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5 May 2016
In many ways financial services are in uncharted territory. Over the past few years central banks have taken unprecedented steps in stimulating the world’s largest economies. Technological innovation is happening so fast that it’s hard to keep up. And locally, our unemployment rate is eking higher and political power is shifting. All of these events impact investors’ portfolios.
Considering these global and local shifts, the question that speakers sought to answer at the 2016 i3 Summit, hosted by Sanlam Investments and Glacier by Sanlam, was ‘Are we on the cusp of a new investment age?’ The agenda featured thought leaders from across the world, including global economic analyst Stephen Archer, political analyst Eusebius McKaiser, tech innovator Jonty Hurwitz, Dr Amlan Roy, a leading demographics and retirement expert, and Roland Rasseau, Head of Barclays Risk Strategy Group. The event was held at the Sandton Convention Centre on 4 May and attended by 400 delegates.
Carl Roothman, CE of Retail at Sanlam Investments says: ‘With the i3 Summit we offer our clients independent views on the direction of the world economy, long-term investment opportunities and issues that are relevant to financial advisers, such as the rise of robo-advisers and the stability of governing institutions, for example the National Treasury. It also provides us with an opportunity to share international insights into portfolio construction and the management of our clients’ risk, which is very much part of our DNA at Sanlam Investments.’
One thing that all speakers agreed on was the futility of grouping countries in acronyms such as BRICS or MINT. Economist Stephen Archer stressed the importance of evaluating each country on its own merits and has come to the conclusion that South Africa, although not without its problems, is the BRICS country with the most promising fundamentals. Brazil is a wait-and-see candidate and the other constituents are either beleaguered by debt or plagued by corruption. Mr Archer also sees opportunities in countries such as Ireland and eastern European countries currently not included in the Euro zone.
His advice to advisers is to ‘invest ethically and listen to the pessimists, but not too often.’
Eusebius McKaiser eloquently argued why South Africa should still be attractive to investors. The Constitutional Court has showcased its supremacy and with the rise of strong opposition parties we have entered ‘competitive politics – the life blood of a democracy’. In addition, the country also has strong civil societies, such as TAC and Equal Education. But deterrents for investors are uncertainty around the longevity and pricing of infrastructure and Mr McKaiser asks, ‘will Eskom be able to meet the electricity needs of investors and provide them with the price certainty to make accurate profitability forecasts?’
Co-founder of wonga.com, Jonty Hurwitz, spoke about the rise of robo-advisers and gave some tips for financial advisers on how to remain relevant in the digital age. He reminded advisers that there will always be a need for a personal ‘family doctor’ approach to financial advice and that perhaps the greatest contribution that an adviser makes during his lifetime relationship with a client is to keep the client on track.
Dr Amlan Roy raised several thought-provoking ideas around the need for later retirement and lifetime learning to remain relevant in the work force, and the need to employ more women and pay them fairly, as they often carry the burden of the sandwich generation. He also raised his concerns about the low levels of education and access to books in South Africa. Says Dr Roy, ‘Education, health and youth unemployment challenges need to be addressed for higher and more equitable growth and demographic dividend capture.’
Head of Barclays Risk Strategy Group, Roland Rousseau, put forward a strong case for the management of a client’s drawdowns instead of chasing past returns when constructing a portfolio. He also refuted the belief that higher risk leads to higher returns – ‘It’s the managers that minimise downside risk that outperform over the long run.’
To give more insight into the companies in which Sanlam Investment Management invests, Patrice Rassou, Head of Equities, concluded the day, leading a panel discussion with Danie P. Meintjes, Clive Thomson and Neal Froneman, the CEOs of Mediclinic International, Barloworld and Sibanye Gold respectively.