South Africa

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Flag of South Africa
System of government: republic
Population: 48.37 million (2014 mid year est)
Currency: South African rand (ZAR)
FX regime: free floating
GDP: $341.2bn
IGTA member: yes
FATF member: yes
Treasury association: Association of Corporate Treasurers of Southern Africa (ACTSA)
Other professional financial/banking associations: The Banking Association South Africa

Financial regulatory framework

The South African Reserve Bank, the central bank of South Africa, was established by a special Act of Parliament in 1920, and is unique in that it is a privately owned institution. It seeks to promote the growth of the economy based on the principles of a market system, private and social initiative, effective competition and social fairness. The scope of its duties encompasses the following:

  • Monetary policy: The South African Reserve Bank formulates and implements monetary policy within an inflation targeting framework. The current targets are for average CPI inflation to be within the range of 3% to 6%.
  • Exchange rate policy: The Reserve Bank has a floating exchange rate policy and there are no exchange rate targets.
  • Financial stability: The Reserve Bank looks to maintain an effective regulatory infrastructure, effective financial markets, and sound financial institutions.

The main legislation governing banking activity in South Africa is the Banks Act of 1990, and is administered by the Bank Supervision Department of the SARB, also referred to as the Registrar of Banks. This department has published regulations relating to the capital adequacy requirements (CAR) for banks’ trading activities in financial instruments. Since 1 January 2008 Basel II has been adopted as the international standard framework for capital adequacy and liquidity risk. The SARB aligns its methodology to the 25 Core Principles for Effective Banking Supervision as published by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS). As of 1 January 2013, the SARB has adopted the amendments put forth in the Basel III accord. The regulation currently allows for exemption from the credit value adjustment (CVA) requirements on derivative transactions. The SARB continues to be involved in quantitative impact studies to establish the full impact of further amendments to the Basel III accord. The SARB continues to be an active participant in international forums around bank supervision, specifically the BCBS, group of 20 finance ministers, the central bank governors and the Financial Stability Board. Banks, or their separately capitalised securities trading subsidiaries, are further regulated by the following exchanges:

  • Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) – physical equities and warrants, and bonds; and
  • SA Futures Exchange (SAFEX) – futures and options on futures.

The JSE was established under the terms of the Stock Exchange Control Act, whilst SAFEX was established under the terms of the Financial Markets Control Act. The Registrar of Financial Markets regulates all exchanges. The Financial Services Board regulates the non-banking financial services industry.

Exchange controls

Exchange controls are in place to limit and control an individual’s and company’s right to change money into foreign currency at will. Exchange controls also limit the amounts that are allowed to be taken out of the country, whether as remittances, investment funds or travel allowances. There are also restrictions on certain blocked funds and on borrowing in South Africa by foreign-owned companies. The government’s gradual process of exchange control relaxation has enabled an orderly process of global reintegration, allowing companies and individuals to diversify their portfolios through domestic channels. Further steps in this regard include:

  • Greater ability for off-shore direct investments by companies.
  • A wider variety of permissible transactions over Customer Foreign Currency accounts.
  • The granting of permission to the JSE to establish a Rand currency futures market.
  • Prudential foreign exposure limits on South African banks have been set at 25% of their total liabilities. As of 1 March 2013 an additional 5% of total liabilities has been allocated for investments into Africa.

Taxation framework

The tax system is residence-based and residents are taxed on worldwide income, irrespective of where it was earned. Non-residents are taxed on their income from a South African source. Foreign taxes are, however, credited against South African tax payable on foreign income. Tax agreements are in place with a number of countries in order to prevent double taxation. Income tax is levied in terms of the Income Tax Act 58 of 1962:

  • Company tax rate: 28%;
  • As of the 1 April 2012, secondary tax on companies levied on dividends has been replaced with a new dividend tax of 15%;
  • Capital gains tax: gain is included in income: 33.3% inclusion for individuals and 66.6% for companies;
  • VAT levied on the supply (with certain exemptions) of goods and services: 14.0%;
  • Customs and excise duty: varying levies charged on imports and exports; and
  • Transfer duty payable on the acquisition of property: varying levies dependent on the purchase value of the property, up to a maximum of ZAR 85,000.00 plus 11% of the value above ZAR 2,250,000.00.

