JSE: Russell Loubse

JSE: Russell Loubse

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It’s been a tough year for economic markets everywhere. How have you kept a cool head?

One of the most important things has been not to panic. It’s so easy to do and many exchanges did panic, introducing things like circuit breakers or banning short-selling of financial shares, which they later regretted. We considered those things carefully with our Financial Services Board and took the decision not to interfere with the market. Fortunately, the SA banks were in a much better position than those around the world and our controls and surveillance capabilities here are world class, so it was not necessary. Having said that, we came under quite a lot of pressure from different parties and it would have been easy to buckle.

What do you believe makes for a good leader?

I don’t believe that you are born a leader and I don’t believe you can be parachuted into a leadership position. It’s a role you grow into from having done your time and having the necessary education or expertise. I have spent my entire adult life in the financial markets and I am supposed to make difficult calls. That is my job. I’ve done my time and I have the experience; it’s expected of me to make complex decisions and shoulder the responsibility.

Challenging times also present opportunities. What have you identified coming out of the financial crisis?

Indeed, in difficult periods you must stand up and be counted and look for the opportunities. We bought the Bond Exchange effective 1 July, something we might not have been able to do in really good times. We’ve invested a lot of time and commitment on the IT side and that could present opportunities now.

What is your advice to entrepreneurs right now?

It’s understandable during times like these that people take shelter behind parapets and are scared to make decisions, but you don’t prosper by hiding and being afraid or by standing still. You do so by taking risks, provided they are calculated and well thought-out.

There has been a great deal of talk about green shoots of recovery. When do you realistically think we can expect to see these?

We are definitely in a better position now than we were a year ago, if only because a year ago the world didn’t know what was going to happen. Now people have a good idea of the extent of the problem. We know that it’s big. There are massive global imbalances that will take time to sort out. Luckily SA missed the global financial crisis, but we got caught in the backwash and the swells. I think the worst is over, but to say that the recovery has started is a little bit premature.

What role does entrepreneurship play in the recovery of the financial markets?

It’s absolutely vital. Bureaucrats don’t effect change and while government can provide an enabling environment for change, it cannot initiate or be the change itself. To recover, a country needs two things: entrepreneurs who are willing to take risks, and an environment that is conducive to the success of entrepreneurial businesses. Without those an economy will never really take off.

Juliet Pitman
Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.