Much of Intellidex’s work on the just transition has involved looking at various projects requiring financing. We find categorising these into the two buckets of “transitioning in” and “transitioning out” useful to separate important differences in projects and funding requirements. In a short thought leadership paper, we describe our thinking behind this framing.

On 31 August 2022, South Africa took a monumental step in its climate action journey when the presidential cabinet embraced the Just Transition Framework (JTF), a creation of the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC). This adoption underlines not only South Africa’s dedication to the just transition movement but also its intent to equitably distribute the implications of climate action. Transitioning to a low-carbon economy offers tremendous potential for job creation; however, it poses considerable societal risks, especially for an economy like South Africa’s that leans heavily on fossil fuels. The transition threatens jobs in the energy, automotive, agriculture, and tourism sectors, sectors that many depend upon, given South Africa’s challenges with inequality, poverty, and structural unemployment.

The JTF aims to be a guiding light for South Africa as it treads the path to a low-carbon economy. The framework provides a comprehensive vision, set principles, policies, and governance blueprints to ensure a smooth transition. Its principles emphasize distributive, restorative, and procedural justice, highlighting the need for an equitable division of both the risks and the opportunities that the transition to greener energy sources will usher in.

The World Bank estimates the cost of South Africa’s just energy transition at R8.5-trillion in the next three decades. This calls for funding at an unprecedented scale. In our latest thought leadership piece, we frame what types of activities need financing to support and accelerate the mobilisation of funding for specific just transition activities.

Click here to download.

Intellidex, the South African-born financial and policy advisory firm with a strong commitment to emerging markets, announced a significant transformation today as it rebrands to Krutham. The change is set to take effect on 15 August 2023, marking an exciting new chapter for the company.

Since it was founded 15 years ago, Intellidex has forged strong partnerships with government, financial institutions and other clients who share a dedication to advancing Africa’s financial landscape. As Krutham, the company embarks on a global journey to expand its reach and strengthen its impact on shaping financial systems to better deliver positive public good.

Founder and chairperson Dr Stuart Theobald commented on the name change, “Krutham is more than just a name; it symbolises the firm’s next development phase. As we continue our global growth, and we need a name that can resonate globally. While Intellidex has served us well, the name restricts us in certain countries.”

With its deep insights into financial industries and capital markets and a profound understanding of social impact and politics, Krutham is uniquely positioned to shape industries, drive progress, and contribute to a better future.

Krutham’s clientele ranges from global hedge funds to philanthropies dedicated to empowering communities, highlighting the firm’s versatility in delivering sophisticated financial solutions while being attuned to the evolving needs of societies worldwide. By straddling the spectrum of capital, Krutham supports its clients to reach beyond the obvious and collaboratively shape financial systems as a force for good.

“We deeply value the support and collaboration of our clients, which has been instrumental in our achievements so far,” added Dr Theobald. “This evolution is an important step forward as we strive to align our identity with our vision for the future and create a brand that authentically embodies who we have become. Our rebrand to Krutham reflects our commitment to growth, innovation, and collective aspiration to impact the world positively.”

About Krutham:

Krutham is a leading financial and policy advisory firm committed to driving positive impact in emerging markets. With a deep understanding of financial and capital markets, combined with a keen sense of social impact and politics, Krutham is dedicated to shaping industries and contributing to a better future. Straddling the spectrum of capital, Krutham works with diverse clients to deliver beyond the obvious and create financial systems that serve as a force for good. Krutham believes that financial systems are a force for good, and its role is to help maximise that good.

 

For more information, visit www.intellidex.co.za (and krutham.com from 15 August)

Or contact:

Jennifer Kann: jkann@intellidex.co.za | +27 83 455 3289

Kennedy Dube: kennedy@lingocom.co.za | +27 78 844 4229

 

Should a bank be able to close your accounts because it disagrees with your political views? That question exploded into Britain’s national debate thanks to right-winger Nigel Farage, after elite bank Coutts closed his accounts.

