From the CEO

From the CEO

When I was first contacted about the possibility of coming on board as the CEO of the JSE, the decision for me was not just about the role, but about returning to SA. I had left in 2015 in pursuit of new adventures and had come to think of Australia as my home. However, every now and again, if you are very lucky, you are presented with the chance to do something that might really make a difference. This role was, for me, that opportunity.

Those who know me, know that I am passionate about the potentially transformative role of financial markets, specifically the role they can play in enabling sustainable and inclusive economic growth and development. Some people say to me that SA’s challenges are too large – that the problems we face are too overwhelming. I would argue that we need to look at it in a different way.

First, the reality is that challenging operating environments (whether political or economic or both) are not a uniquely SA phenomenon. We undoubtedly have problems but imagine what it must have been like to run a business in the UK over the past three years. To have spent the time since the referendum effectively in limbo, focused on a Brexit that is – at the time that I’m writing this – still undefined. And let’s not ignore the fact that this has contributed to an increasingly toxic political environment and the emergence (or perhaps revelation) of deep, social divides. My point is not to denigrate the UK but to point out that the world we are in at the moment is complex, and that it is simply the nature of the challenges that varies.

Second, I would like to argue in favour of us focusing less on the challenges and more on the new future that we can create. Nobel-prize winning economist Robert Shiller talks in his new book about the role of narratives, stating: ‘Narratives are major vectors of rapid change in culture, in zeitgeist, and ultimately in economic behaviour.’ I’m not sure he is arguing that we can talk a future into existence but he is suggesting (and I believe this) that how we talk about our future (and indeed, our present) helps to shape its contours. This is what I plan to do as CEO of the JSE. To work with financial-market participants and businesses in SA to construct a narrative of a vibrant, competitive, sustainable and inclusive economy and society supported by a financial system that achieves those objectives. I already know that I have an ally in this – Adrian Gore, CEO of Discovery, who spoke recently about the importance of recognising the potential of our economy and who called for ‘vision-based leadership’ that sees our problems as real but soluble.

Let me turn now to highlighting just a few of the things I will be focusing on at the JSE.

First, we need to prioritise that there is trust and confidence in our markets. This means making sure our regulation of listed companies and secondary market activity is robust yet fit for purpose. This includes restoring our reputation as a market that adheres to the highest standards of corporate governance. This does not necessarily mean more prescriptive rules but reinforcing norms and expectations. We have several initiatives already under way and under development, and look forward to implementing them in consultation with the market and our regulators.

I will also be focused on building, enabling and growing my team. I want to ensure that the people working at the JSE are innovative, responsive, customer-centric and empowered to come up with solutions. Having this kind of team means that we can put our clients where they belong – at the centre of our organisation. This also allows me to focus my time on developing strong client relationships, not just by listening but by actively soliciting client feedback.

I came back to SA and to the JSE because I believe in the role that markets can play in supporting sustainable and inclusive economic growth. I believe in what we can do if we work together; focusing on what is possible – not just what is wrong. Ultimately I came back because I believe in our potential.

Leila Fourie
Chief Executive Officer
October 2019