Our Founder: Ian Kilbride

Born into a working-class family in the 1960’sWarrington, England, Ian Kilbride attended Appleton Grammar School and in 1981 was awarded a place at Warwick University to read law, graduating in 1984 with an honours degree. Kilbride then entered private client financial services, followed by a move into stock-broking and merchant banking and finally 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. This was 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) Ian saw how threatened wildlife had become, mainly due to natural and organic urban expansion and the destructive impact of international organised poaching. The seeds were thus sown and in 1994 this led 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 natural grit and determination, Kilbride immediately established himself in South Africa. He formed new and exciting companies, entities that have hired, 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.

In 2024, Kilbride was honoured with the appointment as honorary professor at Stellnebosch Business School.

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 and acts as a non-executive director for other companies and organisations.

Success within financial, fiduciary, property and technology businesses, has, allowed Kilbride to develop his philanthropic goals and 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 most passionate about, ‘Education, Community and Wildlife’.