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How investor confidence will enhance stock market participation -SEC DG

Ms. Mary Uduk, Acting Director-General, SEC

Web Editor | ConsumerConnect

Ms. Mary Uduk, Acting Director-General of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), in an  interview after a recent Capital Market Committee’s meeting in 2019, spoke about strategies for attracting more investors to the market, shareholders’ unclaimed dividends, dematerialisation of Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), and other measures to stimulate growth of the Capital market, create wealth and impact the economy positively. Excerpts:

What are some of the activities SEC embarked upon to attract more investors and deepen the market?

Between the second Capital Market Committee (CMC) held in August 2019 and now, the Commission has organised and participated in a number of events of which we informed the market at the meeting. Such events include our collaboration with the University of Lagos (UNILAG) in organising a two-day conference on “Leveraging the Capital Market for Economic Growth and Development” in September 2019.

The event served as a convergence for industry experts, the SEC and the academia to forge a partnership that would aid the conduct of relevant research towards innovative solutions in our market.

That was followed by the Commodities Roundtable held in October, 2019, with over 170 key stakeholders in attendance.

The roundtable served as a platform to secure the buy-in of these stakeholders, as well as the perspective of policymakers towards improving the commodities ecosystem.

As you are aware, Nigeria has much potential in the commodity space and the Capital market can be used as a platform to achieve these.

Another key highlight of our activities within the period was the convening of the Inaugural West African Capital Market Conference with the theme: “Positioning West Africa Capital market to achieve sustainable and real economic growth through integration and sound regulation”.

The event, which held from October 27 to 29, 2019, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, featured resource persons on infrastructure and sustainable financing, Capital market integration, fintech and investor protection among others.

In addition, we launched the Fintech Roadmap for the Nigerian Capital market during the Nigeria Fintech Week in October 2019. The event buttressed the Commission’s resilience to adopt and guide the industry towards innovation.

Following an amendment to Rule 61 (2) of the SEC Rules, the Commission has issued directives to facilitate effective compliance with the amendments on operations of nominee accounts by capital market operators. We enjoin all Capital market operators (CMOs) to familiarise themselves and comply with this new rule.

To improve capital formation and investment from savings, we also informed the market that the Honorable Minister for Finance, Budget and National Planning has approved the composition of a National Working Group on Saving Scheme. The inauguration of the group will be undertaken by the Honorable Minister in the near future.

In terms of our investor education efforts, you are aware of the initiative towards including Capital Market Studies in the curricula of Basic and Senior Secondary Schools. Having infused the Capital market content into this curriculum, the next phase of our work is to develop the Teachers’ Guides. We have equally constituted a steering committee for the Universities’ curriculum.

What are the highlights of the last CMC for 2019 and resolutions reached at the meeting?

At the meeting, the various Technical Committees provided updates on their activities and I would like to provide you with some of the highlights.

In the presentation made by the Commodities Trading Ecosystem Committee, we were informed about the ongoing collaboration with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to review applicable standards as well as the schedule of a capacity building session for personnel of the Federal Ministries of Finance, Budget & Planning, Trade & Investment and Agriculture. The Committee is also having engagements with relevant corporates and state governments to secure their buy-in on current initiatives in the ecosystem.

Going forward, the committee is proposing to meet with the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) on the status of the Nigerian Commodities Exchange (NCX) and work with the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) to develop some agricultural-based financial instruments.

The Multiple Subscription Committee presented the status of its ongoing engagement with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Committee of Heads of Banking Operations to display multiple accounts regularisation banners in the banking halls all over the country.

The committee also reported that CMOs have commenced the filing of report on regularised accounts with the Commission on a quarterly basis. Given the relevance of this exercise and the need to create more awareness, the committee requested an extension of the deadline of multiple accounts regularisation.

Also, the presentation by the e-Dividend Committee showed that the number of shareholders enrolled on the e-DMMS platform has increased to 2,820,065 at the end of the third quarter of 2019.

Further updates were given concerning the ongoing efforts at integrating the Direct Cash Settlement (DCS) and the e-DMMS mandate forms as well as the engagement with the CBN on the inclusion of e-DMMS charges among allowable bank charges.

