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By 13 September 2018 | Categories: interviews

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South Africans are notoriously bad at saving money, with a recent report indicating that we are big on borrowing and terrible at investing. But can technology, and renewed interest in emerging trends like cryptocurrency, change this culture? Mpho Ledwaba, head of marketing at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) believes so.

He further elaborated on the role the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) have to play in a country where the development of new, small and medium businesses is paramount.

Ledwaba explained that this is actually the fourth year the JSE has been involved in LeaderEx,  held last week in Sandton. This, he elaborated, is due to the fact that LeaderEx and the JSE were both involved in encouraging entrepreneurship and the cultivation of business in the country.

“Most importantly our objective is to get as many people to understand the relevance and role the JSE plays. We also wanted to encourage individuals to take charge of their investment portfolios and invest in the stock market. As well, a focus of ours is educating those involved in business, to understand the role the JSE can play in raising capital and growing their businesses,” he elaborated.

Dispelling misconceptions

Admittedly, if you think about the JSE, the first thought that comes to mind is that it caters mostly to those who have money to spend. And yet, the reach of the stock exchange is actually far broader, starting with students in high school and university and helping them understand the fundamentals of investing, mainly through an online game they can play that simulates making an investment. It then reaches to young professionals and onwards to business owners.

For the former, the aim is to help professionals gain an understanding of how to start investing and take charge of their financial futures, while for the latter, it is mainly on educating them how the JSE can assist in raising capital to grow their businesses.

“Essentially we are exploring how to change the investment culture in the country, while showing people that there is access to the market, that it is not as expensive as they might think,” he continued.

Putting the future first

Of course, the question arises: how can individuals put money aside when petrol costs are rising, and with them food prices, and it becomes more difficult to make ends meet from one month to the next?

While Ledwaba acknowledged that these are all valid concerns, with the most recent speculation being that we may be on the road to costing R2000 to fill up your car - Ledwaba challenges the doom and gloom outlook. “Should we then say we are not going to think about tomorrow because of the petrol price or should we rather take charge and look for opportunities to use that extra cash that would have gone into a cup of coffee could be invested into my future?” he noted.  

“Definitely there are some challenges in the economy, but there is also positive movement by those who know they need to break out of the cycle of poverty and rather look at investing in something that will help them in the future,” he continued.

Carry on carrying on

This is not a pie in the sky outlook. Twenty metres from where the event was taking place, construction could be seen and heard. This, pointed out Ledwaba, indicates that despite the tough economy, new buildings are being built - Sandton has plenty construction projections at present - a good sign that the economy is still grinding on despite the bad news.

What role then does technology play in the financial space? Considerably more so than it did in the past. Beyond the obvious developments - Blockchain and cryptocurrencies - there are interesting products coming out that leverage artificial intelligence. A prime example of this are robo-advisory portals, which can take in users financial data, and offer instant advice based on machine-learning as to how best to invest one’s money to reach self defined goals.

Can you hear us now?

As well, the JSE is leveraging available technology to reach a wider audience. “Previously, we  had engaged people by taking them into a classroom, and teaching them what is a share, what is a stock market and we were reaching very low numbers. With the use of technology, particularly webinars and gamification, we are now reaching thousands,” he enthused.

As well, technology platforms have enables prospective investors to try out investing on a virtual portfolio online using virtual money, with no risk to themselves, but rather enabling them to learn the signals of when to buy and when to sell. This, noted Ledwaba, gives people confidence so that when they do open an account with a stockbroker they have an understanding of how things work.

While it may be all too easy to become disheartened by the recent economic news that South Africa is in a technical recession, it was particularly encouraging to see that there is a considerable amount of business owners, and new entrepreneurs in South Africa, judging by the packed, and often overflowing sessions. Increasingly, the country is looking like Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky, the underdog that, despite being knocked down time and again, just won’t stay down for the count. Using that analogy, perhaps the JSE is the coach in the corner.

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