Face of banking still male and white

2013-10-20 14:00

The industry needs to be transformed, especially at the level of senior managers, says Absip

Ever since the financial crisis of 2008, bankers have entrenched their image as greedy sleazeballs who will cross any ethical line to milk clients out of their last cent.

Author Mark Twain put it best when he said: “A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.”

In South Africa, bankers are seen as conservative and are routinely criticised by entrepreneurs and unions as being an impediment to development.

But according to Tryphosa Ramano, president of the Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals (Absip), too often in that picture the banker is male and white.

Ramano says that although a lot has changed since Absip started operating in 1995 with the main aim of transforming the sector, a lot more still needs to be done.

“The financial services industry still needs to be transformed, especially at the level of senior managers and in sectors such as insurance.

Transformation is slow currently because of the pipeline, but we are building the pipeline.

“Black talent needs to be identified, developed and nurtured. In 20 years, we shouldn’t be talking about the same issues. Transformation should already be in our DNA,” says Ramano.

She admits that there are areas in financial services where there is a skills shortage and more work needs to be done.

In a recent research report released by 27four Investment Managers, which provides seed capital to start-up black fund managers, black fund managers manage only 6.88% of estimated total assets in an industry worth R3.68?trillion.

“Total assets managed by black firms as at June 30 2013 was valued at R253.1?billion. This represents an increase of 37% since June 30 2012 and 177% since June 30 2009,” the report says.

The report highlights an area where black fund managers are lagging and may continue to do so, which could limit their growth.

“Skills outside of equity management remain a challenge within black firms, with far fewer dedicated fixed-income and multiasset class offerings and, overall, the level of skill diversification outside of conventional long-only South African equity and cash is disappointing,” the report says.

“Little innovation is apparent outside of these products and this is a continuing trend.”

Despite an increased focus on offshore investments from the broader, established asset management industry, black asset management firms manage few assets in this space. They account for only 0.13% of total assets under management, according to the report.

Ramano says the structure of the asset management industry is very unique.

“Most fund managers get experience in equities because it’s the biggest place to absorb trainees. And where you learn about fixed income is mostly in government, such as at Treasury, which has limited space,” she adds.

“And so the offshore portion of the industry is quite small. When a fund manager starts their own asset management company, they start off with what they know well and are good at.”

According to Ramano, rising to the top as a female banker remains incredibly tough. She bemoans the lack of support by banks.

Absip’s success stories are mainly men such as John Oliphant, now the principal investor at the Government Employees Pension Fund and Kennedy Bungane, who heads up Absa’s Africa strategy.

Ramano explains: “There are very few women in the sector. There is no support structure in the workplace and so a lot of women fall off, especially after having children.

“We need to create a way where you can plan for your family and still excel.”

One of the huge challenges facing the financial services industry is the introduction of the voluntary global regulation Basel 3.

“What Basel 3 does is increase the capital requirement, and banks need this cushion. But when you are a Third World country and you adopt First World policies, you find that you may handcuff the industry,” she cautions.

Ramano says that the restrictive lending of Basel 3 may affect the availability of BEE financing.

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