How to Spread it – Tom Wixley: ‘Salami slicing’ for hungry children

2014-09-22 08:00

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They call it “salami slicing”, cutting up or rounding down tiny odd lots of long-forgotten shares, but thanks to nonprofit company Strate Charity Services (SCS), in conjunction with Computershare Investor Services, these shares go to a good cause.

We’ve all heard stories about a single share or a misplaced share certificate (remember them?) holding up finalisation of deceased estates for years, but they no longer have to. Since 2002, SCS has paid more than R2.8?million to charities dedicated to helping children, currently under the chairmanship of Tom Wixley.

How and when did SCS get going?

The idea came from David Cobbett, who was the first chairman of the SCS board and a former stockbroker. It is not a new idea, we copied it from an outfit in the UK.

Sadly, David died in 2012, leaving a handsome sum to SCS in his will. David and I approached Monica Singer, the CEO of Strate, which is South Africa’s Central Securities Depository and provides post-trade products and services to the financial markets. It became SCS’s sponsoring company and is largely responsible for our success.

One of Strate’s functions is the dematerialisation of shares. SCS is a highly effective vehicle for getting rid of small holdings of shares that are too costly to sell through a stockbroker, since shareholders incur no cost if they donate their shares to charity.

Once upon a time, before “technology”, if you were allocated shares, or given even a single share, you would receive a physical, usually paper, certificate. Strate converts this to a digital platform so that all transactions can be done digitally.

Sometimes keeping these tiny share lots, for which annual reports still have to be produced and dividends paid (which might mean delivering a cheque for 20c!) are literally worth less than the paper the share is written on, or are actually incurring costs. But their accumulated value can be significant.

How did you get buy-in from stockbrokers for the scheme?

Stockbrokers saw the benefit in tidying up their clients’ share portfolios by passing on the proceeds of small share holdings, which had no value to their owners, to SCS.

And it went to good causes. The result is a win-win: these small share lots are really nothing more than a nuisance for listed companies and create a lot of administrative headaches – sometimes a share lot could be worth as little as a few rand. But they all add up.

Why are all your beneficiaries children’s charities?

Quite early, we came to the view that the people who need our help most are underprivileged children and in recent years we have decided to focus our efforts entirely on charities dedicated to children.

The devastating effect of HIV/Aids and the large number of child-headed households were major factors leading to this decision. Beneficiaries in 2013 were the Bethany House Trust, Child Welfare Tshwane, Cotlands, Life Choices and Topsy Foundation.

How can your donors be sure their donations are not swallowed up in administrative costs?

The people and companies involved in SCS all give their time and labour free of charge. This includes Strate, Computershare, the stockbrokers who sell the donated shares, our directors and EY, our auditors.

How can – and should – the business world be more involved in charitable giving?

Although the King III report states that ‘an ethical culture is?…?about more than social philanthropy or charitable donations’, it is my view that companies should set an example by working with the communities in which their employees and customers live.

How do you think philanthropy can best be nourished in Africa?

At a personal level, it is best nourished by the example of individuals such as Patrice Motsepe. But I do think South Africans in general are philanthropic in their thinking and the most generous among us are often those who have the least to give.

This series is developed in partnership with the Southern Africa Trust. To support a cause, visit

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