Having left the JSE’s cave, hard to understand why we ever loved it

While hosting last night’s webinar with Orbvest, it struck me how much South Africa’s investment spectrum has widened. For most of my career, attention was focused on JSE-listed equities with an occasional mention of RSA and Eskom bonds. That’s because SA’s tight exchange control meant whatever happened north of the Limpopo was irrelevant.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange has ridden that artificial barrier and old monopoly to absurdity. Even today it continues levying hefty fees on those marketing its products – actually charging media outlets which publish JSE share prices and SENS. As one of our service providers describes it, that’s like Pick n Pay charging for price lists before you enter the store.

Mostly because of sponsorship by Standard Bank’s Webtrader – but partly through disgust at the JSE’s profit gouging – in 2013 I started educating myself about global equities. The result was our popular Biznews Global Share portfolio which has outperformed JSE indices by miles. Now, for many formerly JSE-blinkered investors, quarterly results from Amazon, Apple and Netflix enjoy more attention than JSE-listings whose financials we once obsessed over.

With exchange control effectively abolished for private investors, alternatives to the JSE have multiplied. Like in last night’s webinar where I found myself fascinated by the appeal of an eleven storey, 20 000 square metre building in Dallas that Orbvest is offering in slices of $5,000 each. Adapting to the real world after decades of isolation takes time. But once you’ve done so, it’s difficult to find anything appealing from the days you were chained inside in that old investment cave.