<< Back to Insights

Regulated vs Unregulated Markets: What you need to know

At 27four, we pride ourselves on bringing innovative, well-diversified solutions to both retail and institutional investors. The firm is widely recognised for unseating South Africa’s corporate giants through the provision of these innovative solutions that are relevant, for identifying unique sources of return, and for challenging outdated market norms.

Retail investors often ask us what the difference is between regulated versus unregulated markets. In this article, we will unpack the basic concepts and look at some of the advantages /disadvantages of each type of investment.

Regulated markets, also known as public market funds, are overseen by a regulator to protect public interest. In South Africa, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) is responsible for market conduct regulation and supervision of financial institutions, including investment managers, advisors, banks, insurers, retirement funds, administrators, and market infrastructures. The FSCA aims to enhance and support the efficiency and integrity of financial markets and to protect financial customers by promoting their fair treatment by financial institutions[1]. Public market funds are easily accessible, transparent, and would include the likes of listed equities, fixed income securities, global mutual funds and real estate investment trusts (REITS). These instruments could easily be purchased through regulated investment funds and in various product wrappers that are best suited for your investment objectives.

Unregulated markets are not overseen by a specific regulator and, due to the nature of the offering, are often referred to as private markets, unlisted markets, or alternative markets. In South Africa, private market funds are typically structured as a limited liability partnership (also known as en commandite partnership). Private market funds structured as limited liability partnerships are typically unregulated in South Africa as they do not fall within the definition of a “collective investment scheme” as that term is contemplated in the Collective Investment Schemes Control Act 45 of 2002 (CISCA). However, this might change once the Conduct of Financial Institutions Bill (COFI) becomes enacted, as it proposes to regulate providers of participatory interests in alternative investment funds, which includes private market funds structured as limited liability partnerships[2]. Private market funds often include the likes of private equity funds, venture capital funds, real estate and structured products. It is also important to note that the key difference between private equity and venture capital is the stage/type of company in which the investment takes place. Private equity investments are typically made in mature or well-established businesses with established profit and cash flow profiles. Venture capital investments target start-up or young businesses with high growth potential. The tech sector is a particular focus for venture capital funds given low capital requirements and high scalability[3].

Both public and private market funds serve a unique purpose for new-age investors looking for solutions to meet their specific risk and return profiles. Like with any investment, there are advantages/disadvantages to each type, and these are some of the considerations before making your investment decision.

Public Market Funds

Advantages: these funds are transparent, and investors can easily access information. There is a prescribed minimum disclosure documentation that public market funds are required to disclose. In addition to being regulated, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) has incorporated a Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) framework into its oversight standards. This framework governs the way service providers conduct daily dealings with their clients, ensuring that all clients are treated fairly during all stages of the product life cycle and advice process. These funds are also highly liquid given the open market structure and can easily be redeemed for cash.

Disadvantages: given the concentration of listed equity, returns can become highly correlated. There is also high volatility of returns as there is sensitivity to factors like inflation, interest rates and market sentiment. Even though there is regulatory oversight, we saw in the case of Steinhoff, a perceived sense of safety and the importance of diversification.

Private Market Funds

Advantages: within the unlisted space, there is potential for higher returns than in public markets and lower correlation given there is less sensitivity to market sentiment and other factors that may influence public markets. With a greater selection of opportunities within private markets, there may be increased diversification within your portfolio.

Disadvantages: being unregulated (although this may change with COFI bill) increases the risk of your investment decision, and there may be limited information available on the deals being invested in, given the nature of private transactions. Private market funds are long-term in nature and there will be periods of illiquidity within the investment. The objective is to return attractive yields to investors over the fund’s lifecycle, and the average lifespan of a fund is usually between seven to ten years.

At 27four, we live investments.

Earlier this year, our private markets team at 27four launched a venture capital fund called the 27four Nebula Fund. We are pleased to announce that the 27four Nebula Fund is now available to retail investors.

The 27four Nebula fund backs high-growth South African companies as they gain market traction, while solving social problems and continues to fund them as they meet certain milestones. In this way, we expect to achieve high returns and meaningful impact, while reducing risk.

The fund typically invests directly into high-growth and high-potential companies that are characterized by the following criteria:

  • Disruptive technology solutions or innovative solutions to existing social challenges;
  • The company must be revenue-generating;
  • The company must have a signed proof-of-concept;
  • In-house intellectual property or exclusive licensing of intellectual property and/or a clearly defined competitive advantage;
  • Quick scaling solutions with clear routes to market;
  • Solutions that have a clear strategy to access global and/or other emerging markets;
  • Participation by or partnership with a larger, more established institution;
  • Must have received funding from at least one other reputable funder;
  • Measurable social impact; and
  • A strong and well-balanced management team.

The portfolio has a unique risk reduction mechanism through a first loss mechanism making up a minimum of 30% of the fund’s capital. Investors’ returns are prioritized up to minimum portfolio return hurdle of 10%.  The fund would typically target sectors in health-tech, cyber-security, business services, fin-tech, and edu-tech, amongst others.

With a minimum investment of R250 000, the 27four Nebula Fund is accessible by purchasing an endowment policy from 27four Life Limited (“27four Life”). The endowment policy is a tax efficient savings investment vehicle that would be suitable for investors with a marginal tax rate of 30% or higher and those looking for estate planning benefits.

If you have any questions or require assistance, speak to your financial advisor or call us. We are available to take your call. You can reach us using the contact details below:


Website: 27four.com , Call: 0800 000 274, Email: info@27four.com , WhatsApp: “Hi” to 011- 442 2467


[1] https://www.fsca.co.za/Pages/About

[2] https://www.cliffedekkerhofmeyr.com/news/publications/2021/Private/private-equity-alert-30-september

[3] https://uk.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com/4-376

Agrarius - Historical Pricing