Group Managing Director Joleen John looks back on her first year at the helm of Masthead – and she shares how the company will assist FSPs and clients in the coming years.
One of the first things I noticed after joining Masthead in March last year was how passionate everyone in the company is about compliance. It’s infectious. This desire to help clients run resilient, sustainable businesses is one of the main reasons why Masthead continues to be a leading brand of quality in the industry.
It’s also why I wanted to join the group. I believe that if people are given the right financial advice – if they are treated fairly and sold products that will help them look after themselves in retirement or in times of need – we can address our country’s poor savings culture. In addition, good financial advice can help South Africans break free of the intergenerational cycle where they can’t accumulate their own wealth because they’re sandwiched between two financially dependent generations.
And I speak from personal experience: my family, like many others, have suffered financial loss because of bad advice – but we’ve also benefitted from the right advice at the right time. My father, who ran a successful warehousing and transport business, was given improper advice, and he lost a lot of money because of it. On the other hand, when I joined the workforce in my 20s, my advisor recommended that I take out medical aid for my parents while they were still young enough to get cover. If I had not followed his advice, my parents would have had to rely on the public health care system, and they may not have been here today.
Rules that regulate the financial services industry are necessary – financial advisors have a responsibility to treat their customers fairly and offer them the best possible outcomes. That said, the regulatory landscape is complicated and ever-changing, and financial advisors have a million things coming at them at once. Aspiring advisors who want to get into the industry face many barriers and building up a client book remains difficult. Thankfully, the majority of advisor firms remain strongly entrepreneurial and independent. This bodes well for the end customer who benefits greatly from the independent advice offered by these firms.
In the last year, we took these issues into account and implemented several changes at Masthead to better help our customers through these challenging times. We re-engineered processes, increased staff and restructured the business – all to better assist our members and clients. And we managed to grow the business and our bottom line despite tough economic times.
Another top highlight for me in the last year was the launch of Masthead’s employee wellness programme, Sinani, which means we are with you in isiXhosa and isiZulu. This endeavour aims to provide all Masthead employees with services that are beneficial to their health, wellness and success. We want to make it lekker to work at Masthead, and this, in turn, means our people are mentally and emotionally motivated to get the job done.
Looking ahead, our focus will be on helping FSPs – as well as other affected businesses – adapt to the new rules and regulations that will come into effect soon. The changing regulatory environment is a major concern in advisors’ lives, but Masthead is gearing up to stay ahead of the curve in terms of how we’ll help our members successfully navigate these regulatory changes. Our aim is to help our members and clients remain resilient throughout this process.
We have been proactive in our approach to the COFI bill and the outcomes-based approach needed. We see this change as a growth opportunity, and we’re not shying away from making bold decisions. Going forward, we’re re-engineering our systems and approach to align accordingly.
After the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services (FAIS) Act was introduced in 2004, Masthead helped financial advisors transition through this change successfully, and we believe we are ideally suited to see you through this next chapter in the regulatory landscape.
We strive to be a vital resource to independent financial advisors (IFAs), and by using our services, IFAs can rest assured that they are in expert hands as we’ve read, understood, interpreted and implemented solutions regarding all regulatory matters for your business and retrofitted it to your needs.
And going forward, the Masthead team will continue to be highly motivated to adapt our approach to an IFA’s needs while remaining true to our company’s purpose. It’s this approach to entrepreneurial thinking that allows us to unlock our full potential and ensure that IFAs get the best customer service from us.
I want to thank the incredible team at Masthead for a wonderful first year and I look forward to sharing many more milestones with you.