Meet the Manager – Vanessa Mathebula
In this edition of STANDPOINT, we meet Vanessa Mathebula. Vanessa is a quantitative analyst in the Index Investments team at STANLIB, which she joined four months ago from Prescient Investment Management. Vanessa is not only skilled with numbers and data, she’s also passionate about health and well-being and specifically physical fitness.
1. You’re a quantitative analyst for STANLIB’s Index Investment team. Can you share what a typical week at work would look like for you?
In any given week, we start each day with a Morning Scrum, our daily team meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to ‘set the scene’ for the day. For instance, we have a financial markets update where we discuss how local and global financial markets are performing and factors driving change. We also discuss trading activities in the various funds we manage, as well as any projects we may be working on.
Once the scene is set, the rest of my day will be spent conducting research and analysis around how we can add value to our clients’ portfolios. Our team champions holistic integration, so I also dedicate time to presenting our process and fund research to various teams of stakeholders, including the portfolio managers. I am constantly monitoring and analysing data and the role calls for me to “think out of the box” when presenting findings.
2. What encouraged you to work in asset management and what aspects of your job do you feel most passionate
I enjoy finance and investing and have always been inspired by the idea of being in a position where I am able to make other people’s lives better. I looked for a career that would align with my skills, passions and these values. Asset management met the criteria.
I chose to focus on Investment Management in both my undergraduate degree (as an elective in my BCom Economics and Econometrics degree) and in my BCom Honours Investment Management degree. I also pursued an MSc in Financial Engineering and Risk Management which is a beneficial qualification in the industry.
In our day-to-day lives, it is no secret that money is the most important ‘material’ commodity. It should, therefore, be managed in the most prudent manner, ensuring that future generations are able to reap the rewards. When done right, asset management enables sustainable capital creation. This is one of the main reasons that I am attracted to this field. I believe we make a difference, one rand at a time.
Working within the STANLIB Index Investments team is both inspirational and fun. This job allows me to work with dynamic innovative people while embracing my passion for technology. We are a data-driven team and some of our strategies are backed by cutting-edge technology.
3. From your perspective, what are some of the risks and opportunities facing South African investors right now?
Inflation is undoubtedly one of the biggest risks facing the South African investor and consumer. With relatively high and rising inflation, we can expect the Monetary Policy Committee to continue increasing interest rates, which may help to curb inflation but will also lead to higher instalments on our mortgages and vehicles. Unfortunately, SA suffers from historically high unemployment rates. The pandemic worsened this problem, and the recovery to date has unfortunately been dismal.
It is not all doom and gloom. For those who are able to spare some rands to save or invest, the higher interest rate environment opens opportunities for capital appreciation. On the other hand, the recent Regulation 28 increase in offshore allocation to 45% provides further opportunities to diversify one’s portfolio globally. Finally, with recovery of global economies from the pandemic, SA’s exports (platinum, gold, diamonds and industrial machinery) can be expected to rebound. This will create various advantages for the local market.
4. STANLIB turns 20 this year. What are your thoughts around how the asset management industry may shift over the next 20 years and how STANLIB may change as a key player?
My perspective comes with a focus on technology. Big Data has become an important commodity in the asset management industry. With such data, we can use sophisticated tools (e.g. machine learning and artificial intelligence) to derive great inferences. When combined with a well-defined set of rules that allow managers
to create an investment strategy that performs well in various economic conditions it ensures that sustainable value is created for our clients.
The asset management industry will shift further to make better use of technological advancements, not only to structure the best portfolios, but to ensure that risks are properly managed. I do see STANLIB as a key player, and already we have various initiatives, including a business-wide machine learning initiative, which will ensure the business is future-proof.
5. What makes you positive about living and working in SA?
I am a free-spirited vibrant person and I believe that SA complements this characteristic. The spirit of Ubuntu still lives within South Africans. I feel it every time I pass by a stranger, and they greet me. Such a trivial act, but with so much impact! SA’s weather makes it a country I would not trade for any other. I enjoy outdoor activities and the weather makes it a perfect place for someone like me.