Jul 15

The Catholic Boys

I was sitting and drinking in a luxury hotel in Rosebank recently, with an old mate whose history in the JSE is as deep as the big hole of Kimberley. He suddenly looked up and spotting a familiar figure to us both, a well known failed stockbroker, he whispered “That guy is his own worst enemy”, “Oh really?” I could not resist, Not as long as I’m alive!

OK, it’s an old line, but we laughed like boys for a good ten minutes and that has to be the best medicine of all.
But, as Bob said, “the times they are changing” and the likes of rogue stockbrokers, who can churn a granny’s nest egg into dust within a year, or an asset manager who punts every latest and greatest listing are over, well at least we hope so.

So what about the main event?  What about the men and women who work at the less glamorous end of the financial services sector? What about you and me?  The people entrusted to deliver quality financial advice to good old Granny Grundy and Colonel Potts, or far more appropriately Mr Smith, Mrs Bezuidenhout, Mrs Asmal, Mr Zuma, Ms Pieterse and Mrs Govender?

The rules have changed for the better and now far more sophisticated.  The Ombudsman now offers the public yet another line of defence should they feel as though they have been inappropriately sold product. Yet that is not my concern at all, my concern right now is whether our rainbow nation is ever going to receive real quality financial advice. No I don’t mean high street, form free (how do they do that with FAIS?) banking or death cover products, I mean proper financial advice on how to build wealth, defend what they have worked so hard to create and therefore achieve what all families really want, a better life for the next generation.

There is no doubt that those who were so well cared for pre 1994, will always have advisors who speak their language and know their intrinsic culture, but what about the other 80% of South Africans?
In this hard working and aspirational community the career of a fee charging IFA has the longevity of a snow flake on the Serengeti Plain, Kilimanjaro aside, no pun intended!
We need to look at programmes to bring more and more quality guys into the broking community and I mean outside of the large institutions. We need to look at encouraging independent firms working in all areas of the community and we need to do this now, otherwise we will be an ever shrinking profession!

Finally, we live in very interesting times and that is not said as a curse but as an observation of the fascinating moment we find ourselves living in. Oil moves ever upward, prices are nearly 10 fold higher than the oil industries nightmare years back in the late nineties. It’s amazing that we can all think that oil pushing towards $150 a barrel will not cause huge inflation and it is crazy that we think it will not hurt us, it will!

There will be at least another 1% on our bonds and debt this year, AT LEAST! It will heap even more misery on us and our clients and it will continue to drive the wind out of the property market. The crazy racism that is sweeping SA, cleansed by the term Xenophobia, has damaged us internationally as has our impotent action towards Zimbabwe.

Yet that’s life and that’s the challenge, to make the right decisions for our clients and to keep our heads, while others about us and not so professional, lose theirs and trade that poor Granny’s portfolio into dust. No we really are at the hard end of financial services and we should be proud of that.

Ian Kilbride is chairman of Warwick Private Wealth, the Constantia Valley Association and the Kids Foundation. www.iankilbride.com

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