Cape Town – Empowerment financial services firm Noah was launched yesterday by former Prodigy Asset Management executive director Raymond Ndlovu. This follows Old Mutual’s launch last week of a R300 million private equity fund to be managed by Jay Naidoo and Jayendra Naidoo’s empowerment investment company, J&J Group. Earlier this month Standard Bank unveiled its empowerment investment bank, Andisa Capital. Noah is a joint initiative by financial services company Mettle, which, through Hosken Consolidated Investments, has the biggest empowerment shareholding in financial services, and a group of entrepreneurs led by Ndlovu. Mettle Securities, previously a proprietary broking operation but essentially a dormant business, was sold into Noah in a structure that was 51 percent held by Noah management and staff and 49 percent by Mettle. Ndlovu stressed that the initiative was not “just another shareholding deal” but that 90 percent of management and staff came from historically disadvantaged backgrounds. “We have looked at each and every aspect of grass roots empowerment,” he said. Noah’s initial focus was on the broking side, as a first step into financial services, as well as debt and equity structured solutions. Here, its relationship with Mettle boded well. Mettle’s forté was in local corporate markets, while Noah targeted the wholesale institutional market.   Ndlovu conceded that the local broking environment was highly competitive and consolidating, but believed there was room for a homegrown player to step in after the gradual retreat of global players. A key challenge was to have a differentiated product. Noah had put in place “execution products” to allow institutions to assess the company. Ndlovu said: “We have taken a long, hard look at the broking industry and believe, from an execution and research standpoint, that there are a numbers of areas that have not been addressed.” Trends in the broking industry were favourable for Noah, including a new emphasis on independent research. Mettle executive director Heine Prinsloo said the new operation was a fully fledged, new generation empowerment company where empowerment extended from shareholding through to operations and management. According to Ndlovu, a new generation of empowerment companies was emerging. These “entrepreneurial empowerment firms” had a new emphasis on risk taking and hands-on management, combined with top products and services. Strong corporate ethics were a top priority for the new generation business model, making unacceptable the “excessive greed and flagrant dishonesty” that were common practice in many companies in the past two decades.

Source: Business Report : Vera von Lieres