The Banking Association South Africa launched its annual report into transformation in the banking sector on 25 July 2022. The research was conducted by financial markets research and consulting firm Intellidex.

Research suggests that while there is still a fair way to go, banks are making solid progress in transformation, despite the setback from the Covid lockdowns.

Download the report below.

Private banks and wealth managers in South Africa are renowned for providing quality services to their clientele but which are the best? In the 12th edition of the Top Private Banks and Wealth Managers survey, clients ranked their wealth managers and private bankers on a range of products and services. The rankings feed into the overall scores to determine overall winners and winners in numerous archetypes.

The winners are:

People’s Choice Wealth Manager

Centric Wealth Advisory

People’s Choice Private Bank

Investec

Top Private Bank

Investec

Top Wealth Manager Large Institutions

PSG Wealth

Top Wealth Manager Boutiques

Centric Wealth Advisory

Archetype Award Lump-sum investor

PSG Wealth

Young Professional

PSG Wealth

Entrepreneur

Centric Wealth Advisory

Executive

Efficient Wealth

Retiree

PSG Wealth

Wealthy Family

Nedbank

Top Relationship Manager

Brenthurst

Download the summary report below.

South African media has been abuzz with the findings from the Intellidex report on the basic income grant (BIG), as commissioned by organised business. Head of capital markets Peter Attard Montalto appeared on CNBC‘s The Power Lunch to weigh in on the findings and how this would possibly impact governments decision on BIG.

Watch the full clip below.

Click here to find out more about the Intellidex report on the funding options for the BIG.

Intellidex in partnership with Business Times and Khumalo.com, has launched the 2nd edition of the groundbreaking Sanlam Gauge Report.

The survey, which measures transformation across all sectors of the economy and provides an overall B-BBEE scorecard for SA Inc, is sponsored by Sanlam.

This year the B-BBEE scores of 10,336 companies were included in the survey, up from 3,154 companies last year.

This project has the goal of developing an effective, national measure of transformation which has been lacking. The report is intended to serve as a basis for discourse on strategies to accelerate future transformation in South Africa. The report includes the opinions of experienced B-BBBEE practitioners and other industry experts.

“Ultimately we want to continually evolve the Sanlam Gauge into a really thorough measure of the extent of transformation of South Africa Inc,” says Intellidex chairman Dr Stuart Theobald.

Download the report below.

Intellidex Head of Capital Markets Peter Attard Montalto joins Bruce Whitfield on The Money Show to discuss the Basic income grant and whether it will do more harm than good.

“As the debate around the basic income grant starts to develop there’s been far to little focus on the revenue aspects in particular. But also the aspect around debt financing of a basic income grant. So we go into quite a lot of detail. We look at the number of scenarios, even quite optimistic scenarios with things like debt financing and still found them to be quite troubling,” says Peter Attard Montalto.

Listen to the full clip below:



 

Intellidex’s Head of Capital Markets Peter Attard Montalto joins eNCA Business Editor Devan Murugan to discuss the Basic Income Grant report titled What funding options are possible for BIG?. This is a new report commissioned by Business Unity South Africa and Business Leadership South Africa.

“The report wanted to lay out that if for political reasons SA goes ahead with the basic income grant: what are our choices, how do we go about doing it and what are the implications? As opposed to trying to take an alternative view saying: ‘is it the right thing et cetera to do?’. There is no arguing with the fact that giving people money is going to improve their quality of life. The issue really is the behavioural and economic impact of how it is funded,” says Peter Attard Montalto.

Watch the full clip below:

It is funny how myths stick around and fester. SA is of course full of them and they infect the discourse.

It was a sheer delight to see the reaction of our comrades on the left to the Reserve Bank’s stonking hike of 75 basis point (bps) last week. I thoroughly recommend everyone to read it. The idea is rehearsed that the monetary policy committee (MPC) is somehow lacking in flexibility and lacks credibility because it is hiking in response to a supply shock as inflation climbs with higher petrol and food prices. The Bank is labelled as “trapped because of its one-dimensional, and one trick pony response to inflation”.