Also, the Non-interest Finance Committee presented the importance of granting the PFAs the permission to invest a given percentage of a willing contributor’s Retirement Savings Accounts in non-interest capital market products.

Updates were equally given on the progress made in the collaboration with the Debt Management Office (DMO) to develop a short term non-interest instrument. The meeting received further updates from the presentation of the report of the Market Liquidity Technical Committee, as well as the final report of the Block Chain and Virtual Assets Committee.

We had extensive discussions on these technical committees’ presentations and comments were also received on the presentations of Self-Regulatory Organisations (SROs) and the Observer Groups.

With regard to the resolutions, Registrars are to discontinue the practice of requesting confirmation of bank signature during the E-DMMS process. CMOs are to display awareness campaign banners of e-DMMS at their offices and venue of annual general meetings (AGM).

Capital market operators should also work with the Commission to share awareness information on their social media platforms. SEC to review the request from the Association of Securities Dealing Houses of Nigeria (ASHON) for extension of time for compliance with the transfer of complete investor data among operators such as Brokers, Registrars and CSCS.

Upon completion, the position of the commission will be communicated to the relevant parties. The Commission is to engage the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) on modalities which would permit PFAs to participate in securities lending.

The Commission to develop rules and regulations on warehouse receipts within the current legal framework.

What new strategies is the commission looking for new ways of tackling unclaimed dividends?

Issues of unclaimed dividends are legacy issues. They happened way back in the past. Right now you will not get unclaimed dividends from new issues. Part of the problem of unclaimed dividend has to do with identity management which we are doing all we can to educate the public on and engaging the various stakeholders to be able to get a lot of the information that we require.

Since then, items like BVN, have been added to help in identity management. The capital market is also taking advantage of it. The Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS) Plc and the Registrars are working together to ensure that more information from the legacy shareholders are being collected to be able to update their information and get them to be able to claim their dividends.

Of recent, there have been a lot of engagements with shareholders on this issue. The registrars don’t have direct interface with shareholders, they deal directly with stockbrokers.

But there is a committee comprising SEC, the registrars, the stockbrokers, the issuing houses, the CSCS and NSE working on that in addition to the e-dividend management. The committee has come up with a resolution which was adopted at the last CMC meeting.

Part of the resolutions is that stockbrokers will update information in respect of their clients. They are legacy issues, remember that before 2008, we had a lot of Nigerians who bought shares in the capital market and at that time we did not have Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs). Even some of them did not provide their account numbers.

What was agreed was that we would update information of such shareholders. That information will be transmitted to the CSCS who will update their own information and send them to the registrars. This means we will not address the legacy issues by the time brokers update that information.

What was also agreed was that there will be no transaction in respect of any account that information is not updated. We also talked on the issue of compliance and enforcement which has to do with conduct of capital market operators.

It was agreed that there will be zero tolerance and the brokers will be given a time frame. We hope that by the time that information is updated, the issue of unclaimed dividends will be resolved.

Also going forward, the Commission has approved the rule in respect of electronic offering, and we believe that by the time we commence that, it will address that. Before you can complete the application, the system will validate your account number, the system will not accept incomplete application.

We believe that in addition to the e-dividend mandate, these other initiatives that the Commission is doing with other stakeholders will address the issue of unclaimed dividends.

What is the SEC doing to attract retail investors?

We have various initiatives in place, and all are geared towards attracting retail investors to the market. We are interacting with them in a lot of ways like the social media, educational materials, and excursions to the Commission, enlightenment campaigns among others.

We are also interacting with them through the new curriculum that we are coming up with for capital market studies in secondary schools. Of recent, we interacted with the army, even for us it was an eye opener. They came out in their numbers and we intend to do more.

We have a department in the Commission where students from all over the country come to the Commission for interactions. We try to engage all sectors of the country and we believe that we need to develop this market. That is why we have both short-term and long-term plans.

What we are doing with the universities are research-based conferences, issues that will be very key to the market are brought to the fore. We just completed one with the University of Lagos, and other universities have indicated their interest in such programmes, too.

People are aware that there are safety nets in the Capital market when you invest in funds because your risks are diversified. For all the northern states, we look at ethical funds and we are doing to do roundtable discussions there in collaboration with the state governors.

