Finweek English Edition - - FRONT PAGE - BY JACO VISSER

The Sas­soon fam­ily has been in fi­nanc­ing since the 1950s, and over the past few decades the fam­ily fo­cused its Sas­fin bank on the needs of small and medium busi­nesses. CEO Roland Sas­soon spoke to about the bank’s re­cent re­sults and fu­ture plans.

Sa sf i n Hold­ings Ltd has en­trenched it­self as a pri­mary bank, mainly for its ex­ist­ing small- and medium- sized busi­ness cl i ents, by be­com­ing a trans­ac­tional banker and buy­ing an equip­ment fun­der, Fin­tech.

CEO Roland Sas­soon is a lso steer­ing t he com­pany’s move i nto as­set man­age­ment and look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties abroad. In­creas­ing its f unds un­der man­age­ment, Sasf i n’s wealth di­vi­sion has been at­tract­ing high-net-worth in­di­vid­u­als at a steady pace over the past re­port­ing pe­riod, boosted by wor­ries about the lo­cal econ­omy and a de­val­u­at­ing cur­rency.

The com­pany, started by Sas­soon’s fa­ther in the 1950s and listed on the JSE in the late 1980s, isn’t obliv­i­ous to the eco­nomic prob­lems fac­ing South Africa.

“We’re very con­cerned about this econ­omy,” Sas­soon says. “I think we’re on the brink of re­ces­sion. There is al­ready a hint of a down­rat­ing. If there is a down­rat­ing, South Africa will go into re­ces­sion.”

At the be­gin­ning of Septem­ber, Fitch, t he credit rat­ing com­pany, warned that the risks for a down­grade of SA’s sov­er­eign credit was in­creas­ing. Fitch kept SA’s rat­ing at BBB, still in­vest­ment qual­ity, with a neg­a­tive out­look in June.

The rand’s rapid de­val­u­a­tion against ma­jor world cur­ren­cies over the past few months has prompted many lo­cal in­vestors to shift their wealth into off­shore as­sets.

Sas s o on doesn’t be l i e v e t hat com­mod­ity prices would move up­wards in the next cou­ple of years. SA re­lies on the ex­port of min­eral re­sources for about half its for­eign-ex­change earn­ings.

“We are now look­ing to see what we can do to do things in other ge­o­graphic ar­eas,” Sas­soon says.

“We’re work­ing on t hat at t he mo­ment. It’s quite dif­fi­cult for a bank to lend money to a client who is in a dif­fer­ent ge­og­ra­phy. We’ve got a few ideas to do that.”

Sasf i n’s wealth di­vi­sion, which started i n t he 1990s by ac­quir­ing bro­ker­age f irm Frankel Pol­lak, has in­creased its fo­cus on man­ag­ing wealth rather than be­ing solely a bro­ker­age. The di­vi­sion was started in a bid to at­tract de­pos­i­tors as Sas­fin lends money

CEO of Sas­fin

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