SEC CEO: Trinis aren’t investors, just savers

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo.

MOST people in Trinidad and Tobago were not savvy investors, but rather, might only buy mutual funds as a form of long-term savings, said Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) CEO Lystra Lucillio on Wednesday.

She was replying to a question by Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon at a virtual sitting of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), chaired by Davendranath Tancoo.

Gopee-Scoon said despite educational programmes run by the SEC, she did not think the TT public were sophisticated investors. She asked if the public understood the SEC’s role and the benefits, risks and liabilities of investing, and she sought the CEO’s views.

Lucillio said a 2009 baseline survey had found many people knew little about the SEC and had a limited view on investing.

“Many persons may not have been aware of the role and function of the SEC. But when we look at the investment public there are quite a number of persons who are investors, (but) whether they are completely aware they are investors or not…Sometimes what happens (is) you have a situation where with, say, mutual funds, persons invest in it, but in their view they are not totally thinking of it as an investment. Persons almost align that to some sort of long-term savings.”

She said the SEC has partnered with other regulators and the National Financial Literacy Campaign to try to improve people’s understanding of investing.

The SEC also has a free online investing course, which she urged people to check and get a certificate of participation. It has supplied information to schoolteachers, and run online ads educating about investment schemes.

Gopee-Scoon asked how the TT public would be rated as investors on a scale of one-ten.

Lucillio replied, “There are quite a number people that invest. I’d say probably you are looking at you are looking at eight and a half, nine (out of ten), somewhere, because of the number of persons who engage in investing in some form.

“On the other hand, if it is that they actually consider themselves as investors, as opposed to a long-term savings vehicle that they may think of it, I’d say it is probably closer to 6.5 or seven.”

Tancoo used the occasion to call for improvements to the SEC’s investment protection app, which he said had seemed to be not fully functional when he had recently tried to use it.

Independent Senator Charrise Seepersad also expressed concerns about the TT public as investors, saying she was unsure that people knew when to get in and when to get out of particular mutual funds.

Otherwise, Lucillio said the SEC would send its financial statements to the Ministry of Finance in May and would complete its 2022-2026 strategic plan within two weeks.

SEC chairman Enid Zephyrine said the SEC cannot yet sign off on those financials, as it was still to receive a management letter from its auditors.

JSC vice chairman, Opposition Senator Jearlean John, asked how many government bodies had not yet made their statutory filing at the SEC.

“If they don’t file, it will affect their ability to borrow,” she warned.

SEC chief legal counsel Rachel Simms-Sealy promised to get this information.

She said “quite a few” state enterprises were now in breach of their requirement to file their annual reports and financial statements with the SEC under section 65 of the Securities and Exchange Commission Act. Simms-Sealy said a breach can incur a penalty of $1,000 for every day that the breach continues, but the SEC tried to work consensually with such bodies to get them to file.

Regarding the scope of the SEC, Simms-Sealy said this was mainly monitoring mergers and acquisitions, but it also closely watched daily trading for any anomalies, and also took note of tip-offs and complaints.