This debate is appearing around the world, even in the leadership election for the Conservative Party. Some seem to want governments rather than central banks to manage inflation.

Of course, the drafters of the SA constitution knew full well that an independent central bank needed to safeguard to value the rand in the consumer pocket and hence that remains the core of its work. The idea that anything beyond minor clipping around the edges of inflation could be possible with a fiscus that has no space is odd. The fuel levy cuts — even if they were made permanent would have made only a 0.2 percentage point or so difference to inflation. If one dives down that burrow and wants a fiscus to start subsidising petrol or food say when there already is such a steep yield curve one can end up having even higher interest rates to compensate for the increased risks in the economy.

In reality the Bank may well be moving with a fair clip of speed but that should allow them to stop somewhat earlier and at a lower rate than otherwise would be the case by waiting and going in small clips. Verses history, if we see them stop even at 7% that is a moderate level.

The MPC has quite clearly taken on this narrative and talked about the impact of inflation on the poor.

The issue of course is that rate hikes are precisely meant to act through making money more expensive and so investment decisions have to be chosen more carefully and growth is curbed marginally. If one has to hike so much into “tight territory” then this may well be the case — where interest rates are well above long-term inflation. But interest rates are still below current inflation and now only just in line with where inflation is seen through the end of next year.

The MPC says it is only removing “accommodation” and so is still below neutral rates (though doesn’t really want to tell anyone where this is) rather than being in restrictive territory. This is not an uncontroversial statement given you are still tightening conditions by removing accommodation. Still, it implies less impact than would otherwise be the case.

As ever with myths — playing out the counterfactual is useful. A world where the MPC was keeping rates unchanged or increasing them by 25 bps only would be one where the real rates (the gap between policy rates and inflation) were getting more and more negative. Where would the signal be to inflation expectations, price setters and the currency?

The answer for some is that the government would step in but here are more myths. First that there is a mystical R400bn or so that can just be tapped if more money was given to the SA Revenue Service (Sars) to extract it. The Davis committee was always sceptical this was possible and it presupposes that the existing “missing” tax doesn’t react in turn through tax offshoring of individuals or companies and so on.

This is not to say that Sars’s return to efficiency and productivity won’t generate more tax revenue. But there is a myth around the order of magnitude here.

The myths peddled around the basic income grant debate are perhaps the most interesting.

Nowhere has there been more myths than the ANC — certainly to be stress-tested in the run-up to 2024. The “surprise” result this weekend in KwaZulu-Natal teaches us to be very careful about what one assumes about the party and that the line between myth and reality can be somewhere unexpected.

The other place that seems a magnet for myths is Eskom. Alternative realities swirl where the energy availability factor can be raised through mysteriously as-yet-tapped funds or talent (from where either comes from is never clear). Eskom is so interesting precisely because there are so many myth peddlers about with easy solutions.

With the country in something of a bind fiscally and with a need for solid, evidence-based policymaking to solve so many crises such as load-shedding, logistics, infrastructure, water and crime, we need to be constantly on the lookout and stress-test policy responses for myths.

Myths are perhaps inevitable as policy debates are on repeat and where the problems don’t change and yet there is a hunt for different answers. In this crucial year for reforms and politics this is more important than ever.

Be alert.

• Attard Montalto is head of capital markets research at Intellidex, an SA research-led consulting company. This article first appeared in Business Day.

As the debate around a basic income grant advances, the funding of it has received relatively little credible attention, despite, as we show in this report, the profound consequences of different approaches. We analyse in detail the funding options, especially tax but also debt issuance – viewing wider expenditure reprioritisation at this scale as unfeasible.

The political economy of a large BIG will be a significant factor in the run up to national elections in 2024. At the heart of the issue is that there are much larger spending demands for a broader social wage of as much as ZAR500bn/year. Whatever funding is allocated to a BIG (or any form of larger, permanent, successor to SRD) will then not be available for other social wage spending. There will need to be clear and well communicated political choices made understanding the consequences, trade-offs, and risks.

Download the report below.

