The Raging Bull Awards market themselves as the ‘Oscars of the unit trust industry’. They are meant to recognise “the top performers across a range of sectors” by highlighting the funds and asset managers that have delivered industry-leading returns for clients.
The single standard on which this idea is based is excellence. Funds in each category with the highest return over the past three years, or the best risk-adjusted return over the last five years, win awards.
The Raging Bulls also recognise the top-performing asset managers. Those firms with the best overall performance across their suite of funds are in line to be named the asset manager of the year.
Which is why the announcement at the awards ceremony on Wednesday that there would be a special award for the ‘black asset manager of the year’ was met with many a creased brow. This was not just because the award was not on the programme. Many in the audience were left wondering how an award limited to asset managers of a certain race fits with the purpose of the Raging Bulls.
Independent Media’s Personal Finance publication, which hosts the awards, explained that the idea for the award came from chairman Iqbal Survé “as a way of recognising black-owned management companies, with the aim of promoting diversity and transformation in the investment industry. The award should have been included on the programme, but was accidentally omitted.”
The inaugural award was in fact made last year to Vunani Fund Managers. However, this award did not appear on the Raging Bulls’ official website, nor did it appear on the full list of winners sent to Moneyweb last year.
These may all be mistaken omissions, but there is a real lack of clarity as to why it exists. Why are black managers being viewed separately?
To be eligible, Personal Finance explained, firms had to be 51% black-owned as defined by the BEE.conomics survey published by 27Four Investment Managers. This survey provides an annual review of the state of transformation of the industry.
However, the overwhelming consensus among the asset managers Moneyweb spoke to at the awards is that carving out an award for black managers is questionable. The primary concern is that it implies that black managers are unable to compete with everybody else, and so they need a special category where they can compete.
This is clearly in nobody’s best interest. The way for black asset managers to get the recognition that many of them fully deserve is for them to compete with, and outperform, their peers. And there is no question that this is happening.
Kagiso Asset Management, which won the award, had already received two category awards. The Kagiso Stable Fund was the top-performing South African multi-asset low equity fund over the past three years, and the Kagiso Protector Fund was the top-performing South African multi-asset medium equity fund.
Over the last three years, there have also been a number of other black-owned firms that have won categories at the Raging Bulls. Mazi Capital and 27Four have been repeat winners, while Oasis Asset Management and Pan African Asset Management have also featured.
There is therefore obviously no need for these managers to be measured only against each other. While any kind of recognition is hard to disregard, and it may help investors who are specifically looking for empowered managers, it’s not the goal of these companies to be the best black manager in the country. Rather, they aim to be the best managers of any kind.
“We are honoured to receive the black manager of the year award along with the awards for the Kagiso Protector Fund and the Kagiso Stable Fund,” Kagiso told Moneyweb. “We aspire to win the Raging Bull South African manager of the year award which recognises the best manager overall. For some investors, it may be important to invest in a top performing asset manager who also has a Level 1 BBEEE accreditation.”
An argument might be made that giving recognition to black asset managers may also give them more leverage when it comes to retaining talent, which has been a challenge for many of them. However, it’s debatable whether this award will really hold much attraction.
“It just makes no sense,” says Fatima Vawda, MD of 27Four and one of the most prominent advocates for transformation in the asset management industry. “Excellence has no colour. Who wants to be winning an award based on race?”
She argues that this is particularly the case since the Raging Bull Awards are an industry-wide initiative. They are not run by an organisation purely focused on black business. This makes them very different to the Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals (ABSIP) Financial Services Sector Awards, for instance, which are specifically targeted towards recognising firms for their transformational achievements.
To use the Raging Bulls’ own analogy, it would be bizarre if the Oscars introduced an award for the best black picture of the year or the best black director. Despite the problems Hollywood has had and the pressures it has faced to be more inclusive, separating awards based on race would be counterproductive.
Black asset managers and black filmmakers alike don’t want recognition because they are black. They want recognition because they are good.
And as Vawda points out, transformation in the industry will not be achieved purely by growing new black managers. It has to be on a much larger scale than that.
“Meaningful transformation is not only about creating independents that are black-owned but about normalisation across the industry where every participant reflects the demographic composition of our country,” she says. “Transformation is also not only about being transformed but about being transformative, meaning that the products and services we introduce to the consumer promote financial inclusivity, something that has been missing in our savings and investments industry. So rather have an award category for a product that has demonstrated its appropriateness for meeting the savings needs of the majority of black South Africans.”