The past two years could be described as among the most turbulent in not only Namibian, but also world history. With the global pandemic sending shockwaves that rippled through every facet of our lives – either through illness, the loss of loved ones, or a loss of income as its economic effects permeated – we saw our existing economic and social systems tested. Yet the efforts to contain the pandemic brought into sharp relief the strength of nations working as one, with scientific breakthroughs, unprecedented measures to society to protect the weak and vulnerable, and the courage of the medical community working on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19. They showed us that perseverance will always reveal a way forward. Currently, it seems it will come down to increased vaccine rollouts to diminish the effects of further waves and to ensure economies can fully open with productivity levels returning to normal.
The pace of global economic recovery is closely tethered to the speed and efficacy of the vaccination programmes. As Mr Ruchir Agarwal and Ms Gita Gopinath stated in an IMF report in May 2021, “Pandemic policy is also economic policy as there is no durable end to the economic crisis without an end to the health crisis.” Until all of us are protected, the risk remains that we undo the tremendous gains made in developing and rolling out vaccines for all.
Although the world has changed, Trustco’s place in it has not. Our vision and value proposition remain relevant, as creating wealth for all stakeholders becomes even more crucial as we as a nation and a world work towards recovering from the pandemic.
We have all been affected by the pandemic in different ways, but we’re nevertheless still living together in the same world. Our shared experience will unify us as we take the first steps into a future where we recognise and appreciate the interdependency of our families, our nations and our economies.
A NEW WAY FORWARD
Trustco’s board recognised this early and moved to ensure the group transitions from merely being resilient and withstanding shocks, to growing and improving in the wake of the pandemic. The board realised the need for understanding, empathy and relevant advice across all our stakeholder groups, to continue to work towards sustainable wealth creation for our stakeholders.
- Focused on re-evaluating our priorities as individuals, a board and a group, we engaged in a rethink of how we live, work and engage with people. As a result, the board and management spent countless hours:
- Identifying and changing outdated patterns of thinking;
- Refocusing priorities;
- Realigning our corporate vision;
- Adapting to our changed environment;
- Refocusing on Environmental Social Governance (ESG) sustainability; and
- Ultimately embracing needed change.
We, the board, concentrated on the following:
- Operational efficiency: Management worked tirelessly on streamlining processes, doing away with inefficiencies, making the hard decisions and doing the necessary to reduce costs.
- Change as its constant: As a board, the choice between adopting and adapting to change, or stagnation, is a non-starter. The board owes it to its stakeholders to remain relevant to our clients by striving to stay ahead of imminent changes.
- Seize opportunities: The board focused on opportunities for post-pandemic positioning, which comes with its share of challenges. Yet without risk, there can be no reward.
- ESG: Trustco operates in a highly regulated environment and ESG has become more and more important. It has become a central element of the board’s decision making process.
A trend globally is an increasingly onerous regulatory environment. Trustco will keep working with the relevant local and international regulators, as well as our consultants, to understand how we can best comply with the letter and the spirit of new regulations. We will continue to ensure our board sustains the skills and diversity that are essential for effective oversight of a large, global investment group and will not abdicate our responsibilities with regards to governance.
The operating environment in Namibia has been tough the last few years. With hardly any economic growth, we choose to remain focused on streamlining our investee companies to increase profitability while contributing to the economy and the country.
With the board’s strategic clarity enhanced by management’s focused execution, priorities were shifted, with a bold and concentrated weight placed on sustainability. During this financial period, process management has been improved, with emphasis on productivity. COVID-19 in particular has accelerated the group to move client service to digital platforms much faster, with management immersed with digital strategies that have served to improve the group’s capabilities, enhanced efficiency and drove faster innovation to create value for all stakeholders.
Due to these actions, the board believes that, despite the numerous external challenges, its investee companies are suitably positioned to capitalise on any improvement in operating conditions. We have largely addressed these issues and look forward to a better contribution from the investee companies in the foreseeable future.
Although Trustco continues to trade at a sizeable discount to its intrinsic value, the board remains focused on creating wealth for stakeholders by growing its underlying investee companies and pursuing valueunlocking initiatives wherever possible. The world is changing and Trustco must change with it.
A sincere thank you to Trustco’s employees, management teams and the board for the way in which you adapted and rose to the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. You are a testament to the Trustconian spirit we’ve seen develop over the past decade and an example for other corporates to follow.
To our clients and customers, thank you for your continued support. We will continue to improve our products and services to ensure you continue to receive the excellent service you’ve come to expect from us.
Lastly, we would like to thank our loyal shareholders. It was a challenging year and we hope to return to delivering exceptional returns for you in future
What worked before will not necessarily work again, nor will it work forever. We are entering a new age, where change is the only constant. The board remains excited about Trustco’s future, with scores of new opportunities on the horizon. I am proud to be the chairman of a board who embraces change and see obstacles as opportunities.
|ADV RAYMOND HEATHCOTE SC
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD AND
INDEPENDENT NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR