Ancora – changing South Africa one youth at a time

Ancora – changing South Africa one youth at a time

Mall of the North West is located along the N14 between the Vryburg CBD and Kuruman. Established nationals and a strong anchor will cement this development as a one-stop destination, servicing all income groups. The centre opens in 2020.

Known as the professionals in unlocking retail potential, Ancora Group has a profound 360 degree retail and leasing capability – and an unusual mission

The story continues…

In our previous discussion with the CEO of Ancora Group, Marianka Victor, in June 2017 Shopping & Retail SA shared the erudite vision of this retail specialist group and its mentor-driven internship programme.

Today we delve even deeper, learning more about the team, its passion to share knowledge and grow people – and we follow the development of the current interns and reflect on the success of the recently ‘graduated’ interns – coupling this to the continued exponential growth of the Group.

The Ancora team
Front Row: Linda Mzana – Office Administrator; Marianka Victor – CEO; Bianca Peens – Retail Leasing Specialist; Bevan Greybe – Retail Leasing Specialist; Samu Khumalo – Marketing Specialist
Second row: Werner Victor – Financial and Operations Director; Aaliyah McKay – Lease Admin Manager; Lesego Kwatlhai – Marketing Intern; Meryl Bessesar – Leasing Executive; Kim van Gils – Legal Advisor
Back Row: Matimba Baloyi – Leasing Intern; Keith van Dyk – Professional Accountant


The Ancora Group, founded by Marianka Victor in 2016, offers its clients in the retail sector a full spectrum service. With the primary focus being on leasing, this 360 degree scope encompasses research and feasibility right through to centre design and collaboration with architects, partnerships with developers, tenant mix selection and placement of national tenants and brands.

The Group is active across the country, from Limpopo to the Western Cape, Gauteng to KwaZulu-Natal.

Their team also offers detailed professional advice to potential franchisees and retailers, analysing viability, best location and related market factors.

The staff of the Ancora Group comprises 12 people, all of whom are under the age of 40.


Ancora’s key offering is a one month basic viability study of the development, in which Ancora examines preparation requirements and undertakes market research for a proposed retail development in order to arrive at an implementation strategy. At this point a Go/No-Go decision can be taken. “We can then very quickly tell the property owner or landlord – as well as potential tenants – of the viability or otherwise of the project,” says Marianka.

Test the market before you spend money”

It’s crucial to have a vision for the area,” she continues. “And I travel a lot to see potential retail properties at first-hand, as land only means something to a developer if it is paired with a scheme.”

Research undertaken on each project by Ancora is essential to enable informed decision-making. For example, timing for the project may be favourable for immediate commencement – or research may show that it may be preferred to put the development on hold for up to four or more years before implementation of the scheme.

Ancora will also recommend and collaborate closely with the architects, quantity surveyors and project managers appointed to the development through to project completion.

Ancora also runs a detailed feasibility study on the property in order to understand the yield required to develop a property in the current market. The team will look at various alternative income solutions which increases the bottom line for developers, such as media, fibre and solar. Having fostered strong relationships with national retailers, Ancora understands the rentals per tenant, per demographical area. The client will then have at its disposal all the knowledge required to make a realistic decision on whether the development will be feasible or not as well as actually having tested the market with prospective tenants.

Many little things make projects successful – right down to defining the shopping centre entrances and positioning of stores and restaurants. We bring in national and local tenants and focus on creating strong business opportunities,” explains Marianka.

On the operational side, Finlay Mall Leasing, a division of Ancora Group, manages all aspects of leasing, advising property owners and landlords which tenants are most suited to the region and the centre and how much space should be allocated to each.

As part of its integrated leasing services, Ancora provides expert and professional assistance to clients in facilitating the conclusion of lease agreements on behalf of its clients, including the negotiation of lease agreements with national tenants and the formulation of hybrid lease agreements. In addition, the company also manages acquisitions, including the sale of shopping centres and collaborates closely with a host of well-known national brands.