Intellidex senior banks analyst Nolwandle Mthombeni weighs in on the recent interest hikes and what this means for consumers on 702‘s the Money Show with Bruce Whitfield.

“This time around the hikes aren’t because of good economic activity, it is because of supply-side pressure to fund inflation, which has nothing to do with the consumer. So they are fighting something that is not in the natural order of things. As a result the consumer is getting squeezed in a way that was not previously expected by creditors,” says Nolwandle Mthombeni.

Listen to the full clip below:



 

Intellidex’s Chairman Dr Stuart Theobald joined Gareth Edwards on eNCA to discuss South Africa’s risk of being greylisted by the money laundering watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FAFT).

What does this mean for South Africa?

“South Africa through the financial intelligence act has in the past been fairly compliant. But last year a mutual evaluation was conducted on South Africa and it found several shortcomings largely linked to stake capture and our inability to bring people to justice because of money laundering,” says Stuart Theobald.

Watch the full discussion below:

There was outrage at energy & mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe’s suggestion that the state should create another Eskom. But it is a rather better idea than many think, though in a completely different way to what I think the minister means.

The future energy system will have an independent state-owned system operator that procures power from multiple different electricity generators. Eskom will be one, but there will be many others, mostly privately owned renewable electricity generators. Mantashe’s proposal, which was mentioned by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday as part of various comments on system reform, is not terrible in that context.

In a competitive future market, private generators will be strongly incentivised to produce electricity as cheaply as possible. A competitive wholesale market, in which there are multiple generators and multiple customers is the best way to find the best equilibrium price of electricity. This is, on the whole, a good thing, certainly if we are t o improve the competitiveness of SA’s industrial sector which requires cheaper and more reliable power to take on global markets. But there are some potential downsides.

Competitive wholesale markets still have shocks. The over-cited California power crisis of the early 2000s is one example: the state suffered multiple outages in some areas due to several factors including market manipulation by private providers. It was less than two years from beginning to end and has never been repeated, but it taught lessons that have been built into energy supply markets around the world.

One of those is that the market can still fail. Extreme weather events, which we will be experiencing more in the future, mean that detailed energy consumption forecasting is becoming more difficult.

An energy system therefore needs to be highly responsive, but wholesale markets tend to have long-term contracts with fixed capacity. They can be complemented by spot markets in which urgent top-up supply can be acquired, but even these will come unstuck in highly stressed energy demand scenarios.

Ultimately there will always be some risk that a demand shock will arise that overwhelms supply. Of course, supply side shocks are also a risk, including weather shocks and failure of large baseload power sources.

Historically, when Eskom was at its best, it coped with this risk by having more than 5GW of energy reserves in its pumped storage facilities and its peaking power plants consisting of hydro and gas turbine stations. These famously have all been running to the furthest extent possible, at huge cost, rather than performing their design function of occasionally topping up the national grid during periods of excess demand.

You might think that the market should be able to solve the problem of unpredicted shocks. Let there be a spike in power prices, in turn reducing consumption, but driving producers to increase supply. But the demand side typically is not elastic — consumption does not move rapidly in response to short-term price spikes.

Some markets reduce this problem by integrating large consumers into the system, who can be called on to reduce consumption if needed. But markets around the world have found it difficult to regulate appropriately for that mechanism to work. They also find it politically impossible to impose short-term price spikes on retail consumers.

Market failures generally arise either when a scenario presents itself that neither regulators (who could manage it) nor producers (who could price for it) predicted. Predictable risks can be managed — but deep uncertainty, the unknown unknowns, can’t be. State ownership in the supply side can help to manage these hard-to-predict risks. The state balance sheet is the largest in the country and the only one that can absorb large but highly uncertain risks.

This reasoning suggests that you should want the state to still play a role in electricity supply. The problem is that role is not where the minister said it should be — baseload, always on supply — but at the other end of the availability spectrum — peaking supply.

The risk is that peaking plants are never used, a risk that the private sector would find impossible to bear. It would be inefficient for the state to take this risk away by providing availability payments to a private operator to simply be ready to supply if needed. It may be more efficient for the state to simply own and operate peaking supply itself. And that can be done in a state-owned entity different to Eskom.

