This year has dawned with greater optimism, reflected both globally and locally. However, restoring confidence in the country will require far greater effort than that of just the politicians. Commentators often argue that government policy should focus on creating an environment that instils investor confidence and in which businesses can thrive. Part of that is how we run our businesses and what we prioritise when we do so; part of that is how we use our voice to argue for and support the change we think necessary to build momentum around inclusive growth.

In 2018, we have an especially important role to play in restoring confidence in the country as media reports and public discourse have drawn more attention to corporate involvement in corruption and other misconduct than ever before. As corporate SA, we need to show both international investors and the citizens of the country that we are willing to take a hard look at our own actions and truly commit to conducting our business with the highest levels of integrity and transparency.

As the JSE, we have made this commitment to lead by example and look forward to continuing to support the work of organisations such as Business Leadership South Africa to strengthen corporate integrity in the country. We see this as a natural extension of the regulations around corporate governance and transparent communication we require of our listed companies.

Corporate governance, however, is just one internal response in reaction to the prospect of a more favourable external operating environment. It’s important that we use this moment to reconceive how we as business balance the interests of our shareholders with our responsibilities to broader stakeholders, and especially those stakeholders who feel left behind by political and business systems that seem to favour those at the top of the pyramid.

This is a complex conundrum and one that dominated much of the Davos discussion this year. It is a discussion to which the JSE looks forward to contributing.

Turning to how the exchange will run its business this year, our vision is to be the best global platform in emerging markets by operating SA’s most trusted, stable, robust and competitive market infrastructure. To this end, for the JSE, 2018 will be a critical year of strategic action as we deliver new state-of-the-art trading and clearing technology to our equity and currency derivatives market, as this will allow us to pass the efficiencies made possible by new technology on to our clients. It is just one way we are striving to always
put them at the centre of what we do. We will also introduce an electronic central order book market for government bonds.

The JSE will also be spending significant effort ensuring that our operating environment is resilient and low cost. Interestingly here, is our adoption of more agile behaviour throughout our business – once complete, we expect our capacity as a business to adapt faster and more cost-effectively to improve considerably.

We will also continue our work with National Treasury to develop an electronic trading platform for government bonds to provide a well-regulated, secure and trusted electronic means of trading these securities.

To embrace the new opportunities presented by technological innovation, we will continue to focus on expanding our index and data offering. This will not only serve to diversify our revenue as a business but will also see us responding to the needs of our clients in a world where big data – and the need to analyse and interpret it – has become increasingly important.

So we are clear about how we will run our business this year and how we will use our voice. And we are clear about the huge responsibility that the JSE has to do both in a manner that considers issues beyond just the short-term interests of the exchange.

It’s time to do the hard yards so that the long-term future is brighter.

Nicky Newton-King
Chief Executive Officer
January 2018
Image: Wilnicque Rall