In addition, Ancora’s Retail Partners division has the depth and capability to negotiate favourable deals for tenants. One of Ancora’s many inherent strengths is building close relationships with its tenants, taking them under its wing by providing ongoing and personal advice and guidance.

Importantly, this division works closely with the developer and tenant in creating a win-win scenario in the lease agreement. To achieve this the developer meets the tenants’ returns, thus encouraging long term occupancy and minimising losses resulting from tenant turnover. The result is deals which are mutually beneficial to both parties, a stable tenant base – and a successful centre.

Nurturing new talent into the retail industry

It is against this strength and background that Marianka operates her youth mentorship programme, in which Ancora selects graduates with a passion for retail and prepares them for a career in retail and leasing management.

First and foremost is my passion to identify young, ambitious talent and nurture them into the real world of retail operations through our internship programme,” says Marianka. “This is achieved through experience in our business which offers the ideal platform, complete with our directors’ and managers’ hands-on mentorship.”

Marianka Victor, CEO of the Ancora Group, is passionate about training up our youth! It’s in her DNA.

Marianka firmly believes that when young professionals learn to be successful and realise their potential at an early age they will continue to be successful in life. She is passionate about training up our youth! It’s in her DNA.

Each year, Ancora’s core staff of five mentor and groom up to seven interns, each on a one-year internship, equipping them to go out into the retail environment with confidence to build their new careers.

This creates very exciting opportunities, not only for the interns, but for new and existing businesses in the retail sector.

Once the interns have completed their intensive 12-month hands-on internship, they have the exposure, capability and expertise that way surpasses that of many other job-seekers.

Our selection process all hinges on attitude, enthusiasm and ambition” explains Marianka. “We look for people who are hungry for success and have a keen drive with the goal of being ’the boss of the business’”.

Many young professionals in the field are over-priced and sometimes do not meet their employer’s expectations in terms of capability. And as there is a limited number of young people entering the market, we choose to groom them from scratch.”

One of our current interns has reached the stage where she is actually running three developments entirely on her own.”

The 50 000 m2 Umlazi Station Mall is positioned in the third largest township in South Africa. Extensive research has shown a high demand for the specific retail needs this Mall provides

The mentorship programme

Our aim throughout this internship programme is to ensure that each intern will be a success for the rest of his or her life. The business and life skills we instil in them are such that this will indeed be the case,” continues Marianka.

There are always at least three interns actively in progress at Ancora at any given time, receiving close guidance from the core team in the leasing, marketing and administration disciplines. The company is presently canvassing for a fourth intern in its leasing division.

Since the inception of this unique mentorship programme, no fewer than four series of interns have already “graduated” through the company.

As a working mother herself, Marianka has earned the respect of the captains of the retail sector, as well as of the staff surrounding her in this exemplary business. “We lead by example,” she says, “and we convey to all our interns that by following your dream you will also be a better parent, especially the moms. It may be hard to do with kids but it is certainly possible and most rewarding.”

Our main objective is to provide our interns with the correct advice and skills to achieve success, and to this end we offer a platform to help our graduates into responsible positions within the industry.

Lesego Kwatlhai – Marketing Intern

Lesego Kwatlhai

As an ambitious and goal-driven young lady who is passionate about marketing design, Lesego is a firm believer in the power of a strong concept with an unexpected execution – challenging herself to explore any given task. Lesego has graduated with a Diploma in Computer-Based Graphic Development in 2016 from Rosebank College, and is a wonderful and fresh new addition to the team.

Matimba Baloyi – Leasing Intern

Matimba Baloyi

As a young professional who works independently, Matimba holds a BSc. Urban and Regional Planning degree from Wits University. He is passionate about new developments, having co-ordinated various projects as a Junior Town Planner and freelancing on property-related projects along the way. Matimba’s interests include career networking, and he loves indulging in his favourite sport and music in his spare time. His personal drive to see a project through to completion is what motivates him to look at creative solutions.

