How a humble stock got me started on the JSE
OUR SPECIAL EDITION on ranking the stockbrokers got me thinking about how much this noble vocation has changed over the decades.
I have been dealing with stockbrokers since the late 1980s. When I left Business
Day after a short stint (I did not enjoy Johannesburg) to join the old Argus in Cape Town, I cashed out my pension fund (all R1,038 of it) and took it to a small brokerage in central Cape Town.
I recall the stockbroker — who was not keen on dealing with such a princely sum — urging me to put the money in a 32-day notice account or unit trust. But I persisted, and became the proud owner of 967 shares in small industrial services counter Toco Holdings.
In those days you would receive a real share certificate — the Toco paper emblazoned with the company’s logo, a snorting bull. Share certificates (and I still have a few for framing) were so damned tangible — almost like holding a Krugerrand. They were posted to you, or you had to fetch them from the broker’s office. And scrip dividends, especially when you received four or five new shares, did not seem worth the administrative and production effort.
I bailed out of Toco at roughly three times my original purchase price in the mid-1990s — just as well, because things at the company turned rather nasty in subsequent years.
The point is, that small Toco investment gave me the momentum I needed to start investing on the JSE.
I think BoE Corp — the holding company for specialist bank Board of Executors — was my second investment on the JSE. I also flitted out of BoE before it got bogged down in its grand financial services ambitions.
Perhaps I should have quit while I was ahead. But after two successful investments you become a Master of the Investment Universe.
Dalliances on such colourful mining counters as Gazankulu Gold Holdings, Weswits, Consolidated Mining Corp and Griqualand Exploration & Finance Co brought me back to earth with a bump.
Then there were the missed chances. If only I had heeded the advice of the stockbroker who tipped me off about Jannie Mouton’s tilt at PAG Holdings in 2005. The shares were 30c — yes, 30c!
Overall I’ve probably been done more for my stockbroker in terms of brokerage (take a bow, Mr Sylvester) than I have for my returns. Otherwise why else would I be clinging to my day job (which, for the record, I still enjoy immensely)?
But let’s just say I still optimistically dabble in the stock market and can celebrate the fact that these days stockbroking is a far friendlier exercise for the ordinary investor. Slick online platforms are in abundance, and cost-effective fractional share ownership initiatives like Easy Equities allow everyone to leverage the JSE’s power.
Change, I think, has been for the good. ■■IM