CFO Kim McFarland says Ninety One kept focus despite the challenges of Covid-19

Ninety One saw positive results when asset prices recovered after the impact of Covid-19.

JSE-listed Ninety One has announced an increase in its profit before tax by three percent to £94.8 million (about R1.9 billion) for the six months ended September 2020. CFO Kim McFarland accredits this result to the company leveraging its “strong culture, the stability of the organisation and its people-centricity” to stay focused on the challenges and opportunities that the last year provided.

“I’m very proud of how we maintained our focus as a business, despite the challenges that the pandemic posed,” she says. “We ended up delivering a very strong performance in an especially challenging year.”

As lockdown restrictions eased, Ninety One saw the flow momentum in the second half of the year slightly improve and entered the new financial year with a healthy pipeline of new business. “The recovery in asset prices globally and how that impacts our assets under management (AUM) has been one of the key positive impacts of the resumption of economic activity closer to what we saw in 2019,” Kim says, adding that the company saw AUM increase 27 percent to £130.9 billion (about R2.5 trillion).

Ninety One has also delivered an “excellent” firm-wide investment performance, with three-year outperformance at 82 percent. The group also reported an increase in basic earnings per share by one percent to 7.9 pence.

Kim explains that, when Ninety One introduced its brand to the world, they also introduced the tag line “investing for a world of change”. “Navigating change for the benefit of our clients is fundamentally what our business is about. Even though no one could have anticipated the scale of the changes we have seen over the past year or so, our ability as a business to embrace change helped us immensely during this period,” she says.

Despite the unprecedented challenges the business faced, including listing Ninety One in March 2020 during the eye of the Covid-19 storm’s impact on financial markets, Kim says that the balance sheet remained strong enough for the board to recommend a final dividend of 6.7 pence per share. “We also maintained our commitment to retaining and incentivising our exceptional people by increasing our staff shareholding to 23 percent from 21 percent.”

She adds that while they are acutely aware that many of the communities Ninety One serves continue to be impacted by Covid-19, the pandemic has also helped accelerate the pace of change. “It’s safe to say that sustainability has become central to our industry. This means that our purpose of investing for a better tomorrow is now more relevant than ever and we remain excited by the long-term growth opportunities for Ninety One.”