Like all good things, 2015 is fast coming to an end.
At Carrick we feel truly blessed to have had a phenomenal year. At the same time we look forward to an even better 2016 together with our much-valued clients, our trusted service and product providers, our remarkable directors, associates and team, our supportive families and our many friends out there.
While it has been a wonderful year for Carrick, it has also been a year full of challenges, not only for us, but for South Africans in general and for people around the world.
Political and economic situation
On the South African political and economic front there certainly were some big challenges and not a few surprises.
Perhaps the biggest of them all came right at the end of the year when President Jacob Zuma fired his finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, replacing him with the unknown and untested David van Rooyen without providing reasons. Before this, Nene had steadily been gaining the trust and respect of the general public, business and finance sectors. The move caught everyone, including Mr Zuma’s own Cabinet and party by surprise and sent the rand and JSE into turmoil. It led to a massive public outcry in South Africa and serious expressions of concern from many quarters outside the country.
Within two days of the announcement, the effects shook South Africa to the core:
- It shaved R169.6bn off the JSE market cap;
- The rand fell from R14.53 to R15.89 (9.36%) against the dollar, and from R15.94 to R17.45 (9.47%) against the euro in the two days following the announcement;
- The FTSE/JSE Financial15 Index (FINI) dropped 13.36% from 15‚600 to 13‚515;
- The FTSE/JSE Top 40 Index fell 987 points; and
- The FTSE/JSE All Share Index (ALSI) lost 1‚456 points.
Fortunately for all, the ANC and the government responded positively to the public outcry and President Zuma quickly reappointed a former highly respected finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, to the position, while Van Rooyen was moved to another ministry.
Gordhan moved fast to assure the general public, business sector, investors and all with an interest in South Africa that:
The government is “acutely aware of the financial impact this had on those who are invested in this economy”;
- The government understands it has a duty to continuously earn the trust and confidence of the public and is committed to doing that;
- The government “will stay the course of sound fiscal management” for which South Africa had become known 1994 until the present, and that “our expenditure ceiling is sacrosanct”;
- Without cutting expenditure on pro-poor programmes, the government would redouble its efforts to ensure efficiency of expenditure across the public service;
- It would deal responsibly with the risks posed to the country’s fiscal framework by the financial state of under-performing state-owned companies;
- Government is committed to strengthening the link between policy formulation, budgeting, and performance; and
- Working with the Reserve Bank, government will intensify and accelerate the pace of financial sector reforms, which is central to “oiling the real sector of the economy”.
Although it will be difficult to recover the losses to the economy and regain investor trust, we have every confidence that Minister Gordhan is the one man currently capable of delivering on this undertaking. And, of course, reform of the financial sector has special significance for Carrick as a business.
Many other challenges continued to prevail in South Africa in 2015 and will do so going into 2016. Although government has made great strides in providing housing, water, sanitation and electricity to the millions who never had this before, there is still much work to be done. Many municipalities are in a poor state and need to be turned around – the job Mr Gordhan was busy doing before he was called back to the National Treasury. Following student protests several weeks ago, it is clear that much more work needs to be done in the sphere of national education. Crime, unemployment and poverty levels remain unacceptably high, but good programmes and policies are in place to tackle these issues. Implementation will be the key.
South Africans also remain acutely aware of their environmental responsibilities The South African delegation that attended the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris earlier in December – which aims to limit global warming – played an important role in bringing about the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Although bad news and controversy often seemed to dominate the news on many fronts during the year, we pay tribute to all who did not succumb to despair and who continue to work hard to secure a better future for all. It is in the nature of us as South Africans to always remain positive and to find workable solutions for the worst of situations.
Very successful 1st year
In this regard our directors, associates and other staff deserve special mention. They worked exceptionally hard and sacrificed much to make Carrick’s first year in business – which we celebrated on October 8 – an outstanding success.
The company achieved more than double the initial targets it had set itself. After just one year, Carrick was operating fully compliant, regulated offices in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Harare and Mauritius, with partnering arrangements in London and elsewhere. It has a highly experienced team of 127 advisers and support staff. And, as at 30 September 2015, the company had over R1.308-billion invested funds under management on behalf of 429 new clients. Congratulations to all who made this possible, and a big thank-you to our valued clients who placed their trust and faith in us.
True grit and support
The kind of true grit required for such an achievement – displayed by all our staff under difficult external conditions – is personified by one of our own: Mike Fannin, Group Operations Director at our head office in Cape Town. Not only has he carved out a highly successful career in business, financial advice and wealth management, but he has managed to do so while also having completed some 20 gruelling triathlon endurance races, including one full and two half versions of the internationally known Ironman races.
The latter are among the toughest athletic events known to man. It is the same kind of stamina, endurance, positive mind-set, careful planning and focus required for such athletic competition that manifests itself in all who work at and with Carrick. We salute Mike and the rest of Team Carrick!
In a race like the Ironman, success also hinges on the support one receives from various helpers, coaches and attendants. In the Carrick business race we are very fortunate to receive this kind of support from our spouses, partners, families and friends, and it is with much humility and gratitude that we say to them “Thank you”! None of this would be possible without you.
Equally, none of this would be possible without the clients of Carrick entrusting their hard-earned wealth to us. As Group Managing Director of Carrick, I would like to extend our immense appreciation to these clients on behalf of my directors and all who work with me .
Operational and regulatory challenges
Of course, no business is immune to operational challenges and changes in any single year, and we certainly had our share of those too. Like any other business we have been subjected to all of the post-2008 global financial crisis traumas; the turmoil in Europe; the knock-on effects of the problems faced by emerging markets and by our major trading partners like China – coupled to falling commodity prices; and South Africa’s own economic challenges where growth has slowed to a snail’s pace.
In some instances these global and domestic events brought about regulatory changes, shifts in financial markets, and restructured product offerings. This is exactly the sea that we swim in, but because of our investment in people, our emphasis on service excellence, our pre-emptive forward-planning and our collective knowledge of the market environment, we were always able to adapt successfully where and when required.
One such area of change concerned the British tax authority’s QROPS scheme (Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes) that allows UK pensions to be transferred to other countries offering better benefits. New QROPS regulations came into effect on 6 April 2015 and had many people wondering whether this was still a viable option or whether the new, ostensibly improved UK pension rules had closed the so-called “advantage gap”.
We made the necessary adjustments, advised our clients accordingly and it’s business as usual, without any loss of the advantages offered by the scheme. For those who have a UK pension and do not plan on retiring in the UK, QROPS continues to offer many advantages and a vast range of choices, and Carrick is well suited and qualified to assist clients with those.
Investments, products and destinations
At Carrick Wealth we also constantly monitor, investigate and analyse offshore jurisdictions that offer the best investment options for our clients.
When it comes to structured notes as an alternative product that curbs risk while maximising return, we have a well-established representative office in London with extensive global linkages and sound relationships with major banking and other institutions around the world.
Over the past year we have also successfully advised many clients about the benefits of retirement trusts such as discretionary trusts or a self-administered private pension scheme, or self-invested personal pensions (SIPPS), and many other types of trusts. Trusts are widely used as a well-established way of protecting and enhancing a family’s wealth and ensuring the safe and efficient passing on of such wealth to a specified class of beneficiaries – such as a surviving spouse, or the heirs of the one setting up the trust.
Experience has taught that in some jurisdictions the ‘forced heir provision’ may apply and there may be claims against the trust. To avoid this, trusts created in offshore jurisdictions such as Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man where this provision does not apply, will ensure that the trust assets will not form part of the estate of the settlor and will not be subjected to such problems.
The bottom-line is that political risk and financial risk are two sides of the same coin that can creep up on all of us at any time. Sometimes we are caught off guard, and sometimes we simply fail to read the signs timeously or correctly. At Carrick it is our job to make sure you are not caught on the wrong foot. Therefore, our knowledge of and access to different investment products, institutions and destinations offer our clients unparalleled flexibility, growth and protection.
At Carrick we have developed the now already well-entrenched habit of looking ahead, anticipating change, planning for it and adjusting to it seamlessly when needed. While nobody can ever accurately predict the future, we believe you should be as prepared as possible for it.
From an external perspective we believe the future may also hold enormous technological advancements that will undoubtedly impact hugely on the financial services sector. We want to be well prepared for that. Regulatory changes in different jurisdictions are always possible, and we strive to keep our fingers on the pulse in that respect too. New product and investment options are constantly evolving; market conditions and systems change; and many external impacts beyond our own control are always looming. We keep a sharp eye on those.
From an internal perspective we believe we are already an established employer of choice, attracting the best financial advisers to be found anywhere, but we always strive to improve even on that. After our first year in business, our next goal is to become the biggest and best financial services group in Africa. With our strong emphasis on ethical professionalism we at Carrick continue to share a vision of the need for a marked shift in the financial landscape towards a higher level in every respect. This unreservedly includes offering our clients the best advice and service possible.
Early in January 2016 Carrick is holding its annual conference at Kievits Kroon Country Estate outside Pretoria, with the theme ‘Finding Courage’. One of the main events of the conference will be ‘The State of the Carrick Nation’ where the directors will report back to the company about the year that was and our plans for the year ahead. We will be sharing much of this with you in the new year.
But life is not only for the taking; it is also about what we can give back to those less fortunate than ourselves, and how we can connect in ways that give hope to the hopeless. It becomes an especially compelling issue at this time of the year, when the festive season with all its joys, gifts, pleasures and revelry is upon us. There are many, many people unable to share in such things.
In order for us to give back, we at Carrick established the Signature of Hope Trust, an approved non-profit organisation that coordinates our philanthropic endeavours. We hope that in the new year we can build substantially and meaningfully on the work we have done in this regard during the past year. While we are not a charity, we are a financial services business with a conscience and a desire to help those less fortunate than ourselves, where and how we can. As the year draws to an end, we would like to urge everyone to spare a thought for those in need.
I would like to encourage all whose lives we touch, and all who work at Carrick, to take some time off over the holiday period to think about how the past year panned out for them; what worked; what didn’t; and what can be done to change direction, make improvements or bring fresh energy into our lives and business. We will gladly receive your suggestions.
Finally, I would like, once again, to thank everyone involved in whatever capacity with Carrick – fellow directors, staff, clients, product and service providers, regulators, families and friends – for helping us to make 2015 such a great year. We look forward to making 2016 an even better one in every respect. I wish you all a wonderful, safe and restful festive season.
Group Managing Director