Monday, September 21, 2020

Alexander Forbes adds asset consulting division despite skills shortage

After four years of planning, Alexander Forbes Botswana will have a division responsible for asset consulting, despite lack of key skills in the field.

Paul Masie, Chief Executive Officer of Alexander Forbes Botswana Group Holdings told Sunday Standard that over the years his company has been known by the pension fund administration side of things.

“It is not like we decided today; we are seeing the end result of a decision taken four years ago”, Masie said.

The asset consulting division will be headed by Ati Mannathoko who recently returned from the Alexander Forbes Sandton base where he learnt the ropes.

“He (Mannathoko) is the first real asset management consultant in Botswana”, he added.
The company, which operates across the continent, has in the past made headlines over claims of conflict of interest.

The market perceived it to be a referee and a player in that it was seen as an asset manager although it provided financial advisory roles to clients rather than consultants.
Masie came to its defence again.

“It is a misconception. I do not think there is a conflict of interest”, he said likening the situation to a specialist doctor.

The asset consulting division comes at a time when the industry is plagued by skills shortage, which meant that other projects that Alexander Forbes could roll out are put on hold.

Mannathoko spent some time in South Africa learning more about the field, although Masie conceded that they failed on the actuarial front.

“There are many divisions we can set up in Botswana, but skills shortage remains a challenge”, added Masie.

As asset consultants, Alexander Forbes will assist institutional investors to understand the investment processes and conduct manager research and selection.

However, it will not give advice on security selection, which is outsourced to asset managers.

Alexander Forbes came to Botswana 15 years ago (after acquiring Africa Risk Services) with an overdraft account, but now it makes P50 million topline revenue with 84 percent of that money going to the local market and shareholders.

The group (Alexander Forbes Afrinet) has 11 other operations in the continent and Botswana is said to be the second largest in the portfolio.
Afrinet excludes South Africa.

In Botswana, the company has been providing services in Risk and Insurance, Financial Services and now it has moved to Asset Consulting.

Across the continent, it consults for 120 institutional clients and administers over P120 billion.
Some of its local clients include the multi billion Pula Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF), Barclays Bank of Botswana and Bank of Botswana.

The financial solutions firm also conducts research on Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), hedge funds, real estate, commodities and private equity, on top of conventional research on equities.
The company de-listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) in 2008 following a P8 billion take over by a private equity fund, Actis.

Alexander Forbes Botswana currently employs 100 people, with 6 of them being non Batswana..

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Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.