In the coming months, we will see a high growth in the Capital market with all these sensitisation programmes. The shareholders’ associations can be a force for good, and we recognise their importance. But we want to see them play positive roles in good corporate governance of the companies in which they invest. We want to see more positive contributions from them.

There has been an increase in the number of companies delisting from the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), is SEC doing anything to discourage this?

Issue around delisting we look at it from two perspectives: voluntary delisting and regulatory delisting. What are we doing as regulators to influence and encourage more listings in the market?

We have a committee and that committee has made recommendations, and we are at implementation stage now. What we are doing is to look at how to encourage listing based on sector approach. What one sector needs, may be different from what another sector needs.

We are engaging with them and have itemised issues and now implementing. We are trying to see that we encourage listing via incentives. We are also trying to address the issue of time-to-market so that they are not discouraged as they are converging to come to the market. That they are able to raise the funding within the shortest time possible. We are still having engagements with them; we are getting more companies listing, you are aware of all the listings we have had this year.

Where are we on dematerialisation of NSE?

We have the framework properly put out for demutualisation of any exchange at the moment. What we are doing currently is to review the application by the NSE and after review, we will get back to them.

This is a milestone in the annals of the Nigerian Capital market, and the process has to be thorough. We just received feedback from them upon our letter to them. It is on course, and the SEC will do what it needs to do to ensure that the process is very transparent.

Considering the efforts you are making in the area of investor education and need to discourage investors from unauthorised investments in the market, what is the update on enforcement on Ponzi schemes?

We are working on the cases that we have at hand, and they will be charged to court soon. They are everywhere; and we are taking good actions to ensure that innocent Nigerians are not defrauded of their hard-earned money. The cases are being prepared right now, and also establishing a process and structure. Once we are done with that, they will be charged to court.

When is the current deadline for multiple accounts regularisation?

There is no definite timeline for now; we have left it open. In due course, we will have a meeting to review the success. In those days of plenty in the Capital market, there were a lot of abuses where people used multiple names to buy shares.

Many of them do not even remember the names they used at that time, and therefore, asking them to come forward to regularise their shares is difficult. Some of them probably do not know where the documents are.

Some others, maybe the very big ones are probably afraid of prosecution, and that is why we said we have given amnesty. We believe the issue of timeline for this kind of thing should be stepped down for now just to be able to give people enough time to look for their documents and then, come and regularise their shares in order to reduce unclaimed dividends in the market.

If Bankers’ confirmation will no longer be required, what will investors be expected to bring now?

We feel that once you complete the e-dividend mandate form which will be taken to the bank to verify that you are the account holder, you don’t need another banker’s confirmation. That is just a duplication of duties.

You can even go to the banks, fill the e-dividend registration form, the bank will verify the account number and signature and they will send it to the registrar. So, we don’t think any other confirmation is needed since the information is coming from the bank.

SEC’s efforts have been laudable this year, how well have your initiatives impacted the Nigerian economy?

Everything the commission is doing is geared towards positive impact on the whole economy as well as the people on the street. If people have confidence in the Capital market, the increased activities in the market through the participation of local investors will be to the benefit of the economy. If people make wealth in the Capital market it will impact the economy positively.

If you have more companies doing well in the Capital market, the unemployment situation we have will reduce. With the kind of awareness, we are doing with the mutual funds where we expect that a lot of investors will come into the Capital market through that space is impactful.

There, you will not wait until you have a lot of money to invest in the capital market and then you will also not invest where you don’t understand the products and then you get your hands burnt. If you invest through this channel, at the same time you are investing in those companies in which you want to invest.

This e-dividend initiative we are embarking on is also a way of improving the economy. If through this initiative unclaimed dividends are reduced, people will have more money in their pockets through their dividends, this is impactful on the economy. A lot of the awareness we are carrying out right now like capital market studies, as well as the collaboration we are now having with the academia will impact the economy.

Also we are coming up with other products that will enable the PFAs to invest, especially towards infrastructure. Even in a down market people still make profit. There are investors that have made money; that means the market has contributed to the pockets of those investors. (ThisDay)

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