Covid-19 has changed just about everything — but in the wealth management space, tried and trusted principles still apply, writes Intellidex GM Colin Anthony reporting on the 2020 top private banks and wealth managers survey. More here.
Intellidex analyst Peter Attard Montalto has likened SA’s IMF loan to a kind of crossing of the ‘Rubicon’ as commitment to reforms by minister Mboweni and governor Kganyago are about to unleash a civil war within the ANC. Featured in Daily Maverick.
It is a pity that President Cyril Ramaphosa did not sign the IMF letter of intent because the promises made on debt, policy reform and budget cuts will have deep and wide political implications, says Business Day’s Peter Bruce in agreement with Intellidex’s Peter Attard Montalto. Read the column here.
As the tortuous process of the business rescue practitioners comes to an end, SAA still has no money and labour unions are getting restless, comments Peter Attard Montalto, head of capital markets research at Intellidex. Featured in News24.
By Timothy Sithole.
Covid-19 has removed the ability to conduct qualitative research because face-to-face interaction is mostly impossible. Despite the strong rise of online research techniques – driven by their efficiency and turnaround times – face-to-face data collection is still the most preferred research method as it enables the researcher to fully engage with participants and gain key insights.
The lockdown has enforced fieldworkers to be recalled and some research to be stalled. The role of a market researcher constantly needs to be evaluated to analyse key trends and ensure adaptability to produce the best research with minimal effort.
Market researchers must be intuitive and find new ground-breaking research that they can take to the public. Covid-19 threatens that process and it’s necessary for research houses to come up with new strategies to remotely source data and produce reports without use of traditional formats.
The most prevalent pieces of research we’ve seen related to Covid-19 are centred on the financial implications on households and people’s ability to conduct work. Because the virus will be around for some time to come, research ideas need to focus on other areas as well – as would be the norm.
I recently came across an article  that highlights how people are spending less on personal grooming products, instead buying more cleaning products and disinfectants. Key insights can be gained from this that can be used to help the company deal with losses.
This begins by identifying why people are not buying as much deodorant – obviously, working in isolation you don’t need it as much, but in future they must get back to the routine. That’s where strategy research comes into play, to come up with ways to deal with that in the future.
Because it is impossible to conduct face-to-face research or focus groups to gain more insights into the issue, we need to turn to online research. Trusting technology is at the heart of doing this research. Online research is exceptionally good for quantitative studies: quick surveys, creative concept tests, product testing and, pricing.  But by understanding the nature of your research, it can also be used for qualitative research purposes.
Covid-19 has presented us with the opportunity to deal with the imminent future of a digitalised world. It’s a trend not only for research, but one that most business sectors are facing. From having virtual offices to online focus groups through Zoom or other platforms, this is the future of the world and we need to reimagine market research.
Technology not only makes our lives easier, but it is efficient, cost-efficient and introduces more data efficiency. At the end of the day, it is still the human (you) who ensures that the data is collected and analysed correctly.
Out of a population of 59,62 million, only 40%  of South Africans own at least one smartphone and use it at least once a month. Out of that 40%, not all of them will have access to data or be knowledgeable enough to use online meeting platforms.
This is obviously a huge disadvantage in gathering sufficient data from people in the periphery – but a research strategy has been developed in Kenya that could possibly combat the problem. A group of researchers in Kenya  have advised their respondents to write up a journal answering questions that normally a researcher would be asking.
These are collected at an appropriate time by a researcher, and this remedies a situation where like in South Africa not everyone has a smartphone to do it online. For those who do have access, voice or video elicitation has been suggested and seems to be working efficiently for now to source data.
Researchers need to maintain a strong connection with respondents.  Promoting a stable relationship with respondents will help develop trust, while it assures them that they’re playing an instrumental role in the topic being covered. This also helps in ensuring that they are free to express their views in whichever way they need to. The interviewer must be ready for different outcomes, especially during research that happens frequently.
The first step to ensure that researchers get the best possible data from respondents is trying to include everyone that was originally defined as the sample frame. For example, with South Africa, the 60% of people who do not have smartphones will need to be accessed through telemarketing techniques.
This includes but is not limited to SMS surveys and phone calls to get the data and record it to transcribe later. Here, the number of open-ended questions must be minimised to ensure the researcher gets the best out of the interview.
An attitude and usage survey  would work in an opinion-based study – for example, to answer how many parents are comfortable with sending their children to school during the pandemic. The survey would only ask the key questions through calls or SMS. Note that, should there be a need to reach more people, a twitter poll wouldn’t work here.
