Velda Derrocks began her career in 2000, joining a management training programme at Absa after completing her BEcon, Commerce at Stellenbosch University. The graduate programme included exposure across the bank, from business banking to credit and finance. At the end of the programme, she joined Absa Commercial Property Finance full time.
“It was seen as a high-profile, niche space that was very male dominated at the time, so I saw that as a challenge,” Velda says. “I always strive for excellence and, even though most of the people I dealt with in those early days were male and it could be a little difficult at times, I built up a good reputation in the Eastern Cape quite quickly.”
Velda stayed with Absa until 2011, Standard Bank Real Estate Finance approached her to manage their commercial property finance division in the Eastern Cape. In 2015, she was asked to relocate to Cape Town – a move she wasn’t ready to make at the time – and so joined TUHF for the first time. “It honestly wasn’t the best fit for me then,” Velda admits. “I was pleased to join Investec as an external property consultant at the time.”
Velda describes her experience at Investec as a great learning opportunity that contributed greatly to her professional development and, when she was approached to re-join TUHF as the Regional Manager for the Cape Coastal region in 2017, she was ready to take on the challenge. “I had built and kept a very good relationship with the senior management team at TUHF, so when I was asked to come back in a more strategic role – I was keen to do it,” she says.
Velda is a true believer in TUHF’s philosophy of creating impact through scale. “TUHF really makes a difference where it matters most,” she says. “What makes us different is that we see the potential in entrepreneurs, from start-ups to established entrepreneurs, and not just in the project itself.” TUHF works with many entrepreneurs that are new to the property industry and offers programmes that assist them to start building a portfolio.
“Often these entrepreneurs are just starting out, or their portfolios are not yet strong enough to qualify for traditional finance,” Velda says. “We look at the person – their strengths and their knowledge of the area they want to invest in – and provide support in terms of finance as well as industry expertise and advice to help them succeed.”
She continues: “TUHF is not just a financier. We focus on inclusive growth and transformation. We develop and grow relationships with all the key stakeholders in the areas where we operate and we really work to understand the local economies in which we invest.”
TUHF’s focus is on affordable rental housing, including mixed-use developments and developments for sale. “It’s about bringing good quality rental accommodation into the market and having a positive impact on inner-city and in-city communities,” Velda says. “We invest where it makes sense, where it makes a difference, and where it provides tenants easier access to supporting economic activity, such as places of work, services and amenities.”
“It’s a very dynamic market,” she adds. “At the end of the day, everybody needs a home. TUHF operates where people don’t qualify for social housing or subsidised rental housing, but also can’t yet afford to buy or rent in affluent areas. We partner with developers that understand this need.”
Another thing that sets TUHF apart is the type of investor that gets involved. “The investors are driven by the impact they make, not just by the financial returns,” Velda says, “and so when they make small additional investments – like adding Wi-Fi, rooftop gardens or libraries to their buildings – they are opening up access to information, study materials, and safe relaxation spaces that their tenants wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
Velda believes the inner-city and in-city opportunities are directly impacted by the investment environment created by Government and the extent to which investors feel that their investments are protected. Investors rely on Government for public health and safety, law enforcement and governance, and to promote an investment climate that makes it easy to do business, amongst other things.
Highlights in Velda’s career include two Masters degrees – an MBA and an MPhil in Development Finance, both from Nelson Mandela University. She also recently completed an International Housing Finance Programme at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Throughout her career, Velda has been involved with projects ranging from a few million Rands in investment up to R500 million. She believes that every project is unique and presents an opportunity to develop the economy and grow the property market.
In her time with TUHF, she says she is particularly proud of a mixed-used refurbishment project that was recently completed in Belgravia, East London. The original building was a dilapidated, four story building consisting of 15 residential units and three retail spaces. It was reconfigured and refurbished to comprise 46 apartments and seven retail stores, with parking for tenants.
“It’s the perfect example of what TUHF is all about – the residential units are beautifully finished and the small businesses on the ground floor are well suited to serve the tenants.”
Velda’s personal philosophy is to be someone that brings about change. “I’m motivated by the fact that I am bringing about change – in the way people think about investing in cities, in the way entrepreneurs can access finance to fund their ambitions, in the way people in the inner cities live and, in the economies, surrounding the buildings we develop.”