Ramaphosa made the claim that competition between state-owned operators would help overall supply, referring to China where this happens. It is an odd point. You should only want the state to intervene where the market fails, not to have multiple interests in the market itself.

If competition works to deliver our public policy objectives, then there is no reason for the state to intervene. If competition does not deliver it — as in hard-to-predict supply and demand shocks — then the state should operate in the most effective and efficient way possible. A state-owned peaking power producer would need to meet that bar, at least to the extent that it ends up being cheaper than the alternative of availability payments to private producers.

The president said the idea of an Eskom 2.0 was being developed for discussion to the executive. Let us hope it starts by spelling out what the problem is that needs to be solved.

• Theobald is chair of research-led consulting house Intellidex. This article first appeared in Business Day.

Intellidex’s Senior Banks Analyst Nolwandle Mthombeni joins Michael Avery on Business Watch once again. She joins as a panellist to discuss findings from Intellidex’s June Banking Monthly alongside David Buckham, CEO of Monocle Solutions.

Topics of interest for June 2022, as discussed by the panel, include the implications of loadshedding stage 6 for South Africa’s GDP, the unexpected increase of passenger vehicle sales despite rising fuel costs and buy-now-pay-later.

“Last week we, surprisingly, had new numbers that said that new passenger vehicles are on the rise. This is a bit counterintuitive if you think about the way the petrol prices have gone. But it seems like there is a demand,” says Nolwandle Mthombeni.

Watch the full panel discussion below.

The Banking Monthly is a report launched by Intellidex in April 2022. A new report is available on the first Tuesday of every month. You can download your version of the June report here.

It’s a standard trope of columnists to give SA exceptionalism a good kicking. So, bear with me …

Having spent the past two weeks — as I do at the end of every quarter — talking to investors in detail about their interests and concerns, it became apparent that doing things differently can only get one so far.

That the Reserve Bank is hiking rates at all seems to draw convulsions and outrage in the media (and among Sandton-bubble-based analysts), but for most investors the shock is that the Bank’s monetary policy committee (MPC) is increasing rates slower and more steadily than peers in emerging markets, or developed markets for that matter. And there is a soft guidance that future moves can (bar surprises) remain steady and gradual.

Investors wonder how this can be possible when the Federal Reserve is hiking by 75 basis points (bps) a meeting and the Bank only 50 bps.

There seems to be something of a tyranny of the “front-end spread” — the gap between interest rates at the shortest dates on the yield curve. This ignores the spreads on the back end of the yield curve, the fact that fewer foreigners are investing in SA’s bond markets anyway, and “positioning” (the amount of money put to work) is probably the lowest yet. Not to mention that inflation in the US is about two percentage points higher than in SA and, if anything, the gap is expected to widen. Add to this the lack of options for investing in emerging markets given their many problems and Russia being uninvestable.

SA is in a very different position now to the past 20 years — with a current account surplus and fiscal policy appearing “OK”. If ever it was possible for the Bank to strain at the lead of emerging market “norms” (that is, after the lead of the Fed and more), now is the time.

Yet investors are either stress-testing this a lot or are looking at downside risks. The current account is at risk of being smaller than expected and the fiscal risks that could crystallise would mean things are worse than expected and consolidation stalls or reverses, though I sense these are tail risks more than baselines. Still, it keeps people on edge and the currency weaker (even versus some peers).

The MPC can stay its course if indeed the effect of a weaker currency on inflation is still muted. Perhaps we can get some new-style exceptionalism then?

Baseline outlook

The wider problem though is that the risks of “cute”, constructive baselines that can be constructed are heavily skewed to the downside. Investors are probing blackout risk, December’s ANC conference and 2024 risks — especially now in light of the noise around the president and the slew of media speculation on the “what-ifs”. The same is true of Eskom’s CEO, despite there being no evidence that anyone else could have done a better job given the constraints the company is under.