The future of market research was always going to be different to traditional research. We must adapt, put more trust in the technological advances thrown at us and ensure work continues.
With Covid-19 wreaking economic devastation across the globe, investors are grappling with what the future holds. In this time of heightened uncertainty, this crisis highlights the critical importance of quality research, which the Financial Mail-Intellidex Ranking the Analysts survey identifies.
This survey has been the leading assessment of investment banks’ stockbroking businesses for more than 40 years. It stands out as the definitive judgment on the performance of the sharpest financial analysts in the country.
Intellidex was chosen as the partner for this prestigious survey having developed a solid reputation for research, particularly within the financial services industry. The rankings and other results presented in this survey are drawn entirely from a confidential questionnaire process conducted with the domestic institutional clients of investment research and stockbroker firms.
Standard Bank SBG Securities is the top-ranked firm for research in 2020 for the fifth consecutive year. This overall team award is based on consolidated scores for all 40 research categories, with team scores used rather than those of the individual analysts.
RMB Morgan Stanley retains second place, while Renaissance Capital (Rencap) moves up to third from fifth last year, displacing UBS South Africa into fourth spot. Avior Capital Markets and Absa Capital both moved up two places into fifth and sixth respectively.
For the report as published in Financial Mail, click here.
For further information on the Ranking the Analysts project, click here.
Launched in 2012, the Top Private Banks & Wealth Managers survey is based on a comprehensive survey of the wealth managers and private banks as well as their clients, with high emphasis placed on client rankings of their firms across an extensive list of categories. This year 5,612 clients of wealth managers and private banks completed the online survey, with the high number of respondents enhancing the credibility of the findings.
There are three categories of overall winners with awards also for the best-performing firms in different client segments or “archetypes” of clients. PSG Wealth is the Top Wealth Manager of the Year: Large Institutions, with Standard Bank Wealth & Investment second.
Brenthurst Wealth Management is the Top Wealth Manager of the Year: Boutiques, followed by Gradige-Mahura Investments. Investec Private Bank wins the Top Private Bank of the Year award, with Standard Bank Private Bank second.
This is the second consecutive year that PSG Wealth wins in the category for large institutions with high ratings from clients securing it the award. The firm shows exceptional all-round strength, catering well to all investor archetypes. It is ranked second in two archetypes, passive lump-sum investor and young professional, and third in the wealthy executive archetype. Judges have been impressed with PSG Wealth’s entrepreneurial spirit as well as its constant efforts to evolve.
Brenthurst shoots up from fourth place last year to take the Top Wealth Manager award in the boutiques category. Founded in 2004 with Magnus and Sue Heysteck and Brian Butchart as the founding shareholders, the firm has enjoyed good growth, using a strong media presence to attract clients.
The winners of the archetype awards are extremely important because they reflect which firms cater best to different market segments, enabling investors to select the firm that best suits their particular needs.
NFB Private Wealth Management wins in two archetypes: passive lump-sum investor and young professional. RMB Private Bank is the top wealth manager for successful entrepreneurs, Carrick Wealth wins in the “wealthy executive” archetype and Standard Bank Wealth & Investment is the top wealth manager for internationally wealthy families.
The above awards use a combination of scores emanating from Intellidex’s assessment of the firms and the client rankings. The People’s Choice awards are based purely on client rankings and receiving the highest rankings from clients is cherished accolade. Gradidge-Mahura Investments is the people’s choice as the country’s top wealth manager, with Investec Private Bank being voted the top private bank award.
The People’s Choice accolade for Gradidge-Mahura stems from its relentless focus on putting client interests first. “We believe that we are here to serve our clients, and in doing so we will be successful. We aim to develop our staff and keep them suitably skilled so that they can add value to our clients on an ongoing basis,” says operations manager Cyril Chetty.
Covid-19 has changed just about everything but in the wealth management space, tried and trusted principles still apply.
As the markets crashed in early March at the onset of the pandemic, wealth managers spent much time assuaging client fears, persuading them to adapt portfolios where necessary rather than panic and sell. This task, they say, was smoothest with long-time clients with whom they’d developed trust, having managed them through previous market crises. Wealth managers emphasise that communication with clients has been key during this trying period, with reassurances prevalent.
Intellidex has been extremely impressed over the nine years we have been conducting this survey at the extremely high standards and professionalism of SA’s wealth management sector. That excellence has come to the fore in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
For the full survey report published in FM Investors Monthly, click here.
Access the report here.
