Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The announcement last week by asset manager Sygnia that it will donate the management fees from two of its new unit trusts to corruption-busting organisations passed almost unnoticed. But Sygnia’s move has deep significance for how other companies navigate a toxic operating environment of captured politicians, fatally weakened institutions of accountability and compromised regulators.

CEO Magda Wierzycka says the courts “have become the last guardians of our constitution and democracy”, aided by journalists and a phalanx of nongovernment institutions (that are notoriously cash strapped). So Sygnia will be donating its fees to groups like Corruption Watch, journalists and organisations like the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.

Cynics will say it’s a savvy marketing tactic. But it’s far more than that. It’s a call to arms for all other investment firms to step up to the moment.

Wierzycka points out there is R300bn invested in money market unit trusts alone. Management fees on those funds, assuming an average of between 0.5% and 1%, are between R1.5bn and R3bn.

If companies are looking for a chance to do more than simply bemoan an unstable world of fake news in which “white monopoly capital” rhetoric is trotted out to justify every crackpot policy, Sygnia has shown the way.

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