Taking stock with Tsheole

An instinct for economics

With a natural flair for numbers, 43-year-old Thapelo Tsheole is perfectly suited to lead the Botswana Stock Exchange Limited (BSEL) – which is exactly what he has done with great success for the last three years.

The Mochudi man’s time at BSEL dates back to February 2007, when he was appointed Product Development Manager.

Prior to that, Tsheole, who is also the Chairman of the Committee of SADC Stock Exchanges (CoSSE), had worked at the Bank of Botswana for seven years, rapidly rising up the hierarchy from Trainee Settlement Officer to the International Dealing Desk.

This week The Voice’s Kabelo Adamson sat down with the man at the centre of BSEL’s recent revival to dissect the murky world of finance and find out exactly what makes him tick.

Q. We have seen quite a few changes and improvements since your appointment as Botswana Stock Exchange Limited (BSEL) Chief Executive Officer in 2016.

A. When I was appointed the CEO, one of the clear intentions I had was to really take the stock exchange to the people in terms of increasing publicity about the presence of the stock market and also educating members of the public about the opportunities that exist in the stock market in Botswana.

I think this is what I have successfully managed to do! We also had an initiative to take the stock market to the rural areas by way of open days and we have done that four times every year since 2016.

We have had successful school competitions in order to ‘catch them young’ in terms of introducing them to the stock market at a younger age.

Q. Is that why we have seen companies tripping over each other in recent years to list?

A. Yes. We increased our strategy to attract listings to an extent that I think we have attracted about eight listings in two-and-a-half years, which I think is a great achievement!

One of the things we intended to do was to popularise the stock exchange internationally and we have achieved that as we managed to get recognition from the UK Customs office.

We were also able to get the secretariat of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Stock Exchanges based in Botswana which I think is a big plus as the BSEL.

Most importantly we have demutualized the BSE to become the seventh stock exchange out of the 28 stock exchanges in Africa to demutualize.

Those are some of the achievements we have managed.

Q. Quite an impressive track record in such a short period of time. I understand you once worked for Bank of Botswana; share with our readers your stint at the central bank.

A. Yes, I worked at Bank of Botswana after completing my first degree, Bachelor of Social Sciences in Economics.

I worked there as a Trainee Settlement Officer in the back office then I moved to the dealing room.

I was a dealer for money markets and Forex and also in the international dealing desk, dealing with the treasury bills and bonds globally.

I worked for the bank from 2001 up to 2007 when I joined the stock market following the completion of my first Masters Degree, Masters of Commerce in Financial Markets at Rhodes University.

Q. Why did you choose a career in the financial markets?

A. I think it’s just interest.

Initially, I was a science student – and like any other science student one of the things we were told during that time was, as a science student you need to be looking for a career in things like medicine and other related industries.

But out of interest for social sciences, I ended up choosing economics as a career and I don’t regret my choice.

But at first it was an issue of instinct because I didn’t even know what economics was when I chose it!

I had an idea what it might be, but I didn’t know exactly what it was.

Q. If you were to swap careers, what profession would you go for?

A. I think I would choose financial markets over and over again.

This is really what I was born to do; this is my destiny and I believe this is what God guided me to ultimately end up in.

This is what I enjoy doing. But of course, now there is less of practice because now I am in leadership, so it is more leadership than economics and financial markets.

However, it’s leadership in an industry where my love is and where my career is.

Q. You were recently appointed President of Mochudi Centre Chiefs. What is your role there and how do you intend to use your corporate experience to help the club overcome its troubles?

A. I was approached two years ago to become the president of the team or to play a role in one way or the other in Mochudi Centre Chiefs.

Initially, I continuously refused for almost two years but this year I accepted the offer.

Part of the reason I decided to agree was as a way of giving back to the community in terms of the skills that I have acquired over the years.

It was also to appreciate that having grown up in Mochudi, it is the society that made me who I am today, so I felt duty bound to give back to the community.

Unfortunately when I was recruited I was to be a ceremonial figure but I am now finding that I arrived in a battlefield where there is a massive war taking place between some group of supporters and the committee.

It is a big war that is being fought but one of the things I decided was that I cannot abandon the ship.

Instead of channeling all my efforts trying to get the club to put governance into perspective, get sponsorship, now I find myself trying to solve the dispute between the warring factions.

These are things I was not brought in to deal with, but now that I am in the system, I have to deal with them!

Q. What do you think can be done to improve the status of local football?

A. I think its governance.

A lot of people cry that the current status of the clubs has to do with finances.

No! I beg to differ.

The majority of football clubs governance is rotten to the core.

There is no proper governance, to an extent that it is non-existent.

The guys are just clueless in terms of the basic governance principles.

It will take a lot to change it because when you get in there you will find people who have been in these clubs for decades and they have entrenched systems of thinking.

For them to change it might not take me, it might take a group of people even after me.

But even us, we are trying as much as we can to play a role.

There is huge potential in terms of the way clubs can be run and in terms of strategy.

But here it’s kind of hand-to-mouth in terms of administration, yet they expect people to come in and bring in their money where there is no governance, which is not possible.

You find hardcore people who have been sitting in these committees for 25 years!

When you try to show them the modern way they will tell you they have been doing this since 1985 and think that can still work today.

Q. You seem to be an open-minded person. Do you harbour ambitions of joining politics in the future?

A. It depends in what terms the future is; is it in the short term, medium term or in the long term? But what I can tell you is that my roles in leadership are from far back.

A lot of people think I only became a leader when I became the CEO of BSEL.

It goes back to my secondary school days.

At Form 2 in 1990, I was the Headboy of my junior secondary school.

That is where my leadership skills started.

Therefore I cannot say 100 percent I will go into politics and I can also not rule out that possibility.

I can only rule it out in the short and medium term, the long term I don’t know.

My interest now lies in my professional career where I think I still need to give a lot of value.

Q. But you do keep close tabs on local politics?

A. Yes, I do. My work as the CEO of an institution that is influenced by the local economy, politics included, means I need to put tabs on local politics but I am not active in politics.

I read newspapers about politics, I chat with friends about politics, I interact with a lot of politicians but at this present moment, I don’t think my interest is in politics.

Q. Which book are you reading at the moment?

A. I am on a break from books now because it is year end and also when you tackle a lot of things like demutualization, you have very little time to read books.

And after demutualization, you need to be dealing with a lot of big things such as the Choppies issue which give you little room for reading!

But I am an avid reader; one of the latest books I read was the Steinford scandal in South Africa.

I also like to read books that deal with strategy, especially blue-sky kind of thinking.

Q. Away from the office, how do you relax?

A. I have a small farm holding in Mochudi.

I like going there but it’s not a farm for cattle or livestock, it is sort of a garden.

I also like staying home enjoying my wine as well as going back home to Mochudi to relate with the people I grew up with.

Q. Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans this weekend?

A. I will be taking it easy.

I will possibly go to Mochudi on Saturday but I think I will just be at my house relaxing as I am travelling to Nigeria next week for the African Securities Exchange Annual General Meeting.