Feb 12, 2020
“We have been working hard for 18 months to put ourselves in a position to win the Rugby World Cup and that opportunity is now just 80 minutes away. These players have worked with unbelievable energy to get Springbok rugby back into this position and I know they will leave nothing out on the field on Sunday. We can feel the excitement coming from back home and how much success will mean to our country. We know we’re playing for South Africa; that this is bigger than an 80-minute game of rugby.”
Rassie Erasmus, former Springbok Coach, ahead of the Rugby World Cup semi-final
Ever gracious before and after the Rugby World Cup victory, Rassie Erasmus’s comments in the media tended to underplay the incredibly strategic approach he took to secure the Rugby World Cup victory for the Springboks in Japan. As a leadership team, we had the good fortune of listening to Rassie at our annual offsite in December last year. What astonished me was the level of detail that went into the planning of every single aspect of the game. Every variable was considered and planned for. Whether it was the team itself and the intensity required from each player at any particular point in the game, the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition, the influence of and appropriate engagement with the referee or the impact of the Japanese supporters, he left very little to chance – barring the luck of the bounce!
He also emphasised the importance of teamwork; he chose players who fitted into the team plan rather than picking superstars. There were many lessons to take out of his talk and apply to the way in which we run our business. Instead of just basking in the glory of our rugby win, it served to inspire us to think about how we could do things differently to make sure that we continue delivering investment excellence to our clients.
While Rassie’s talk rounded off 2019 for me, I spent some of my break listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to strangers. (That’s right, I am a huge advocate of audio books. And this one was particularly well produced.) The book provides interesting insights into human behaviour and how it influences business.
While Gladwell challenges much of the accepted wisdom, the key takeaway is that as human beings, we default to truth. What that means is that you believe someone not because you have no doubts about them. Belief is not the absence of doubt. You believe someone because you don’t have enough doubts about them. In other words, we trust before we distrust. And that is the premise on which businesses are built. And despite it leaving us open to deception and fraud, it enables us to form friendships and relationships, conduct transactions, and ultimately build enduring businesses.
Trust is especially relevant for us as we embark on the next chapter in our history. Our listing as Ninety One is on track to take place on 16 March, pending shareholder approval. As we have been at pains to reiterate, while we may be changing our name, we are not changing who we are. The people remain exactly the same, as do our investment philosophies and care for our clients.
To help facilitate the transition to Ninety One, you may have noted that we are using a logo that includes our new name. From the point of listing, we will change in full to our new brand, but for at least the rest of year, all our communication will include a reference to our former name too. We are also planning several client and industry events, along with an advertising campaign, to help cement our new brand in the market.
The beginning of a new decade provides an interesting vantage point from which to review markets –looking at the preceding ten years and the decade to come. Over 12 months, the FTSE/JSE All Share Index returned 12%, which helped to boost the return over the decade to 10.8% per annum (a very respectable real return of 5.4%). Looking back at the last 120 years of SA equity returns, the last decade was lower than the long-term averages, albeit not significantly so. Global equities had a phenomenal decade, but these returns came on the back of a very poor previous decade. It will therefore be interesting to see what the future holds for SA equities. The historical data suggests a spike generally follows prolonged periods of lower returns (as was the case with global equities most recently).
While the history lesson may not change your investment decisions, it is useful to understand how asset classes tend to behave, and thus avoid knee-jerk reactions.
There is no shortage of market-moving events this year – globally, we face the US elections, ongoing trade talks between the US and China, elections in Hong Kong and tensions in the Middle East. Here at home we are bracing ourselves for the Moody’s rating decision and hoping for decisive action on the state-owned enterprises and high-level prosecutions of the corrupt.
As Duane Cable, Head of SA Quality, reiterates in his article in this edition of Taking Stock, the outlook for the year ahead – both globally and locally – is uncertain. And while a long-term approach is the cornerstone of their investment philosophy, not all investors have the luxury of time. He sets out how diversification, active asset allocation and disciplined portfolio construction are important tools in managing downside risk during uncertain times.
Despite satisfactory returns from most asset classes last year, many investors are still sitting on the sidelines. Industry flows peaked in 2013 at R120bn; last year collective investment schemes only attracted a third of that, with an extreme skew to fixed income funds. As the last year showed us, there are opportunities to be exploited.
We look forward to spending time with you in the coming months as we become Ninety One.
Thank you for your continued support.