Banking service provision

Banks in South Africa are organised as follows:

  • Monetary Authority: South African Reserve Bank and Corporation for Public deposits
  • Locally controlled banks (10)
  • Foreign controlled banks (6)
  • Branches of foreign banks (14)
  • Representative offices of foreign banks (40)
  • Mutual banks (3)

South Africa’s domestic banking industry is dominated by four major banking groups, namely Standard Bank, ABSA, FirstRand and Nedbank, with total banking sector assets amounting to ZAR 4.4 trn (May 2015). Together, these four groups account for approximately 84% of domestic assets in the banking sector. The four groups all have international representation, either via foreign subsidiaries or representative offices. They control large retail banking operations, as well as merchant banking subsidiaries and/or divisions. They have sophisticated electronic banking systems and extensive branch networks, offering a broad range of services, such as financial planning and insurance broking, in addition to their normal retail and commercial banking products. There are also numerous small to medium financial institutions, providing predominantly merchant banking services and in some instances hire purchase and lease financing to niche markets. A significant number of foreign banks have established representative offices, branches or subsidiaries.

Clearing and payment systems

South Africa has sound payment mechanisms, as well as a sophisticated payments infrastructure. This infrastructure includes the systems of the major clearing banks, inter-bank utilities such as Bankserv, which clears cheques and electronic payments, and SASWITCH, a system that allows for automated teller transactions between banks. Use is made of the SWIFT system for international electronic fund transfers. The system also allows for settlements over CLS bank.

For local inter-bank payments, use is made of the National Payment System (NPS), which is one of the pillars of financial stability. The Reserve Bank oversees the “safety and soundness” of the national payment system and implements risk-reduction measures in the payment system to reduce systemic risk.

The Reserve Bank provides an inter-bank real-time electronic settlement system, named the South African Multiple Option Settlement (SAMOS) system. Besides single settlements between banks, SAMOS is also used for the settlement of obligations arising out of retail payment clearing and the equity and bond markets.

Settlement and payment risks are reduced by the use of real-time gross settlement. There are various settlement options, namely immediate settlement of a single transaction, bilateral and multilateral net settlement, within netting arrangements and settlements executed at pre-determined times.

As part of an ongoing campaign to reduce clients’ exposure to risk and fraud, South African banks, the SARB and the Payments Association of South Africa (PASA) implemented the following limits at the end of 2001, effectively channelling most payments through the SAMOS system for immediate settlement:

  • Electronic funds transfers (EFT) debits and debit orders may not be issued for more than ZAR 500,000;
  • Credit payments through EFT may not exceed ZAR 5m; and
  • A cheque may not be written for more than ZAR 100,000.

Settlement of all payment streams now being settled in real time on SAMOS represent an average of about 510,000 payments per month with a value of about ZAR 8,050bn, which is approximately 90% of all settlements. The remaining 10% represents payment streams cleared via Bankserv for EFTs, cheques, ZAPS, SASWITCH and credit cards. From August 2004 same day settlement for squaring off banks’ market positions became effective to set the scene for CLS related settlements for foreign currencies. The South African Rand was added to the foreign currencies settled via CLS Bank in November 2004. CLS allows for simultaneous, linked settlement of payments in different currencies, thereby reducing cross currency risk, as the delay between the payments of the two legs of a foreign exchange transaction is eliminated. With the average daily turnover in global FX transactions at approximately $4.6 trillion, the FX market relies on an effective cross-currency settlement process. CLS is a unique real-time process enabling simultaneous FX settlement across the globe, eliminating the settlement risk caused by delays arising from time-zone differences.

Electronic banking services

All the major banks offer electronic banking systems and solutions. Internet banking has become a well-used form of electronic banking, by both individuals and corporate customers. The range of online services available to companies has expanded beyond traditional account management and online payment services to include international banking, trading in the foreign exchange, securities and money markets, derivative portfolio management, online custodial services and international trade services. The number of automated teller machines (ATMs) is very high compared to many other countries (26,588 as of December 2013). The ATM networks of all the banks and the Post Office Savings bank are linked.

Cash and bank account management

Account availability

Most commercial banks offer current accounts, savings and investment accounts, as well as overdrafts, mortgage loans and other lending facilities. The fee and interest structure is usually based on the financial standing of the client and the volume of transactions going through the account. When opening an account with a bank, the applicant is required to produce either the applicant’s passport or other form of identification document. In addition, under the financial intelligence centre act, applicants are requested to produce a document detailing proof of residence when opening a bank account. Foreigners are able to remit foreign exchange at will, while residents may only invest up to ZAR 5m per adult per annum offshore and may only purchase or sell foreign exchange for travel allowance purposes. Control exists over emigration facilities to allow reasonable transfers of assets without damaging the capital account of the balance of payments. These blocked rand accounts are restricted in terms of only being allowed to remit the interest abroad.

