A marathon year

Author: Menachem Kay

Having been blessed to run many marathons and ultra marathons, I can testify to the distinct difference in emotions felt during the race, at the finish and a couple of hours after.

Sometimes during the race you feel focused and in charge; single-mindedly working your way through the many kilometers needed to complete the task at hand. At other times, each step is agony, and the only thing that keeps you going is the absolute knowledge that every step forward is one closer to the finish.

And the finish? Well, that can also be very different. Sometimes you power your way to the finish line, sprinting the final few hundred meters in celebration of a personal best or in ecstasy of successfully completing another challenge. And other times the ever-elusive finish line seems to shift further away. Then, even the smallest incline starts to resemble a mini Everest. The celebration as we cross the line is muted. Indeed, more relief than celebration.

But one thing is always the same: a few hours later, inter-mingled with the glow of the acknowledgment of a true achievement, there is the most profound feeling of intense gratitude. Regardless of how you finish, in glorious merriment or with a relieved limp, without doubt the most powerful emotion at this time is gratitude. Profound gratitude that despite all our challenges, we have completed another momentous achievement.

I have always found this anecdote very analogous to the investment market. For a number of years now, we got used to the regular celebration of good markets and great investment returns. But, in South Africa, this all came to a screaming halt midway through last year. From the heady days of regular JSE new-record highs to the malaise of an 18-month sideway market movement, this has certainly been a difficult investment period.

The JSE is barely above flat for the year and we are nowhere near the highs previously achieved. There have been some sectors that have performed well but for the most part, this has been an extremely difficult year. The markets have see-sawed in inverse tandem to the fortune of the rand, and this has made inflation-beating returns very hard to come by. It has really felt as though we’ve been running on empty.

Despite these challenges, our local funds have held up relatively well and have managed to deliver satisfactory results.

What of our offshore funds? Over the years, I have often mentioned our increased focus on offshore funds. Our partnership with Sanlam FOUR has paid handsome dividends, and I’m proud to report that our Global Conservative, Balanced and Equity funds, available in both US dollars and British pounds, have had an incredible year. This proves that there are always investment opportunities out there, if you have the insight and knowledge to know where to look.

Looking ahead, it appears the political shenanigans that we have all become so sick of and that have plagued our beautiful country for far too long, are nearing an end. We look forward to a much improved investment environment, confident that both our local and offshore funds are well positioned to navigate their way through whatever 2017 might bring.