by Louise Currie, General Manager, and Anke Frankland, Head, Custodial Services, Nedbank Investor Services

Many investment clients value the convenience and security that a reliable custodial service offering gives them. But not all custodial services are created equal, and when it comes to adding real and tangible value to your investment portfolio, there are a number of attributes and services that should be core to your custodial services provider.

The fact that these attributes should include the highest possible levels of competency, expertise and trustworthiness, demonstrated through a proven track record and many international awards, goes without saying. Given that your custodial services provider has physical and electronic possession and stewardship of your assets, the full value they add must go far beyond just the services they offer. It should also be revealed in their commitment to investing in you to the same extent that you are invested in them. This requires a demonstrable passion for forging a strong relationship with you, a clear commitment to adding value through cost-effectiveness, without sacrificing processing efficiency, and an ability and desire to partner with you in identifying the best possible value-adding opportunities, by leveraging world-class technology to act on them smoothly and timeously.

While identifying many of these attributes requires thorough due diligence during the process of selecting a custodial services provider, there are a number of tell-tale signs that you can look for that will give a relatively clear idea of whether a custodian is the right fit, and the best choice, for you.

Firstly, any custodial services provider worth its salt should offer you a dedicated client service team that gives you a single point of contact for any questions or requests you may have. You can request details about the skills and experience of this team, and the entire custodial services business, if necessary, and it must convince you of the expertise, experience and track record of the people who will be partnering with you to hold and manage your financial assets.

Then, this professional team should be enabled to deliver the highest possible levels of personal service by having access to leading technology, and operating in a business culture that prioritises performance, innovation and absolute client centredness. Like all areas of banking and financial services, the custodial services environment is highly dynamic and is being shaped by disruptive technological advancement.

Truly value-adding custodial services are those that can capitalise on this digital evolution for the benefit of their clients, but in a way that never loses sight of the vital need to balance technology with a human touch to deliver the optimal client experience. While computers, apps, programmes and robotic technology are very useful in delivering basic efficiencies and achieving cost savings, the world of technology is yet to evolve to the point that relationships, information analysis and opportunity identification can be fully automated. The best approach to effective custodial services is therefore still the one that successfully balances technological enablement with skilled, empathetic, client-focused people, with expert industry and regulatory knowledge and keen insights into the unique needs of each client.

It is an approach that has been followed by Nedbank Investor Services (NIS) for the past 50 years, and which is recognised as industry-leading by our clients and peers. This leadership position was confirmed recently by our achievement of the top ranking for custodial services in South Africa by Global Finance magazine. This is the 11th consecutive year that NIS has taken the top spot in these annual rankings.

As further confirmation of the world-class status of the custodial services NIS offers, the business was also one of the top-rated agent banks in major markets in the 2018 survey done by Global Custodian magazine.

While winning awards and accolades are certainly not the objective behind what we do at NIS, the recognition that the business consistently receives from local and international industry bodies and its peers, serves to validate the effectiveness of our approach, and confirms the value that our clients derive from our primary focus on providing exceptional, relationship-led client experiences, delivered by the best people using the most advanced digital platforms.