Anti-money laundering

In order to comply with its international obligations, maintain the integrity of the South African financial system and assist in the combating of crime, the South African government has passed a number of laws to combat money laundering. Part of this is the Financial Intelligence Centre Act that ensures effective “know your client” procedure is followed.

Cash management

A cash management facility exists, which allows companies to structure their bank accounts into tailored reporting groups. Interest costs can be apportioned and interest dates can be user-defined. This allows groups to reimburse interest costs, eliminate daily transfers through the automatic netting and pooling of balances, and optimise cash flows.

Liquidity management

Short-term investments

Short-term investments from overnight deposits to one-year instruments are traded in the money market. The main types of money market instruments are treasury bills (TBs), Reserve Bank issued debentures, short-dated government bonds, negotiable certificates of deposits (NCDs) and investor promissory notes (PNs). Short-term financing needs are catered for in the form of overdrafts, call or overnight loans, and short-term loans. The corporate issued commercial paper market accounts for approximately ZAR 24.4bn as at March 2014. Asset-backed commercial paper is available in South Africa. Issuance is now about half of its 2008 peak. All the major South African banks issue NCDs. They are issued on a yield basis, with the best liquidity being for maturities of less than one year. PNs are normally issued for periods from two years and may exceed five years. Treasury Bills are issued by the SARB via a tender every Friday morning. Although TBs are traded in the secondary market on a discount basis, the tender is done on a price to the nearest 0.005%. The normal period offered is 91 days, with smaller tenders for 182, 273 and 365 days. The tender size averages about ZAR 3,600m for 91 days and is usually no more than ZAR 3,500m for longer periods. The secondary TB market has tended to be relatively illiquid because South African banks use TBs to meet liquid asset requirements. However, there are always banks willing to make two-way prices in TBs. Debentures are issued by the SARB via a tender every Wednesday. They are normally issued with a maturity of 28 or 56 days. They are also issued in the 7 and 14 day tenors. They are issued and traded on a yield to maturity basis. The amount offered varies between ZAR 2,000m and ZAR 9,500m. As at July 2014, outstanding TBs totalled ZAR 197bn (June 2012: ZAR 163bn) and as at July 2015 debentures totalled ZAR 2.7bn (December 2012: ZAR 21.0bn). The South African money market is in the process of immobilising and ultimately dematerialising all money market instruments with settlement to occur through STRATE – an institution formed by the South African banking sector acting as a Central Securities Depository. Treasury bills and debentures are already now traded on a dematerialised basis. Fixed rate and floating rate NCDs and PNs are also now traded on a dematerialised basis.

Reference rates

In the absence of a traded inter-bank rate, a Jibar rate (Johannesburg inter-bank agreed rate) – as quoted by the South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX) – is issued as the industry benchmark for traded money market instruments. It should be noted that Jibar is not derived as a result of inter-bank trade in the deposit market, but rather as the average of the mid-market quotations for the relevant maturity bank issued negotiable certificate of deposit (NCD). The Reserve Bank has also introduced the South African Benchmark Overnight Rate (SABOR), to serve as a benchmark for overnight money market interest rates and enhance the functioning of the inter-bank and money market. In March 2013 the South African Reserve Bank published a revised document on the Jibar setting process. Contributors are required to be active in the NCD issuance market as well as show firm screen pricing for nominal amounts of R50m. Currently, there are five eligible banks.

Corporate finance

Market capitalisation of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) at the middle of May 2015 was approximately USD 951 billion. The securitisation market has reduced since the peak in 2008.

Risk management

Derivative instruments based on actual money market securities are extensively used to hedge interest rate or exchange rate fluctuations. South Africa has an active futures market through SAFEX. Future contracts can be traded on underlying instruments and indices. The most actively traded futures are those on the JSE indices. Currency future trading was introduced on the JSE in 2008. The remaining derivative dealing is over-the-counter (OTC) and covers interest rate foreign exchange, credit and equity derivatives All interest rate derivative contracts are quoted as yield rates. All contracts are settled in arrears, except FRAs, which settle in advance.



South African Reserve Bank

The Financial Services Board

Department of Trade and Industry

Ministry of Finance

Statistics South Africa

The Financial Services Board

Payments Association of South Africa

South African Revenue Service

Johannesburg Stock Exchange

SA futures Exchange SAFEX

The Banking Association South Africa

Association of Corporate Treasurers of South Africa (ACTSA)

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