Call for better scrutiny over company finances

Isaac Moledi

Isaac Moledi

PSG Konsult, the country's leading independent financial planning and stockbroking company, has called for a more in-depth look at the management and financial statements of companies to prevent future incidents such as the one being experienced at Fidentia.

Fidentia Asset Management, the fledgling financial services company based in Cape Town, was placed under curatorship after the Financial Services Board's investigation into Fidentia Holdings could not account for R689million of the R1,2billion in Living Hands, the sole trustee of the Living Hands Umbrella Trust (LHUT).

The trust pays out benefits to widows and orphans of deceased members.

Speaking at the PSG Konsult yearly conference at Sun City last week, chief executive Willem Theron said the financial services sector did not need more regulations, but should act faster when problems arise.

He said more regulations would not have prevented problems at Fidentia, but a more finely tuned and speedier reaction would have.

He said compliance with Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services (FAIS) legislation is generally on track, especially with regard to companies that have been regulating themselves for some time.

But there are still people who do not act according to the spirit of the legislation, he said.

"The public must make sure to deal only with FAIS-registered and authorised institutions. This would help prevent Fidentia-type situations," Theron said.

One of the important issues on the agenda of the financial services sector this year is the question of regulated commissions as opposed to fees as compensation for services rendered by financial brokers to the public.

PSG Konsult says that irrespective of commissions or fees, the client should decide whether he or she is comfortable with the amount that has to be paid.

The focus should rather be on service delivery and the value added to the client's financial wellbeing.

For this, full disclosure of costs to the client is of the utmost importance.

Meanwhile, the Cape high court last week issued an order that effectively removed the Living Hands Umbrella Trust from the control of the embattled Fidentia.

Fidentia took full control of the Living Hands Umbrella Trust after it bought into Living Hands for R93million in cash in October 2004.

The majority of the cash that disappeared from Fidentia Holdings came from LHUT, of which the Mineworkers Provident Fund (MPF) is the single biggest source.

The order directs that Living Hands Umbrella Trust grant the MPF and its legal and audit advisers immediate access to all books, records and documents in their possession relating to the flow of funds into and out of LHUT.