May 17, 2021
26 March 2021 marked the one-year anniversary of the start of South Africa’s lockdown. The economic and personal impact of the pandemic has been immense. From a client-servicing perspective, we realised right from the start of the market collapse and the onset of the lockdown that we had to continue to service and communicate with our clients in this new “work from home” reality.
Fortunately, we are set up to work remotely and we were therefore able to introduce regular (initially bi-weekly) webinars almost immediately to ensure that our advisor clients had access to relevant, up-to-date information and how it might impact their clients’ investments. Our intention was (and remains) to provide advisors with updates on market and economic developments to assist them in addressing their clients’ pressing investment questions.
We hosted our first webinar two weeks into lockdown on 14 April 2020. Peter Kent, Portfolio Manager of the Ninety One Diversified Income Fund, addressed almost 700 attendees on “What SA fixed income investors can expect”.
Somewhat presciently, two thirds of his way into the webinar, while addressing the low inflation, low growth environment, and making the point that this would provide the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) with plenty of room to cut interest rates, Peter noticed on his screen that the SARB had just cut the repo rate by 100 basis points. Peter was therefore able to announce the SARB’s decision “live on air”, thereby fulfilling a long-cherished dream of being an on-air news announcer!
Not unexpectedly, we faced a few teething problems, not least of which was the need to change our Zoom licence to accommodate the growing number of advisors registering to attend. Our initial licence only allowed for 1 000 attendees and by our second webinar we were faced with over 1 600 registrations! A year down the line, we have hosted 122 webinars, attended by more than 82 000 clients.
While our initial webinars focused on investment and Ninety One fund views, we quickly learnt that in addition to these regular fund updates, advisors were also seeking information that would help support them and their practices during these unprecedented times. Recognising that COVID-19 has impacted all aspects of our lives, Duncan Coombe, Global Head of Human Capital at Ninety One, addressed “How to be a ‘Secure Base’ during the time of the coronavirus”.
In this fascinating webinar, Duncan answered several important questions, including how to emerge from the pandemic more resilient and with stronger work and personal relationships. The key takeaway: people want compassion, understanding and empathy… and they also want the truth. As such, it is important that you focus on being a secure base in all aspects of your life. The information that Duncan shared remains extremely relevant.
In a follow-up webinar, Duncan went on to discuss how skilful and purposefully directed attention is perhaps the most important – and yet least developed – resource available to business professionals. In this talk, Duncan provided concrete and practical tips for financial advisors to deal with difficult situations and manage conflicts. He also discussed how to build a business.
In a similar vein, Jaco van Tonder, Advisor Services Director at Ninety One, addressed the living annuity challenge facing advisors and their retiring clients. Key conclusions from our comprehensive living annuity research to ensure a sustainable income for life are:
We were also very fortunate to host a webinar featuring our Founder and CEO Hendrik du Toit and former CEO of the Investec Group, Stephen Koseff. Recognising that a focus on survival over the next year or two would be critical for businesses, we asked Hendrik and Stephen to reflect on interventions needed to help business through the COVID-19 crisis and get the South African economy growing again.
As an additional value-add, we looked to introduce relevant external speakers to our growing audience. In our first webinar with an external guest, we were pleased to host Kuben Naidoo, Deputy Governor of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB). Kuben discussed the tools available to the SARB and other central banks that can be deployed to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, South Africa’s economic growth and inflation outlook over the next 18 months and implications for monetary policy, the state of our financial services industry and the guarantee facility that was made available for SMEs.
Lucie Villa, lead analyst for sub-Saharan African sovereigns and senior member of Moody’s Africa Sovereign Ratings team. Lucie discussed her views on the South African economy, the outlook for SA’s sovereign credit rating and the structural reforms needed to stimulate the SA economy.
In an exclusive interview with Patrick Cairns, the editor of Citywire South Africa, Hendrik du Toit reflects on the future of active asset management, the sustainability imperative and the role of capital markets in meeting the social challenges of the future.