Johannesburg - Transforming South Africa's financial sector
to increase black participation has to start with educating children in maths
and science, Investec [JSE:INL] CEO Stephen Koseff told the Black Management
Forum (BMF) on Friday.
"There is a dramatic shortage of skills in the hard
sciences in this country and, unless we sort this out, we are going to continue
to have this problem in the long-term," Koseff said in Johannesburg at a
BMF breakfast focusing on the financial sector.
The audience comprised many of South Africa's top black
"It's going to take a long time to repair the ills of
our society, but our target is to develop skills."
Direct ownership of banks and financial institutions was not
as simple as making shares available, he said.
These shares had to be funded, which had already happened,
as part of the agreement of the financial sector charter - a transformation
charter in terms of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act.
This could not happen again as investors would lose interest
in South Africa if they had to continually fund equity deals, he said.
"I was one of the founders of Investec, but I (only)
own 0.8% of the shares. The majority of shares are owned by foreign investors,
pension funds, or asset management companies."
Koseff related stories of international entrepreneurs who
had started small and worked, over decades, to build international empires.
What the country needed, he said, were entrepreneurs who
started small business, and to do this they needed skills.
"Education in the hard sciences is where we have to
The global competitiveness of South Africa's banking sector
was rated second in the world, which was in stark contrast to developed
countries in Europe needing bailouts.
"Banks need to be owned by people who can help out in a
crisis," he said.
In Europe and the United States, for instance, shareholders
were not strong and had needed government bailouts.
"And when governments can't do this the whole of
society suffers. At the end of this month there is a good chance civil servants
in Greece won't be paid because there is no money."
That was a direct result of a weak banking sector.
As a society South Africa needed to ask how it could get children,
especially black children, into maths and science so they could flow into
"hard science" careers where there were dramatic skills shortages.
Responding to BMF deputy president Tembakazi Mnyaka, who in
her introduction said there was window dressing in South Africa's financial
sector and not enough black people in core areas like risk and credit, Koseff
said: "We need black skills."
Of the 34 000 qualified Chartered Accountants in South
Africa 27 000 were white, 3 000 were Indian, 2 200 were black, and 900
Black risk managers existed, but they were "like
gold", he said, poached quickly between firms for huge salaries or running
their own businesses.
"Investec trains people and they leave, and we are
happy to do this because they are part of our alumni. They go into other
businesses with Investec on their CVs. It's something that's happening across
the financial sector," he said.