The conflagration has important lessons for SA, where the issue of banks’ rights to close accounts has been burbling through the courts and regulatory circles. It may even lead to change in the rules of the Financial Action Task Force, which in 2022 greylisted SA over enforcement of international money-laundering rules.

In the UK, it has emerged that Coutts decided to “exit” Farage because his views “do not align with our values”, citing his relationship with Donald Trump, his reputation for being “xenophobic and racist”, and comments against LGBTQ+ rights, among other things.

The ensuing imbroglio led to the CEOs of Coutts and its parent company NatWest resigning, a summonsing of 19 CEOs of the UK’s banks to explain to the UK Treasury how they “debank” people, a rushing of new regulations on account closures and the chancellor of the exchequer calling on the Financial Conduct Authority to investigate the practice in the industry.

That may lead to fines for banks, because — and the irony will be dripping — regulations require that financial institutions do not discriminate against people in terms of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which includes protection of political opinion. Farage, a prominent Brexit campaigner, called repeatedly for the EU charter to be scrapped.

Farage has now launched a website to collect reports from other people who were debanked, which it turns out ranges across the political spectrum, including embassies of smaller countries in the UK. Politicians of the Left and Right have taken to the media to share their difficulties in getting banking services as “politically exposed persons” (PEPs).

Banks’ enthusiasm for closing accounts is understandable. On the one hand, they have been forced to police account activity for anything illegal. FATF sets clear rules for compliant countries. Among those is the requirement that banks undertake enhanced due diligence on anyone considered a PEP. Those rules are embodied in SA law through the Financial Intelligence Centre Act.

Banks are required to judge the risks of a client being engaged in illegal activity and withdraw services accordingly. Failures to do so can result in large fines. Allied to that, banks have regulatory responsibility to protect their reputations, which includes doing business with counterparts engaging in activities that could embarrass the lenders. Banks may well interpret embarrassment to include clients drilling for oil or advocating LGBTQ+ discrimination. One can imagine Coutts reputational risk committee fearing a headline such as “Coutts happy to bank xenophobic homophobe Farage”.

Legal tension

There is a deep legal tension at the heart of the matter. On the one hand, banks have the right to contract. They should be free to decide who to do business with, especially other legal entities. It is right that they protect their reputations. On the other hand, inability to operate a bank account is hugely detrimental to businesses and individuals, meaning they cannot exercise their fundamental rights. As economies become cashless, driven by regulation, this has become a greater concern.

Closure of accounts in SA is subject to several legal proceedings by Iqbal Survé, owner of Independent Media and his company Sekunjalo, whose accounts are threatened with closure. In SA, a 2010 Supreme Court of Appeal judgment in the Bredenkamp case gave banks a clear right to close accounts on grounds of contract law. That precedent has since emboldened banks to act. However, that court expressly did not consider the impact on the rights of individuals. The matter has not been tested in the Constitutional Court, and I can imagine a case where there are clear rights implications leading to an overturning of the precedent.

The Zondo commission expressed concern at account closures. Chief justice Raymond Zondo recommended that banks give clients the right to be heard before accounts are closed, though he also said banks acted in line with their legal obligations in closing the Guptas’ accounts, a move that undoubtedly stymied their looting spree.

In 2020, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority implemented conduct regulations that require banks to give notice to customers and the reasons for closure, but this falls short of the Zondo recommendation that banks engage with clients. Sekunjalo, fighting through the Competition Tribunal and the Equality Court, has so far won interdicts against closure. It could succeed in setting new precedents.

More important, though, will be the impact of the UK matter on global regulation. The UK is highly influential in the FATF, a body that has been criticised for its approach to emerging markets in particular. The FATF doesn’t require countries to respect human rights in implementing its rules, and it has no mechanism to consider whether violation of the recommendations can be justified on human rights grounds.

The issue of PEPs, to which SA politicians have also taken umbrage, also looks set to be reviewed, with UK politicians for once feeling the public is on their side on the issue. The UK may well see SA as an ally in pushing for global change.

Stuart Theobald is chair of Intellidex. This article first appeared in Business Day