The gazetting of the list of infrastructure projects earmarked for potential investment is welcome but seems to lack any detail at all and we still await a policy statement, says Peter Attard Montalto, head of capital markets research at Intellidex. Featured in Business Tech.
Details about government’s infrastructure plans are still scant so it is difficult to determine how viable the financing plans really are, says Stuart Theobald, chairman of Intellidex. Featured in Bloomberg.
This column was first published in Business Day.
It should now be much easier for businesses to borrow from banks in terms of the Covid-19 guaranteed bank loan scheme, thanks to changes made last week. But this depends on whether banks play their part in pushing R200bn of loans into the economy.
The scheme has been a disappointment so far — according to most recent figures, just R11.7bn has been lent and the growth rate was slowing. The scheme is a big part of the president’s R500bn economic relief package. Now, the conditions on which loans will be granted, as well as the credit assessments banks must undertake, have been loosened. Banks have been given discretion to apply liberal credit criteria.
The problem is that it is still not clear how much the National Treasury is going to absorb in losses for the scheme. This is fundamental — a specific budget should be set as a target. The scheme should be about leveraging a budget set aside for stimulus into a large amount of funding for the economy.
Instead, loosened criteria will mean more losses for the Treasury but we don’t know what would be reasonable. It has hinted it is lining up external funding to cover losses on the second half of the R200bn, which might fix this issue, if we ever get the volumes out the door to reach that point.
A lot will depend on how banks exercise their discretion and whether they actively market the loans. One of the weaknesses of the initial scheme was that banks were required to apply their “normal” credit assessments. So even though the Reserve Bank, guaranteed by the Treasury, would absorb 94% of the defaults on loans (less any margin banks earn) the banks couldn’t loosen their risk appetite.
If they did, their claims in terms of the scheme could be rejected. That has now changed — the wording is now about “reasonable” credit process in line with the “emergency spirit” of the scheme. There is a suitable level of vagueness to cover banks who take a liberal approach to granting the loans.
But just how liberal will they be? If banks wanted, they could grant loans based on assessment of the applicants’ performance up to the end of 2019 (previously they had to consider performance up to March 2020) looking only at bank accounts to assess whether they were in good standing (previously they had to use audited financials). They can then make the loans and require no personal suretyship from the owners of companies that borrow (previously they had to get suretyship).
Now, if banks choose, company owners would not have to face putting their homes and families’ livelihoods on the line to access the scheme. Company owners can also now pay themselves if their remuneration is normally in the form of dividends.
The incentives for banks are tricky. They still face writing off the first 6% of any loans that are made. That is R12bn of losses across the industry if the full R200bn is lent, though potentially spread over several years (there are tricky accounting issues around this). They must also use any margin they earn on the loans to cover further losses before they can claim on the guarantee. So, the scheme is not intended or likely to be profitable. The discretion granted to banks is in recognition of the financial risks they still face and in equipping them to manage those.
But there is an indirect way the banks benefit from the scheme. The guaranteed loans rank behind all other creditors. If a borrower goes bust, the Covid-19 loans rank alongside equity. So, if a bank has an existing loan to a client, the guaranteed loan provides a new buffer to help the client continue servicing the existing loan.
This, I think, is the main incentive for banks to lend in the scheme, but that depends on them applying liberal criteria, and it drives them to focus on clients in their existing books. They could also package Covid-19 loans with other senior loans, improving the overall credit outlook for the bank. There is a good case for banks to look at the 6% write-off as a price worth paying to improve the performance of their core books.
The other benefit, of course, is from the wider economic stimulus of the scheme. At about 4% of GDP, it would provide material support to the recovery with wider benefits to banks and everyone else.
Loans also now can be used to finance reopening (previously it was just the overheads during lockdown). This is important. Imagine a restaurant that has the option to reconfigure its layout to offer more outside seating space and put in other social-distancing measures but has spent down the financial resources it would need to do so. Now it can access the cash to finance its recovery.
The terms of the loans have also been somewhat loosened — borrowers don’t have to start making repayments for six months after the last drawdown (up from three months), so up to one year from the loan being granted. They then have five years to pay it back and the prime interest rate is charged (now at a historic low of 7%).
Of course, more could be done. Rates could be reduced, the use of proceeds could be widened, and the cash flows could be made up front. But this is a material step in the right direction. Other countries have calibrated their guarantee schemes to get them to meet objectives. Some are more liberal than SA, but others less. We will see if the calibrations now do in fact allow the scheme to meet the targeted loan amounts, but much depends on how banks rise to the occasion.
• Theobald is chair of Intellidex, which produced an initial design for the bank guarantee scheme.