SASFIN EYES OPPORTUNITIES ABROAD
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