Ancora – a leading SA award winning Group

In 2017 Finlay was nominated for the Standard Bank Top Woman Award and has been nominated again for the same award for 2018.

In 2016 Marianka Victor was announced as the Regional Winner – Gauteng of the SA Women in Property Awards:

  • Young achiever Award: This award highlights the outstanding achievement of a young female professional who has contributed to the organisation’s positive success and performance through innovative strategies and solutions. This is a woman to watch – who has shown great potential to lead, has a proven track record, excellent business acumen, strategic foresight, and will be recognised for her contribution to the economy and growing employment in their enterprise.

Ancora Group comprises the following three companies:

Finlay Mall Leasing: managing all aspects of leasing of developments

Ancora Retail Partners: representing the tenants

Ancora Alternative Income: focuses on generating additional and/or alternative income for property owners

Ancora Group offers developers and retailers comprehensive 360 degree retail solutions – from leasing off-plan developments and existing shopping centres to tenant representation, legal assistance, alternative income solutions and acquisitions. The Ancora team has gained vast experience in the local market, grounded by in-depth knowledge and insight into the retail development industry and the communities they work in. Whether you’re a local or global organisation, landlord, developer or tenant, you can be sure of expert solutions to all your retail property needs.

Following her appointment as Managing Director of Finlay Mall Leasing in 2016, Marianka Victor proceeded to acquire the company and subsequently established the Ancora Group.

Volta Mall in Lenasia has a GLA of 10 000 m2 and opens in October 2019

SA Retail sector under siege

31 May 2018

SA Retail sector under siege

Anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee and Anneliese Burgess, author of the recently published book HEIST!
Photo: John Thomé

Consensus is that should cash crime be allowed to continue unchallenged and unabated at present levels there is no doubt that very soon it will begin have a greater and more profound direct negative impact on all aspects of the retail sector – fundamentally changing our daily lives and freedom of movement.

Presently shopping centres and cash points are high profile targets, where heavily armed brazen criminals, often in gangs of up to 15 to 20 strong, raid crowded shopping centres heedless of life or damage to property.

  • Retailers & businesses have a 1 in 4 chance of armed robbery.
  • 72% of retailers have manual cash handling processes
  • Only 28% of retailers have some form of modern automated cash management system
  • Cash in Transit robberies have increased by 43%

There’s been six arrests in one week in what appears to be renewed resolve from the police, who have even apparently compiled an ‘interest list’ of more than 122 suspects. Is the net at last closing in on cash robberies?

Not good enough – said a panel of experts at a press briefing in May. “What’s needed are arrests and successful prosecutions of syndicates, based on intelligence-sourced information and proper co-ordination between investigators, prosecutors and the courts,” said the panel.

Panel members at the recently held cash-in-transit seminar:
Richard Phillips – joint CEO of Cash Connect – Yusuf Abramjee, Anti-crime activist, Anneliese Burgess – author of the recently published book HEIST! and Dr Mahlogonolo Thobane – who did her masters dissertation on CIT robberies
Photo: Brendan Croft

One member of the panel correctly terms this level of cash crime a form of terrorism. “As communities and business we have to become directly involved. These people are known to someone, somewhere and need to be flushed out – their photographs published as wanted criminals. Many of these individuals are actually known to the police,” he continued.

There have been over 140 heists in the past 140 days and retailers have a one in 4 chance of being hit, said Richard Phillips, joint CEO of Cash Connect, which manages money on behalf of the retail sector. But we shouldn’t ignore other cash robberies – 207 non-residential burglaries every day and 57 armed robberies at retail outlets.

CIT’s should not be seen in isolation – the foot soldiers may change, but the gangsters and syndicates are the same.”

The spectacular nature of CIT heists attracts attention and dominates front page news.

Cash is critical to our economy and cash crime, of which CIT heists form a part, is the real issue here

84 per cent of all transactions are conducted in cash, with R136-billion in circulation at any given time, moving from the Reserve Bank and distributed to the consumer via banks and ATMS on CIT vehicle networks.

