Meeting Scott Field, CFO of FedGroup

  • Q: How did you get involved in financial services - was it always something you wanted to do?
  • A: My father, John Field, established FedGroup in 1990. As such, financial services have been a part of my life for a very long time. My decision to enter the business, however, had to do with how this industry had the potential to transform the lives of South Africans. I studied for a CA degree, indicating my interest in finance from a relatively young age, but the understanding of the impact investing can have in people’s lives is what provided the impetus to build a career in the financial services industry.

  • Q: What is wealth and how can we build it?
  • A: Wealth is a very simple concept. The less one spends, relative to one’s income, the greater the wealth. A high earner, driving a luxury vehicle, but who is in deeply indebted to the bank, holds less wealth than the individual living within their means. The concept is so simple, yet more than half of all economically active South Africans are in debt, and many are battling with bad credit records. Most of the time, we don’t slip into debt through calamity, but rather through a lack of understanding or discipline to save.

  • Q: What is one thing we can do to boost savings - and one thing we need to stop doing?
  • A: The key is education. If people understood the power of compound interest, we would go a long way toward instilling a savings culture in South Africa. As the adage goes, “Those that understand it, earn it; those that don’t, pay it”. Again, we go back to the question of wealth. Most people will apply for finance to buy a vehicle, and pay it off over five years – rarely do they consider that if they saved the instalment amount for three years, they could buy the car for cash. This is perfect example of how compound interest can work either for and against you. A key point of concern is something being addressed currently in the retirement reform: the practice of withdrawing retirement savings before retirement age. Again, this highlights the power of compound interest – where a critical element is time. Nothing can replace the value of consistency and time. People believe that they will make up for lost time by investing a windfall at a later stage – that they have time to make up the earnings. Reality does not pan out this way. We need to stop delaying.

  • Q: What can the industry do to alleviate the poverty cycle?
  • A: Education is paramount. While there is no silver bullet, education is, in my opinion, the most critical factor in breaking the poverty cycle. Less than 40% of our population has a matric certificate or some form of tertiary education, and it is shown that a combination of tertiary education and some work experience provides significant advantage to job seekers. This is the reason FedGroup has initiated the Iteke Learnership programme. We provide learners on the programme with education, mentorship, and work experience, and select candidates from our beneficiaries, who are graduating from matric. I strongly believe that if every business where to incorporate a learnership programme into their business model, there would be a tangible impact on the socio-economic outlook of the country. As individuals and organisations, we need to start taking responsibility for the well-being of our youth.

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