whitfield on The Money Show, Wierzycka was asked if she ever wasted money.
Her answer was simple – “Bitcoin! Bitcoin! Bitcoin! Bitcoin!”.
She said “investing” money in Bitcoin was the biggest skeleton in her investment closet, and that her husband has not forgiven her for this decision to date.
“I bought my first Bitcoin at $4,000 and my last Bitcoin at $18,000, and watched it plummet literally the week after,” Wierzycka said.
“I was completely caught up in Tulip Mania. I completely bought into the story that this is the digital gold – the digital store of value.”
She said she now does not care whether Bitcoin holds promise for the future and may still live up to its promise.
“I don’t care. I’ve lost so much money. I trust nothing any longer,” she said.