While some exceptionalism in the baseline outlook is possible, the fat risk probabilities have fattened and become unacceptably likely, even if still of very low probability.

This affects not just portfolio investors but foreign direct investment and local corporate investors too.

The old style of exceptionalism seems to rear its head elsewhere. In the car industry there is a growing realisation that the policy environment is not coming to help with the complex transition from the internal combustion engine to electric vehicles. Somehow there seems to be a view in Pretoria that the industry will just magically be able to twist and contort to the vagaries of policymaking timetables.

Car manufacturing is a global industry and companies will pull out of SA if the right environment is not in place at specific dates when planning decisions have to be made for new cars.

This would finally expose the fallacy of SA’s car industry: it is unsustainable; a house of cards propped up by industrial policy interventions. That’s fine during the status quo as everyone, including supply chains, can close their eyes and continue like nothing is going to go wrong. But it is not adaptable.

The car industry has been in the media precisely because it fears that there is insufficient understanding that about 15% of the manufacturing sector is at risk.

Local renewables

Policymakers seem to want to create a market for domestically produced electric vehicles, but they aren’t being produced yet and hence there isn’t any demand. Localisation is impossible without domestic demand.

This is exactly the same problem with local renewables, which now have low levels of local content. Once again, increasing local content is impossible without there being more domestic demand.

That’s why there is a growing chorus — from banks, the National Planning Commission (NPC), business and others — for the removal of all localisation requirements around energy procurement for a short period of, say, two years. The call is to ensure there is more space for demand to emerge to make future localisation more likely.

SA can’t sidestep these forces and put the cart before the horse.

As we move forward and try to solve SA’s problems (be they inflation, just energy transition or even industry transformation) sensible views that are clear on the causal direction of matters will be essential — as will choosing where SA can and can’t break the mould.

• Attard Montalto is head of Capital Markets Research at Intellidex, an SA research-led consulting company. This article first appeared in Business Day.

Intellidex is a world leader in understanding the relationships between social outcomes and the capital and financial markets. We are recruiting a senior manager to head our research in social economy, sitting at the intersection between philanthropy and investment. This role will suit a dynamic researcher with a strong academic background (PhD) who has led a team and aspires to produce influential thought leadership on how to maximise social outcomes by tapping financial markets and other sources.

The successful candidate will be at ease with innovative research, idea and policy generation in this space.

The ideal candidate *must* have: 

  1. A doctorate in a social science with some bearing on the non-profit sector. Experience at a senior level either in a research institute, academic research unit, foundation or similar non-profit, or in a social responsibility role in the private sector. 
  2. Examples of research reports written based on original primary research such as surveys or interviews of respondents. 
  3. Experience in managing complex research projects and overseeing teams working on them. 
  4. Highly organised and experienced in Microsoft Office software. 

The role will involve supervising original primary research on non-profits and sustainable investing, supporting wider research on social-first investment strategies, and public-private partnerships for social development. It will work with our primary market research team and other experts at Intellidex, and supervise staff working in the field. It involves managing research projects, analysing information collected and writing reports providing detailed insight into the data. It will require engagements with the public, through presentations of report results to clients and the public at large, as well as through convening of and participation in forums that bring together stakeholders in the social sector.

Intellidex offers a unique environment that draws together top academic skills, financial markets research and insight on South Africa’s policy development. Our social economy practice aims to maximise the impact of private capital in delivering positive social outcomes, just as other parts of our business work with financial institutions and policy-makers to improve outcomes for all South Africans. 

Performance will be judged by the delivery of high quality research projects and reports, as well as engagement with clients and other audiences. You will also share responsibility to attract business for the social economy practice. 

We offer a small company environment in which you will have considerable latitude to shape your role. Remuneration will be a mixture of basic and performance-based pay. 

Our standards are high. You will be working with MBAs, CFA charterholders and PhDs on our team to ensure that Intellidex delivers high levels of client satisfaction and responds dynamically to new business opportunities.  

If you are interested in the position, please provide a covering letter that addresses the four minimum requirements listed above in the form below. Please apply before 1 August 2022. 

