“Do not despise the small beginnings,” they say. That’s because small beginnings come with hard work, little help, and offer enormous resistance. They come with a limited budget and abundant setbacks. In September, it will have been nine years that I have served as the independent non-executive chairman of Trustco. When I started, the share price was a mere 55c, but during the current reporting period, the share price reached a high of 1 600c – from small beginnings indeed.
Serving for such a long period on any one board does carry its risks – there is always the possibility that my board and I have become less independent over time. As such, the group instituted a rigorous review of our independence, and after satisfying ourselves that we were indeed still independent, we availed ourselves to serve another term.
Pearl Zhu said, “In a world of well-defined problems, directors are required to exercise influence over volatility, manage uncertainty, simplify complexity and resolve ambiguity”. The board has thus decided to change the structure of its board meetings to ensure that:
• all board members in the group are kept abreast of the activities and transactions envisaged in each segment
• they are able to share information, gain knowledge and offer a fresh perspective
• they meet with senior management as well as the executive directors serving on a specific board;
• there is adequate engagement with the internal and external auditors and
• most importantly, an ethical and optimal transparent culture is maintained throughout the group.
We know that a board member must always stand watch, be vigilant and ensure that sufficient time is spent on the information available. Most importantly, to see what is not there. This requires that we must at all times be very prepared and must ensure that shareholders value is not wasted, especially in an era of corporate scandals. We are confident these changes to our quarterly meetings will allow us to ensure that stakeholders are protected by our diligence and increased knowledge of the whole group.
Yet, it is not only the board that bears this burden. Management needs to show strong leadership qualities in difficult circumstances as well – qualities such as effective communication, passion, commitment, positivity, innovation and collaboration. Management embraced the changes to the reporting structure with aplomb, and relished the chance to engage with greater transparency as our meetings expanded to include all board members, executives and non-executives of all segments and main boards, internal and external auditors as well as senior management.
Management showed true passion and commitment towards the company, its brand and its fellow employees during a time when the current economic circumstances around them obstructed their plans. The collaboration remained evident in the group when it was once again rewarded in the Deloitte’s “Best Company To Work For” survey. In an economic climate where regional credit ratings are stymying foreign investment in emerging markets, and Namibia’s liquidity reached an all-time low, the true colours of leadership showed in the group’s innovation.
COMPLIANCE AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE ARE MUTUALLY DEPENDENT UPON ONE ANOTHER
The successful subscription and conclusion of a NAD 1 billion loan program, as published in the circular to shareholders dated 14 December 2018, was no small feat, and I commend management for this achievement. Compliance and corporate governance are mutually dependent upon one another, as compliance has to be viewed as an integral component to achieve the goals of corporate governance and vice versa. But it is the responsibility of the people who make up the company to implement internal checks and processes that can maintain investor trust and are consistent with applicable governmental regulations.As the chairman of the board – I am satisfied that the goals of compliance and corporate governance have been achieved, but even more elated that the ethical tone at the top surpasses the measurement of mere compliance and practice of good corporate governance. I am honoured to work with a board that is not afraid to ask the questions, absorb information in excess in the execution of their duties and strive to put in the time and effort to ensure that they are up to date with what is current in the market and the industry in which they operate.
Again, when I look at Trustco’s small beginnings, I am extremely excited about the years to come. Imagine where we’ll go from here.
ADV RAYMOND HEATHCOTE SC
CHAIRMAN AND INDEPENDENT