Representatives of the asset management industry in South Africa gathered in Stellenbosch this week for the inaugural investment seminar hosted by global asset management firm Schroders in collaboration with the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at Stellenbosch University (SU).
Covering topics such as "Recent trends and what the future holds", "Portfolio construction and return drivers – a good kick in the assets", "Is smart beta really smart? A better way of managing beta exposures" and "The challenges facing defined benefit schemes", representatives of Schroders Investment Management shared their presentations with industry representatives on Tuesday 5 April and postgraduate students on Wednesday 6 April.
Prof Willie Conradie, chair of the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, said that it had been a privilege and immensely valuable to listen to the different speakers and benefit from their knowledge and experience.
"Asset managers at Schroders base their investment decisions on advanced theoretical research that isn't common practice yet in South Africa. This type of interaction with international asset managers has the potential to greatly influence the asset management practice in South Africa in a very positive way."
This seminar is one of the initiatives flowing from an agreement between SU and Schroders' Multi-asset Investments and Portfolio Solutions (MAPS) division. The agreement also comprises postgraduate bursaries and research collaboration.
MAPS's head Stellenbosch alumnus Dr Nico Marais played a pivotal part in this agreement. He met with university representatives last year and was immediately receptive to the idea of collaborating with his alma mater, also drawing in his company and other connections. He was also one of the speakers at this week's event.
The inaugural seminar was opened by Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-chancellor of SU. He welcomed everyone and said that the level of interest in this initiative indicates that there is a definite need for collaborations of this nature, bringing academia and the private sector together in the public interest.
Prof De Villiers explained that universities worldwide are being faced with financial challenges.
"A major reason for this is the on-going fiscal restraints that are applied to higher education by national governments. Coupled with this, corporate and donor contributions started shrinking in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2007/8.
"The unfortunate consequence is that at exactly the moment when extreme pressure is experienced to broaden access to higher education, the funds to achieve exactly that seem to be lacking."
That is why he particularly welcomed the financial assistance in the form of 40 postgraduate bursaries for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
"This initiative will also contribute enormously to the expansion of the research capacity in and the research output of our Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, which is the only university department in the country combining the three major disciplines in this field – Statistics, Actuarial Science and Financial Risk Management – in a single department. This creates unique opportunities for multidisciplinary research with real-world applications."
He went further to say that the challenge of funding offers opportunities in that it pushes the institution towards partnerships with parties whose missions coincide with that of the University.
"Our partnership with Schroders is a case in point. It brings together industry and academic experts to collaborate on research that both expands academic knowledge and enhances the delivery of investment outcomes by investment professionals. It is amazing to be part of such a forward-thinking initiative. We are excited about the potential and trust that this is merely the beginning of a long term partnership with Schroders."
Schroders has been in business for more than 200 years, manages assets of approximately $461.1 billion, employs over 3700 people and has offices in 28 different companies. Gavin Ralston, Head of Official Institutions at Schroders, explained that they regard this type of partnership as being very important to them as representatives of a successful business in the private sector.
"We want to support the education of the next generation of South African students and we're very proud of this partnership," he added.
What the agreement between Schroders and SU entails:
Schroders, Lombard Insurance Company (a UK-based gobal insurance company and one of Schroder's strategic partners) as well as individual contributors will:
- Provide 40 full postgraduate bursaries over a two year period in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science as well as in the wider Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, with preference being given to students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds;
- Offer twenty R20 000 awards for the best research proposals in finance;
- Support joint research projects on new topics as well as further research on existing MAPS papers;
- Establish an investment forum for students aimed at debating trends in investment management and;
- Fund a yearly high-profile investment seminar featuring international experts.
More about Schroders:
Schroders has developed under stable ownership for over 200 years and long-term thinking governs their approach to investing, building client relationships and growing our business. They manage £313.5 billion (US$462.1 billion) on behalf of institutional and retail investors, financial institutions and high net worth clients from around the world. They employ over 3,700 people worldwide operating from 38 offices in 28 different countries across Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. They also have a relatively recent presence in South Africa and manages assets to the value of R8 billion for South African clients.
Mr David King (Schroders), Dr John McLauglin (Schroders), Prof Wim De Villiers (SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor), Dr Nico Marais (Schroders; Head of MAPS), Prof Niel Krige (Chairperson of the SU Development Office), Mr Matthias Schreiber (Schroders), Prof Willie Conradie (Head: Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science) and Dr Kevin Kneafsey (Schroders). Fotograaf: Anton Jordaan