 

    Please note that failure to load the correct documents will result in your application not being processed

    The economy was growing more than 5% in 2007. Business confidence was near its postdemocratic highs. The Business Day of May 18 2007 quoted the Bureau of Economic Research: “The economy will grow faster than anticipated in the short term, buoyed by resilient consumer demand, ‘fierce’ momentum in fixed investment and stronger export growth”.

    Ah, those were the days. Talk to economics students now and it takes quite some effort to convince them that there was such a time. To their minds it has always been doom and gloom, an inexorable slide to economic oblivion. Last week’s shock stage 6 load-shedding will have many joining them.

    This has a profound effect on investor behaviour. Investment decisions are heavily influenced by recent information. Several studies have shown that investors tend to put their money in the investments that did best last year. Investors generally ignore Warren Buffett’s advice to be fearful when others are greedy and buy when others are fearful. So, with global markets down 20% in the year to date (though the JSE’s top 40 index is down only 11%) investors are conservative.

    In the long run, economies tend to revert to the mean. In 1994, the average annual SA GDP growth rate was 2.3%. The problem for analysis of SA, is that it is not clear just when you should measure. Statistical analysis is useful when a system is in a steady state. But SA has been through several regime shifts, episodes that fundamentally alter the workings of the economic system. The data has distinct episodes — late apartheid, from 1985 to 1994, saw average growth of just 0.6%. Democracy brought a strong economic dividend — growth from 1994-2007 averaged 3.6%, but from 2008-2019 it averaged 1.5% (I leave out the Covid-19 years, which disturb the data).

    Global growth has also been lower since 2008, but it has averaged 2.5% (but was 3.4% from 1994-2007). Was there a regime shift in 2008 in SA? I would argue yes — the main change post-2008 is the destruction of the state-owned enterprises under president Jacob Zuma. The SOEs, particularly Transnet and Eskom, but also the long tail of others such as the SA National Roads Agency and Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority, plummeted in operational performance and new investment. This has imposed a big cost on the economy — companies cannot expand production, because there is insufficient electricity and no capacity to get goods out through rail or ports.

    Lose majority

    But is a regime shift under way now? I believe so. The private sector is filling the gaps left by Eskom and Transnet (and SAA, the SA Post Office and other dysfunctional SOEs). Eskom is set to become merely one generator of power and could well become a minority producer in the next five to 10 years. Transnet is, more slowly, going the same way, gradually concessioning ports to private operators and opening its rails to private services. This is privatisation of a sort — not the sale of state assets, but the exit from the market of state operators.

    A key inflection point will come with the 2024 national elections. The ANC is set to lose its majority, with the only question being whether the loss will be small enough for it to lead a coalition, or large enough for opposition parties to be able to cobble together a government that excludes the ANC. This will be a critical moment and there is no playbook for how a coalition government will function. Will government be better or worse under an unstable coalition of unaligned parties compared with the ANC? In either scenario the pressure to spur the economy will be paramount, which means the political direction of increasing private provision of basic economic infrastructure will continue.

    What does this outlook mean for investors? We are in a moment of regime shift, so we must not be overly influenced by recent experience. The focus must be on what the new regime looks like in future. In three to 10 years the economy will have a much more diverse set of service providers of key economic infrastructure, making it more competitive and stable. Wider global stability will return as inflation is calmed and war is ended. Global investment will be biased by a green transition, spurring demand for minerals such as nickel, manganese, copper, cobalt and graphite. SA is the world’s seventh-largest exporter of electric vehicle battery materials, and, if our energy and logistics systems (as well as some laws) are fixed could take strong advantage. There are also blue sky opportunities such as green hydrogen, which SA may be able to scale competitively into a whole new industry.

    There are many risks. There is a wide spectrum of possible outcomes from the 2024 elections that are difficult to predict. Global risks abound too, not least the prospect of a recession in the short term and future pandemics. But if I had to bet, growth in the next decade of democracy will look more like the first than the last. The key is not to be overly persuaded by the near term.

    • Theobald is chair of research-led consulting company Intellidex. This article first appeared in Business Day.