JSE to bid Loubser farewell as it marks string of successes

November 10, 2011


By Humphrey Borkum, Chairman of JSE Limited

The evening of Tuesday 11 October was a milestone in the history of the JSE and our country. On a warm Highveld evening the welcoming ambiance in the JSE reception area was palpable as we greeted delegates to the General Assembly of the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE).

But what touched me most deeply in hosting these prominent business people from around the world was how far our country has come. I remembered that in 1987, the year the JSE celebrated its centenary, the Federation Internationale des Bourses de Valeurs (FIVB), the forerunner of the present WFE, agreed to hold its General Assembly in Johannesburg. However due to strong political pressure the JSE had to withdraw its invitation.

This time the JSE was given the opportunity to display South Africa’s renowned hospitality. Our executives each entertained a number of delegates to dinner in their homes and then hosted them at a game lodge on the border of the Kruger Park.

The WFE assembly in Johannesburg was a fitting finale to our CEO Russell Loubser’s tenure at the JSE. After 15 years at the helm Russell leaves us at the end of December. I would personally like to take this opportunity of thanking Russell for the vast contribution he has made to the JSE although words alone cannot convey his impact.

When he joined the exchange he firstly surrounded himself with a strong team and then re-examined every element of the JSE’s DNA. He never failed to make courageous decisions where necessary and during his term he led the JSE from being a small, one product, local exchange to becoming a respected international player with well over 40 product offerings ranging from ordinary shares, single stock futures, bond futures to grain futures and options.

Some of my more plain-spoken colleagues point out that Russell moved the JSE from a barely solvent co-op with a co-op mentality, scrambling for finance, into a vibrant, listed corporate with R1 billion in cash on its balance sheet. I concur with this assessment.

Before tackling any new tasks Russell would always carry out thorough research and invariably be the best informed in the room on the topic. Brave and straight as an arrow he does not suffer fools easily and has never shirked from confronting difficult subjects. These have included such matters as BEE ownership, the need to develop electronic settlement and custody of securities, disclosure of director’s emoluments, and his desire for more transparency in the bond market.

Russell has always played a leadership role in both world stock exchanges affairs and on the African continent. He is a Director and Treasurer of the WFE until the end of the year and has gone out of his way to help and encourage the growth of African stock exchanges and to have them accepted into the WFE. He has also contributed greatly in the regulatory sphere in South Africa through his participation on the Financial Services Advisory Board. In the last two years the JSE was placed first in terms of market regulation in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Reports.

A private man, not given to the social pages, Russell is extremely fit. However you would expect him to be in good shape given his penchant for waking at 4:00am on weekdays and 5:00am on weekends to go cycling with his mates.

I believe Russell bought discipline, focus, hard work, common sense and strong ethical values to our stock exchange. He will go down in South Africa’s history as one of the great CEO’s of SA Business Inc. We shall miss him.

However I forecast that the transition to the next CEO will be seamless. Nicky Newton-King has been groomed for this position as Deputy Chief Executive under Loubser for nearly nine years. She, in fact, joined the JSE six months before Russell. Following a vigorous vetting process with a number of high quality candidates Newton-King was the unanimous choice of the JSE Board. The bourse will be in good hands going forward.

JSE/Liberty Investment Challenge

On the day after the ANC Youth League’s march for economic freedom the JSE had a visit from another youth group - this time the financially literate winners of the JSE/Liberty School & University Investment Challenge.

A sparkling array of speakers gave the winners an entertaining pep talk on accumulating wealth. Unlike most governments, they were told they must never spend more than they earn and try to save. Secondly, time was on their side and this together with compound interest would ensure savings growth. Thirdly, their most priceless asset was knowledge of how a security exchange operated. This would empower them to commence investing from their very first pay cheque. Tongue-in-cheek one of the speakers also advised the males present to try and avoid marrying a woman who loved shopping – if that’s possible!

For the record Soweto schools occupied the first three places in the Income Portfolio section with Kwadedangendlale High School in first place. Eden College Lyndhurst won the Equity Portfolio and Parktown Boys High the Speculator Portfolio. Wits University came first in the University and College category. In addition to the pupils winning considerable cash awards, the successful schools and their mentors also benefited financially.

The JSE/Liberty Investment Challenge is an educational programme that has been running for more than 38 years aimed at introducing South African pupils and students to the workings of a securities market.

The challenge offers high school and university teams the opportunity to learn about investment through managing a virtual portfolio of R1 million over a period of six months from March to September. Each team is supervised by a teacher or mentor. Teams choose to manage one or more of three investment portfolios i.e. Income Portfolio (low volatility), Equity Growth (moderate volatility) or Speculator (high volatility).

In 2002 SBG Securities provided the challenge with an electronic trading platform enabling teams to trade on-line since then. However schools without computers can still compete by phoning through their trades to the Challenge Co-ordinators at the JSE. This year 358 schools and 38 universities and private colleges competed against each other nationally.

My initial appeal is to parents and teachers. If you wish your children or pupils to become aware of the fundamentals of share investment strategies and the functioning of our economy, make sure your school participates by contacting the JSE. If necessary we will find you a mentor and a sponsor. Registration for the challenge is in January.

I would also encourage the business community to adopt a school. For an amount of only R2500 you can sponsor a school to register a maximum of six teams (four members per team) at R120 per team. The balance is used for the provision of the necessary financial publications for the duration of the challenge. It is always anticipated that a company executive will mentor students from the sponsor’s adopted school via phone, fax or e-mail. If the company is unable to provide this service the JSE will obtain a mentor or use members of its investment challenge staff.

The JSE’s Adopt-a-School programme provides an important commercially oriented learning perspective in our schools and scholars may also identify future career opportunities in the investment industry. To enter the JSE/Liberty Investment Challenge or to sponsor a school contact the JSE’s Challenge Co-ordinators on 011 520 7116/7344/7168 or visit the website:  schools.jse.co.za 

As this is my last column for the year I thought I would bring you some Christmas cheer. Look up First National Bank’s website, www.sagoodnews.co.za. It’s often a good idea as the year comes to an end to count one’s blessings.

This article first appeared in Business Report