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Wilson passionate about local share ownership
Guardian Media Ltd's chief editor-business, Anthony Wilson, a former Journalist of the Year, was 18 years old when he first bought shares on the T&T Stock Exchange. While most young men his age might have been partying or otherwise engaged, Wilson, then studying for his A’Levels, already owned shares in a local company.
He’d bought the shares of Union Bank of T&T. That entity is today known as Citibank T&T Ltd. Fast forward 29 years: Wilson, 47, still has a dividend cheque from Union Bank. He never cashed it.
His passionate belief that the Government should privatise state-owned companies and sell the shares to T&T nationals has been advocated through the BG View column he’s written for nearly ten years in the Guardian's flagship publication, the weekly Business Guardian.
On Thursday, the Securities Dealers Association of T&T (SDATT) honoured Wilson for his pivotal role in the development of the local securities industry, at a gala function at the Casablanca Ballroom, MovieTowne, Invader’s Bay, Port-of-Spain.
The criteria for the Capital Markets Pioneer award, which he shared with the local subsidiary of Citigroup, are based on personal integrity and reputation; tangible contribution to the development of the capital market; pioneering nature of the contribution; sustainable nature of the contribution and the level of elevation of the market.
After accepting what he described as “a prestigious” award from a new institution like SDATT, Wilson said the award was an even greater honour because, when granted to individuals, it has always been given to financial professionals, most of whom have retired, and he is the first journalist to receive it.
Among the individuals to have received the award are retired banker Rodney Prasad, retired UTC executive director, Henry Sealy, retired banker and former Securities and Exchange Commission, Osborne Nurse and retired Republic Bank executive, Lloyd Samaroo. The only other non-retired individual to have received the individual award is Suresh Maharaj, who is the CEO of Citibank’s Caribbean and Central America cluster.
"This is a very distinguished company indeed and it is a signal and noteworthy achievement for me to receive an award that has previously been granted to people who literally built T&T's capital markets,” said Wilson. “I’d also say there was a significant element of synchronicity because one of the first shares I recall purchasing was of Union Bank of T&T, as Citibank was known between 1983 and 1989.
“From the 1970s, there was a drive by the then People’s National Movement administration to increase local ownership of financial institutions. And, as a result, Citibank did an initial public offering and sold shares to the T&T public in 1983. “Why I remember it was one of the first shares I bought is because I still have a cheque for dividends from 1984,” said Wilson in an interview on Friday in his office at the Guardian.
Through retired stockbroker Sita Mohammed, then working with West Indies Stockbrokers Ltd (WISE), Wilson became a shareholder and has maintained an ongoing relationship with WISE since 1983.
Mohammed was one of four people Wilson paid tribute to on Thursday when he accepted the SDATT award. The others were Peter Clarke, former CEO of WISE, Ingrid Lashley, managing director at T&T Mortgage Finance Company Ltd, and Hugh Edwards, retired chief executive officer of the T&T Stock Exchange.
Wilson pointed out that he did not come from a background of share ownership. His parents—father Lawrence, a retired professor of agriculture at UWI and his mother, Desiree, a retired medical doctor—did not own shares in any company. He faintly recalls his paternal uncle Alex Wilson, a teacher, might have been the one who spoke about investing in shares.
“I seem to recall a discussion about the shares he bought,” Wilson said. “Since then, I have been a fairly consistent owner of shares.” The theory about why he should own shares came later. “Initially, I just liked the idea of owning shares. I liked the idea of making an investment and watching my money grow.”
Wilson admitted that as a young investor he didn’t have a concept that share ownership was a good means of long-term financial planning: that if you buy the right shares, hold them long enough that you’re almost sure to get a return on investment that beats inflation.
“I have experienced that many times,” Wilson said, “moreso now than ever, because I realise I am not getting any younger and share ownership is a good means of planning for my retirement.”
Wilson said over the years, his choice of stocks has become more scientific in terms of his judgment of what stocks to purchase and when is the right time to sell, which are now based on studying the valuations of companies and their performance.
“My portfolio reflects I’m better prepared for retirement. For me, it is not a finished work; it is a work in progress. The more you learn, the more you read, the more you distil what people tell you, the more you listen to the analyses on Bloomberg and CNBC and read analyses available on the Internet, the better and wiser you become, and, as a result, I’d say, you make better choices, given the experience.”
Wilson said he didn’t get the award for his wisdom as an investor, but because he has fiercely advocated the virtues of local share ownership and for Government to do all in its power to broaden the number of locals who are investing in shares.
“That has been a consistent theme in my column. It’s partly about patrimony, but also about the fact that individuals should own that patrimony. In other words, the prevailing theory of ownership in this country for the last 20 years or so is that the country’s patrimony should be held by the State on behalf of the people of the country, and the way that citizens benefit would be by the State then dispensing services and subsidies to the citizens.
“Implicit in what I have been writing is the notion that people need to take more responsibility for their financial future. They need to depend less on the State. It is about financial empowerment. “And I have written many a column, many a commentary in which I have espoused these views,” Wilson said.
• Past student of both St Mary’s College and St Augustine Secondary School
• Graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of the West Indies
• Earned a post-graduate diploma in international relations from the Institute of International Relations
• Spent a year pursuing a Masters in journalism from Carleton University, Canada
• A practicing journalist since September 1990
• Invested almost continuously in the local stock market since 1984
• He sees divestment as a means of ensuring that T&T nationals get the opportunity to own a stake of some of the country’s most profitable wealth generators and a means of allowing citizens of the country to make long-term investments that would secure their financial future.
• Is a firm advocate of local ownership
• Has written several thought-provoking and compelling articles over his career, among them:
“When will on-line trading come to local shares?” published on April 5, 2012
“Are we at the start of a local bull market?” published on January 27, 2011
“Why are we afraid to share T&T’s wealth with citizens?” published on November 24, 2011
“Does Cabrera hate or love First Citizens employees” published on October 27, 2011
“Should workers forsake wage hikes for share ownership," published on August 16, 2012 "Is Clico's best a NEL-type solution,” published on May 11, 2011.
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