In this post we are changing our usual coverage of this blog to touch on something controversial that is important to any manner of business in South Africa - be it financial or otherwise - overregulation. South Africa has steadily slipped in the Ease of Doing Business rankings according to the world bank from number 32 in 2008 worldwide to number 82 worldwide in 2018 out of 190 economies. More information and how this ranking is achieved can be viewed here.
What is also telling is when you delve in the the ranking for starting a new business where we rank number 134 out of 190 economies. South Africa is defined globally as a developing nation and according to the World Economic Forum we've slipped in our competitiveness ranking as well. Also our GDP growth has also seen a decidedly negative trend over the last 20 odd years if one looks at the graph below taken from Statistics South Africa as a Source.
I would still like to do an in-depth study on the number of laws and regulations that South Africa has enacted over this period but - just looking at Financial Regulation - I think it is trite that legislation and regulation has increased exponentially in our country. Because some legislators are lazy or just incompetent most of our financial regulation is copied from those overseas in developed countries like the UK. The fact of the matter is their legislation does not apply to ours very well. They have mature economies where a large middle class ensures stability who understands the regulations and can comply with their requirements. In South Africa we have the unlucky position of being somewhere between a developed and developing nation. Which evidently means we have all the laws that apply to western first world nations but with a population that is largely uneducated. With only 13.9% of our population that have a post high school education and only 29.2% of our population has Matric/Grade 12 it does not paint a good picture.
The difficult regulatory environment creates a timebomb where smaller businesses are forced to close down or sell due to the difficulty and cost of compliance in bad economic times. The only winners - big businesses such as insurers and other product providers since they then easily lap up the clients and collect the commission that the broker actually earned by providing the service. Since 2004 when the FAIS Act was implemented to 2018 the number of FSP's have gone from 14529 in 2008 to 11 075 in 2018. That's a 23.77% decline in the number of Financial Services Providers. I acknowledge that some might have closed due to reasons not related to my concerns but it does not detract that there is a large negative trend in that more FSP's close than are opened. A negative mortality rate.
I have not conducted a formal study and done a sample of a large population (although I am seriously considering doing so) but many a financial services business has lamented that enormous compliance requirements expected of a medium to small brokerage that does not seem commensurate to their size of business. Even larger businesses are complaining at the amount and cost of implementing some of the compliance rules. For example - an FSP of any size needs to have an emergency evacuation plan on paper which means a person operating from his house needs a cumbersome document stating how he is going to run from his home office to his front door. I oversimplify but you get the just of some of the ridiculous intended consequences one faces with this.
Because of the increasing amount of compliance it also seems like the regulator has not planned for the increase in man hours it will take for them to review this. Their service level agreement for the turnaround time for license applications ins 3 months for a Cat 2 FSP. It recently took us 9 months to cat a Cat 2 license for one of our clients.
Being a Compliance Officer myself that worked within a regulator, a global bank and other institutions - not to mention working with our own clients - I have seen many things in the regulatory space. One of the questions in my mind since my very first days in compliance has been "Do our regulations make sense or not? Are they detrimental to the economy as a whole or do they uplift the economy? Do the people who know and oversee our regulations know what they are doing or not?"
I am 100% for regulations that have been designed with due forethought and quantitative impact studies that ultimately support the growth of the economy. They are necessary and will keep our country competing with other nations.
Unfortunately I witnessed many occasions where regulation is currently designed by persons that spent none to little time in any financial services business. Usually the focus is only on protecting the public but not protecting the industry and the well-being of the industry as well as the broader economy. We need regulators that are pro-business and pro customer. One cannot exist without the other after all.
There is certainly a role for regulation, but regulation should always take into account the impact that it has on markets, a balance that must be constantly weighed.
by: Horizon Compliance team