Monthly Archives: January 2017

Tips to become employable

Luthuli Capital was founded and structured as a Pan-African multi specialist company that offers a global approach to wealth management portfolios. The company offers investment advisory services to local and foreign individuals and multinationals, among others. I’m joined in the studio by one of the co-founders, Mduduzi Luthuli. Thank you so much for your time.

MDUDUZI LUTHULI:  Thank you for the invitation. Glad to be here.

NASTASSIA ARENDSE:  Let’s take it back to the beginning and start off with how Luthuli Capital came together.

MDUDUZI LUTHULI:  I think if you are going to start a company it’s always something that’s there. It’s just a matter of acquiring the skills for you to be confident to run the company and wait for the circumstances to be there.

I’ve been in the corporate sector now – from banking into the financial advisory industry – for about seven years. My previous employer gave me a great opportunity in management and it’s really there where I got to cut my teeth and get to the point where I realised I think it’s time for me to go out there and do this on my own.

We’ve got two offices here in Sandton and one in Durban. It really was the Durban office that was also the big motivator because we’ve got a project going on down there which involves the internship, and that also just got to that point where, if ever you are going to do this, this is the time.

NASTASSIA ARENDSE:  And I know that you work with Trudy as well. How did the two of you decide that it’s our synergies and both our characteristics and everything we’ve learned from our own sort of corporate size that can work together – and let’s do this?

MDUDUZI LUTHULI:  We both come from the same industry. So from a product knowledge side, services, the competency was there. I think really where the synergy comes from is they say I’m the driving force, I’m the bully, I’m the hard-core one. My real talent is bringing the clients into the business, going out there and selling the dream and convincing them that this is something you should back.

And Trudy, as head of client services, is the mother of the business, if I can put it that way. And really her strength is in client retention. You play a fine balance between finding new clients and also looking after your existing clients. And that’s really where we work with each other’s strengths and work very well together, because she heads up the client retention. I bring them and she looks after them.

NASTASSIA ARENDSE:  How competitive is the industry that you are in right now?

MDUDUZI LUTHULI:  It’s extremely competitive. I don’t think I have the words to truly describe how competitive an industry it is. One of the fantastic things and one of the shining lights about South Africa is that we have a very good financial system. Or let me say that the governance and the legislation here is very good and that really translates into the financial advisory system with the initiatives that the FSB puts out there – the financial planning institution, to make sure that as financial advisors or wealth managers we move away from a culture of just selling for the sake of selling, and seeing ourselves and conducting ourselves as professionals and as a professional field.

Meet the challenges of financial inclusion

Relative to its peers in the SADC region, South Africa has a high percentage of people with formal bank accounts. While 94% of the adult population in the Seychelles has a bank account, and 85% do so in Mauritius, South Africa’s banked adult population stands at 77%.

This contrasts starkly with the likes of Madagascar or the Democratic Republic of Congo, where only 12% of adults have bank accounts. In Angola, the ratio is 20%.

These are figures produced by the Finmark Trust, an organisation set up more than a decade ago to promote financial inclusion. And at face value, they may appear to suggest that South Africa is measuring up reasonably well.

However, the Trusts’s Dr Prega Ramsamy says that there is a lot more to financial inclusion than whether or not someone has a bank account.

“It’s a multi-dimensional problem,” he told the Actuarial Society 2016 Convention in Cape Town. “There is an element of access, but there is also an element of affordability, an element of proximity, and most importantly an element of quality. We might have huge access in terms of people having bank accounts, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are financially included because the quality of such access might not be there.”

He pointed out that often products are inappropriate or inaccessible.

“At the moment there are about 20.9 million people in South Africa with access to insurance,” he pointed out, “and of those, 18.9 million have funeral cover. So funeral insurance completely dominates the sector.”

He acknowledged that there is a cultural aspect to why this is such a popular product, but he questioned why so many people are able to afford funeral policies but don’t have any other long term risk cover or savings.

Ramsamy pointed out that ten years ago, about one million South Africans had multiple cover, in that they held more than one funeral policy. That number has grown to five million. Yet the penetration of other risk products has remained very low.

“We sit in an office and think we can provide insurance, but we don’t really know if this kind of insurance fits the needs of the people we are selling it to,” he argued. “Agents are also just interested in selling numbers for commissions, but don’t ask if what they’re selling is the type of insurance or product that their customers need.”

Speaking at the same event, Ruth Benjamin Swales of the Asisa Foundation acknowledged that there is a real challenge for financial services companies to design more relevant offerings.

“For instance we have many people in South Africa who work intermittently,” Swales said. “But most savings and investment or insurance products require monthly contributions. Just that minimum requirement excludes many people from being able to access relevant products that could improve their financial well-being.”

Property and bonds finance

Old Mutual Investment Group sees domestic equities, property and bonds delivering higher returns in 2017, on the back of improving economic prospects.

It expects peaking interest rates and inflation in South Africa to create a positive environment for interest rate sensitive assets such as domestic property and bonds.  It sees inflation averaging at 5.4% in 2017 compared with 6.3% in 2016 and the benchmark repurchase rates falling to 6.5% by the end of 2017, down from 7% currently.

According to Peter Brooke, head of Old Mutual Investment Group’s MacroSolutions Boutique the 13.5% return on domestic bonds year-to-date as at November 24 2016 is artificially high due to an oversold bond market.

Instead, he said SA cash – with a 6.8% return in rand terms – is the best performing local asset class thus far. SA listed property delivered returns of 4% and the FTSE-JSE Share Weighted Index (SWIX) returned 2.5% over the same period.

After starting the year with the highest level of cash in its fund ever, the group is seeing more opportunities in equities as the domestic equity market de-rates.

“We’re not at the stage where the JSE is cheap yet. It is on a 13x forward but it does offer a real return in the region of 5%. We’re not back to levels that we have enjoyed for the last 100 years of around 6.5% but value is starting to incrementally rebuild,” he said.