Kondi Nkosi, country head at Schroders in South Africa.
Schroders Global Investor Study 2022
Discourse around issues such as climate change and social justice is driving fundamental change in the investment landscape both locally and abroad. New research shows that in South Africa, investors are focused on allocating to funds that meet their personal needs and principles. For these investors, engaging with the companies they invest in on issues around sustainability – as an environmental and social imperative – is of critical importance.
This was one of the key findings of Schroder’s flagship 2022 Global Investor Study (GIS), which surveyed over 23,000 investors from 33 locations globally, including South Africa.
The study segmented the respondents into several categories including age, employment status, education as well as their investment knowledge, which ranged from ‘rudimentary’ to ‘expert/advanced.’
Values and principles are drivers of investment decisions – especially amongst young investors
According to the study, South African investors across all knowledge groups stated that their personal principles are ‘very important’ determinants of their investment decisions, although this sentiment was shared most prominently by ‘expert/advanced investors’ (41%).
These ‘expert/advanced’ investors were also the most likely to feel that as shareholders, they should have the power to influence the companies held in their funds (88%).
Of particular interest was the study’s finding that in South Africa, the importance placed on values and principles by investors decreases with age, with young people (between the ages of 18 – 37) being the major proponents of this mindset (66%).
This finding is the exact inverse of the case in other global countries where older investors (71+ years of age) are more likely to place emphasis on values and principles and in general, this emphasis increases with age.
“We were encouraged by the prospect that South Africa’s young and emerging group of investors are thinking about how their financial decisions should align with their personal values,” says Kondi Nkosi, country head at Schroders in South Africa. “
Sustainability at the forefront of investors’ minds
In terms of the importance of aspects that investors should engage with companies on, climate issues are seen as the most important engagement priority (37%). There was also a particular focus on how companies are contributing to the United Nation’s net zero target as well as issues such as physical risks, decarbonisation and renewables.
At 23%, two topical issues tied for second place on the priority lists of South African investors. These were natural capital and biodiversity (which concerns issues such as deforestation, pollution and chemicals, waste and the circular economy), and human capital management (which concerns health and safety, employee wellbeing, compensation and benefits, and company culture).
“This finding points to the encouraging prospect that South African investors are cognisant of both the ‘planet’ aspect of sustainability as well as the ‘people’ aspect. To this end, almost 70% of South African investors across all categories agree that investment can drive progress in sustainability challenges such as climate change,” says Nkosi.
Options for engagement issues included climate issues, natural capital and biodiversity, human capital management, inclusion and diversity, human rights and governance and oversight.
Knowledge is power
However, despite these positive intensions, a gap remains in terms of investors who feel genuinely empowered to make the right investment decisions for their future. Some 77% of ‘expert/advanced’ investors feel they have sufficient knowledge to feel confident in making investment decisions for their financial future, while less than 40% of ‘rudimentary/beginner’ investors feel knowledgeable enough to do so.
This highlights the need for better financial literacy and education, and as most South African investors (71%) believe, financial providers should be responsible for ensuring that people have sufficient knowledge on personal financial matters. After financial providers, educational institutions and schools were deemed responsible by respondents for providing this level of education, followed by governmental departments and regulators.
Furthermore, although South African investors are eager to engage with companies around issues of sustainability, almost 60% stated that a lack of transparent and reported data from providers about the impact of sustainable investments, serves as a barrier to increasing their sustainable investments. Similarly, over half (53%) stated that a significant barrier is posed by the lack of clear, agreed definitions on what sustainable investment is.
Nkosi concludes that, “in order for investors to be able to hold companies accountable in terms of their processes and protocols around being more sustainable, they need to have access to education on poignant topics like environmental conservation and worker wellbeing. We regard ourselves as being integral role-players in this regard and we are committed to engaging in and stimulating discussion around these important issues.”