There are 59 500 cash collections per day and 2144 armoured vehicles on the road – moving targets and CIT heists aren’t new to the South African criminal landscape.

Dedicated police task teams

There were 467 CIT heists in 2006/7, which were brought under control, thanks to dedicated police task teams. In 2016, the figure stood at 278 and jumped significantly to 378 in 2017.

According to Dr Mahlogonolo Thobane, who did her masters dissertation on CIT robberies, this breed of criminal is at the top of the food chain. They are regarded as heroes and providers in their communities and maintain a certain lifestyle, even boasted on social media. They operate in splinter groups and are recruited for their specific expertise: as drivers, or shooters – known as ‘madubula’ – and ‘off-ramp’ operators who wait nearby and drive the getaway vehicle.

Dr Thobane interviewed 40 cash robbers in prison and said of these only five didn’t consult sangomas, from whom they obtained muthi to become ‘invisible’. Some muthi is hallucinogenic, giving robbers an exaggerated sense of reality. Prison, she said, was no deterrent to cash robbers, merely an interruption to their criminal careers. After being released, most took up where they had left off, which questions the rehabilitative role of prison. Some robberies, she said, are even planned inside prison.

Anneliese Burgess, author of the recently published book HEIST! said very little stolen cash was ever recovered. Of the R465 million taken in the ten heists she details in her book – all of which were prosecuted – only R63 million was recovered and the police stole R14 million of this. Robbers had little fear of being caught because invariably some aspect of the criminal justice system would fail.

The solution, panellists agreed, was not only for cash companies to increase security measures by further reinforcing vehicles, or by finding other innovative ways to guard cash. Although the technology is available, it’s simply too expensive for an industry that needs to balance what retailers can afford with the cost of cash collection and maintenance. Instead policing and crime intelligence needs to improve.

Crime specialist Dr Johan Burger from the Institute for Security Studies said crack police squads, like the Cato Manor Unit in KZN, which had helped bring down armed robberies to an all-time low in the province before it was disbanded in 2012, needed to be reintroduced.

Anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee said CIT robbers were currently able to run rings around over-stretched police, precisely because there are no dedicated teams to deal with sophisticated criminals. CIT heists are difficult to police because cash is transported over vast distances and there’s no way of knowing where they’ll strike at any given time. One minute there’ll be a heist on a busy Gauteng highway, the next on some rural byway in the Eastern Cape, or Mpumalanga.

Dr Thobane said research from incarcerated robbers indicated that there was no way to commit these cash robberies without inside information and police involvement.

They all have insiders and intelligence from within the industry…they have even used police cars as getaway vehicles because they knew no one would stop and search them.”

Dr Burger pointed out that there had been a sharp increase in all aggravated robbery crimes – ATM bombings; kidnappings and cash heists – but said Police Minister Bheki Cele was taking the right approach by speaking to the right people. With the appointment of a permanent Crime Intelligence head and a new head of the Hawks, things could begin changing.

But the impact will be slow – there’s plenty of ‘internal fixing’ that needs to happen within the police. We need dynamism. We need priority committees to deal with priority crimes.”

Re-establish the Justice Cluster

Minister of Police Bheki Cele, who is widely commended as the “right man for the job”, is meeting the police national management forum on June 4 to make “serious pronouncements” on how police will “turn around the crime situation in this country”. “South Africans soon will be safe,” said Minister Cele.
Image: TimesLive

Phillips agreed: “There are solutions out there, we just need a coordinated response. We are waiting with huge anticipation to find out what plans Minister Cele has to combat cash robberies. But my call is that the Minister should consider the broader issue of cash crime as it affects, Banks, ATMS, Retail and Cash in Transit.

Cash crime, is a crime against the economy and thus the state. In my opinion, the only way to take control is for all components of the Justice Cluster to work together in a coordinated approach. It worked well once in the ’90s and there’s no reason it shouldn’t work again,” he said.

Infographic – Cash & Crime