Interview: Creating access to African citizens to invest in precious metals

Clint O'Brien, the CEO of SA Bullion

Clint O'Brien, the CEO of SA Bullion, is a driving force and a trailblazer in democratizing investment in gold by individuals. O'Brien's commitment to empowering individuals to own physical gold assets is changing the way Africans invest, and slowly shifting  away from the practice of African countries exporting valuable precious metals to creating access for citizens so that they can build sustainable wealth for themselves. Zimbwean economist Vince Musewe (VM) sat down with O’Brien (CO) to get insights on his vision and work. Below are excerpts from the interview.

VM: Clint, your work with SA Bullion is truly remarkable. The lack of  investment in precious metals, especially gold, among Africans, who seem to export value rather than build it at home, is a concerning trend. Could you shed some light on how SA Bullion is altering this narrative by enabling individual investors to own physical gold assets?CO: Our mission at SA Bullion is straightforward - we aim to make gold investment accessible to all.

We have built an all-encompassing ecosystem that takes care of regulations, dealing, safeguarding, liquidity, logistics, and customer service.

We have built a one-stop-shop for everything related to investing in physical gold assets. Today, we are proud to say that we have achieved this goal.

Vince: That is quite impressive. Could you tell us more about your journey and how long SA Bullion has been operational?CO: My background is in wealth management and investment advice, with a special focus on physical gold.

My brother and I ventured into this field just before the 2008 financial crisis.

Now, after two decades, we have empowered tens of thousands of global investors.

VM: And what do you believe is at the heart of your success?CO: Simply put, it is through our strong belief. The need to democratise distribution of gold ownership.

This has guided and propelled us to make gold an accessible asset class for everyone.

 I believe when actions are driven by a higher purpose, they are infused with courage and determination, leading to successful outcomes.

VM: Could you walk us through the investment process for physical gold assets?CO: At SA Bullion, we see ourselves as an alternative to traditional banking. Much like depositing money in a bank, clients exchange fiat currency for physical gold stored securely in our vaults worldwide.

 We offer timeless assets with liquidation and delivery solutions similar to withdrawing from a bank account.

Currently, we offer this service across three continents - South Africa, Dubai, Switzerland, and the UK. Our future plans are to expand into the United States.

VM: Who are your typical investors, and what is the average duration of their investment?CO: Our goal is to make gold ownership widespread. We cater for everyone from parents saving US$25 monthly for their child’s education to high net worth individuals looking to preserve wealth across generations. We do not have "average" client at SA Bullion.

We recognise that each individual's needs are unique, which is why our approach is tailor made and customer-centric, fostering long-lasting investor relationships and meeting customer expectations.

VM: Why should individuals choose to invest in physical gold over investments in gold companies or exchange-traded funds?CO: It is fact that investing in physical gold offers a hedge against economic uncertainties, unlike gold mining or ETFs which come with counterparty risks. Ownership of physical gold ensures security and title ownership, making it a safer choice compared to investing in companies exposed to the fluctuating gold prices.

VM: That is an interesting perspective. What about silver?CO: Silver has been gaining attention lately. It offers a compelling diversification opportunity, historically undervalued relative to gold. Allocating a portion of a precious metals portfolio to silver can effectively complement gold investments.

We generally recommend an 80-20 split between gold and silver for clients looking to diversify their precious metals portfolio.

VM: Clint, how would you describe the liquidity of investments with SA Bullion?CO: The beauty of gold is that its liquidity rivals that of oil. Owing to our relationships with major commercial and bullion banks, clients enjoy seamless conversion to cash, ensuring near-instantaneous transactions globally.

VM: Security is a significant concern for investors. How does SA Bullion ensure the safety of physical assets?CO: Absolutely, Vince, we prioritise our clients' security. We have established a strong reputation through stringent regulatory compliance and partnerships with top-tier audit firms and security providers.

Our client holdings in vaults worldwide are audited regularly by leading audit firms.

I always advise investors to ask about the location of their gold and who the custodian is, in our case, we trust Brinks International, a reputable international frim

VM: Regarding exchange control, how do non-residents invest with SA Bullion?CO: We typically recommend advisors to seek professional advice since tax regulations can vary by jurisdiction.

 However, if investors can expatriate foreign exchange to our international office, we can arrange zero import duties in strategic locations like Dubai, Switzerland, London, and soon, Las Vegas.

VM: What is the minimum investment requirement?CO: Our goal is to make gold accessible to everyone. We are excited about the upcoming launch of our mobile app, which we hope will democratise precious metal investment across Africa. 

Currently, due to cross-border compliance costs, we require a lump sum of US$10,000, ensuring our operations remain sustainable and our service frictionless.

Vince: Is there anything else investors should know about SA Bullion?CO: Over our 15year journey, we have witnessed how investing in gold can transform lives. 

Given the positive outlook for precious metals, we encourage everyone to secure their financial future through physical gold.

We hope more people will join us on this journey towards a more secure future for themselves and future generations.

Vince: How can potential investors reach you?CO: We strive to make our business as human centric as possible.

You can visit our website at / to learn more and open an account directly.

Alternatively, you can Google us, call our offices, or browse through our social channels.

Our teams are ready to provide personalized assistance and a seamless investment experience.

VM: Any final thoughts you would like to share with our readers.CO: Yes, Vince. Rather than waiting for change, we should be proactive in securing our financial future with physical gold.

Instead of watching inequality rise, let us empower future generations and ourselves.

VM: Clint, thank you for your time and for shedding light on the work that SA Bullion is doing. I am sure readers will find your insights valuable.CO: Thank you, Vince. It has been a pleasure.

Vince Musewe is an economist and you can contact him on [email protected]

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