Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
As the director responsible for the advancement of Franklin Templeton Investments in Africa, my primary responsibility is the promotion and distribution of our dynamic fund range in sub-Saharan Africa.
As a dedicated and highly reputable international fund management firm, with 60 years of experience, we are only as strong as our relationship with clients and distributors globally. We have a dedicated staff complement, providing client services, sales and portfolio management support.
My responsibilities include the general management of the office and staff, which underpin our credible profile in South Africa and other regional markets.
I am a firm believer in a quote from Benjamin Franklin, which reads "Well done is better than well said", which guides my hands-on approach to the business, actively working with colleagues to overcome new challenges and advance our team spirit.
I have always been fascinated by the socio-economic philosophies and developments globally. After a fantastic experience as a Rotary Exchange student, in the US, I returned to complete a BA (Honours) degree which focused on development economics and was fortunate to be selected to pursue my ambition to become a diplomat for South Africa. Based on my education and interest, I worked with the initial allocation of donor funds to South Africa, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and selected UN committees, participating in two General Assembly sessions in New York, including Nelson Mandela's first official address to the United Nations.
After serving in government for five years I was approached by the Norwegian Embassy to work with their trade division to establish a venture capital fund, encouraging a skills transfer and investment in South Africa. This position ultimately provided me with the understanding of what truly drives a successful business: determination, discipline and passion.
I have always been intrigued by our continent and when an opportunity at Standard Corporate Merchant Bank: Asset Management (now STANLIB) was offered to me I took it up. As general manager, I was involved at a strategic and operational level, launching local funds and building local teams.
In October 2006, I assumed my position at Franklin Templeton, which effectively provides me with an opportunity to implement my experiences and those of my colleagues in building on the achievements of my predecessors. My current position provides me with daily macro socio-economic perspectives and hence the position also drives my hunger for knowledge.
One of the challenge that I faced was the need to activate our profile in the South African market. Aside from providing investors with access to offshore unit trust funds, we have a vast array of services and structured solutions. While the market was aware of our firm, it is imperative that we are seen as a "value adding" investment house. I focused on firstly improving our sales capacity, by appointing additional staff. As a team we then segmented the market and actively set about enhancing relationships and appointing new distributors for our funds. I cannot say that this has been achieved as I believe that this is a perpetual process, whereby we assess and advance all working relationships.
The second challenge that I faced was the need to advance our fund range in South Africa. Internationally we have a large array of funds, but we only had 20 of these registered with the Financial Services Board in South Africa. In line with the basic tenant of the need to diversify investment portfolios and to provide investors with the best possible choice of funds, we had to expand our range. Through productive consultation with the FSB we were able to register an additional 20 funds last year. We intend to register more during the remainder of this year.
"Our business, like other businesses, will continue to face new challenges, which ultimately improves our performance and understanding of the dynamic nature of financial markets. Our key challenge in the short-term is to actively advance the need for investment diversification, as investors on our continent have most of their assets exposed to their particular domestic markets. Offshore diversification is critical for all investors, whether you reside in Africa or Europe. Effectively protecting one's savings and capital from market and currency risk will ensure better returns during one's life time.
The various skills required for this job are contingent on the particular position. If one were to assume a sales position within our firm, the applicant would need to show a technical understanding of unit trusts, the financial markets and the distribution structure within South Africa. A key skill required is a strong analytical ability and client service orientation.
We are part of a global community and if you are not prepared to travel these days, you exclude yourself from opportunities. I travel a fair amount and enjoy meeting with clients and colleagues around the world. Electronic mediums are designed to facilitate communication not control communication. I still believe in personal contact and showing your clients that you are prepared to incur the time and expenses to meet with them.
My typical day starts at 8am; I typically catch up briefly with relevant staff on deadlines and new initiatives and then reply to e-mails. From about 11am I engage in update calls with our regional office in Dubai and other international calls within our time zone. Clearly if there are client meetings arranged for the day they take precedence over all other tasks. In the afternoon, I normally focus on strategic projects. In the late afternoon I am normally involved on conference calls from our portfolio managers or with colleagues at our head office in the US. I normally leave the office by 7pm after reviewing my calendar for the next day.
Work ultimately defines our careers and lifestyles and one should not view the time allocation from the perspective of "when does the day end" but rather from "how much can achieve in the limited working hours available each day".
Because of the global nature of our firm we always have staff working on projects and client queries 24 hours a day, which ensures faster turnaround times.
Keeping abreast of developments in the industry is key. In addition to regular interaction with clients, I also use newspapers, dedicated financial television channels and business updates on local radio stations.
The real skill with regards to information management is to identify those sources which provide reliable and credible information which is relevant for the market. Information is also collated through commentaries provided by our portfolio managers located in 30 offices around the world. - King is regional head for Africa at Franklin Templeton Investments