Con­fer­ence cel­e­brates 30-year part­ner­ships

‘Del­e­gates at our func­tions ben­e­fit from cut­ting-edge knowl­edge shar­ing’

Mail & Guardian - - Gaming - Alf James

Be­sides host­ing in­for­ma­tive pre­sen­ta­tions, net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, busi­ness di­a­logues, panel dis­cus­sions, Mas­ter Classes in re­tire­ment fund­ing prac­tices, and the Best Prac­tice In­dus­try Awards, the 2017 In­sti­tute of Re­tire­ment Funds Africa (IRFA) An­nual Con­fer­ence also hosted the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s 30th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion party, with pop­u­lar Afro-fu­sion band Fresh­ly­ground pro­vid­ing lively en­ter­tain­ment.

“His­tory has shown us that the IRFA has been a driv­ing force in the South African re­tire­ment sec­tor for three decades and will con­tinue to serve not only South African pen­sions stake­hold­ers but the whole con­ti­nent,” says Wayne Hiller van Rens­burg, IRFA pres­i­dent and chair­per­son.

“We have in­creased our col­lab­o­ra­tion with re­tire­ment in­dus­try stake­hold­ers and other pub­lic ben­e­fit and pro­fes­sional or­gan­i­sa­tions, be­cause we know this is the best way we can learn, grow and achieve con­sis­tent im­prove­ment for the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of South African pen­sion and prov­i­dent funds.

“The big­gest con­tri­bu­tion that we’ve made is in the area of in­ter­pret­ing and as­sist­ing many of the reg­u­la­tory bod­ies in for­mu­lat­ing pro­cesses and poli­cies that are pos­i­tive for the de­vel­op­ment of the re­tire­ment sec­tor.

“The IRFA has been very suc­cess­ful in mak­ing the com­plex re­tire­ment land­scape more ac­ces­si­ble to trustees. This is ev­i­dent by at­ten­dance at our con­fer­ences, work­shops and sem­i­nars. Del­e­gates at our func­tions ben­e­fit from cut­ting-edge knowl­edge shar­ing. They are able to re­turn to their or­gan­i­sa­tions and pass on the essence of the is­sue and es­sen­tial el­e­ments that need to be im­ple­mented.”

Hiller van Rens­burg says his­tory has also shown that the IRFA has the abil­ity to adapt with the times.

“The re­tire­ment fund land­scape has changed sub­stan­tially over the last 30 years, which is re­flected in the tran­si­tion from de­fined ben­e­fit to de­fined con­tri­bu­tion, the evo­lu­tion of demo­cratic man­age­ment of pen­sion funds and most im­por­tantly, the fact that mem­bers now bear the in­vest­ment risk as far as their re­tire­ment sav­ings are con­cerned.”

The IRFA asked its mem­bers what their re­quire­ments are from the in­sti­tute and re­ceived the fol­low­ing an­swers: sup­port with un­der­stand­ing gover­nance; tools to cre­ate and im­ple­ment ef­fec­tive gover­nance frame­works; and an ad­vo­cacy func­tion rep­re­sent­ing the in­ter­ests of pen­sions stake­hold­ers.

“Based on this feed­back, we de­vel­oped a con­fer­ence pro­gramme that spoke to those needs,” says Hiller van Rens­burg.

“Our sem­i­nars fo­cused on pro­vid­ing del­e­gates with tools and prac­tices that en­sured they leave the con­fer­ence bet­ter equipped to deal with the day-to­day man­age­ment of their funds af­ter lis­ten­ing to the views of: ex­pert in­ter­na­tional prac­ti­tion­ers and the­o­rists; in­put from the South African gov­ern­ment and var­i­ous so­cial part­ners as well as the Reg­is­trar of Pen­sion Funds and the Pen­sion Funds Ad­ju­di­ca­tor; and a life­style speaker to ad­dress per­sonal growth as an es­sen­tial part of be­com­ing a more ef­fec­tive par­tic­i­pant in the pen­sions en­vi­ron­ment.

“Some of the top­ics ad­dressed by speak­ers and pan­els at the con­fer­ence were: the power of as­set own­ers to af­fect pos­i­tive change; im­pact in­vest­ing; trans­for­ma­tion; the Fi­nan­cial Sec­tor Char­ter; gover­nance and fi­nan­cial re­port­ing; the evo­lu­tion of ad­vice in the re­tire­ment fund­ing in­dus­try; so­cial se­cu­rity; in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment; and the role of re­tire- ment funds in so­cial de­vel­op­ment.

“Fur­ther­more, be­sides the for­mal con­fer­ence ses­sions, the in­for­mal space cre­ated by the event for net­work­ing and in­ter­ac­tion was im­por­tant, as there are not many gath­er­ings with as many trustees and in­dus­try stake­hold­ers in one place, which creates ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­ni­ties for peer in­ter­ac­tion and learn­ing.”

Hiller van Rens­burg says this year’s con­fer­ence, which took place at the Inkosi Al­bert Luthuli Con­ven­tion Cen­tre in Dur­ban from Septem­ber 10-12, dif­fered from past con­fer­ences in that it did not try and squeeze as much as pos­si­ble into the pro­gramme, but worked on the prin­ci­ple of “less is more” to en­cour­age del­e­gate in­ter­ac­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

“For the IRFA’s 30th birth­day year the in­sti­tute has needed to be a Janus look­ing back at our con­tri­bu­tions, re­flect­ing on the good and the bad, so that the way for­ward is in­formed by lessons from our past.

“Our abil­ity to ‘think’ the fu­ture will guide us to fo­cus our en­er­gies on the nec­es­sary part­ner­ships, in­no­va­tion and change,” says the IRFA pres­i­dent.

He con­tends that the most im­por­tant re­quire­ment in the in­dus­try, cur­rently, is the con­sti­tu­tional im­per­a­tive of the state to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment that al­lows all the so­cial play­ers to con­trib­ute to the de­liv­ery of ad­e­quate so­cial ben­e­fits to all South Africans.

“This is a theme that all stake­hold­ers are work­ing to­wards and one which IRFA is fo­cused on. Al­though we rep­re­sent re­tire­ment funds and their mem­bers, we un­der­stand the ne­ces­sity of pro­vid­ing for our so­ci­ety as a whole. Like­wise, we recog­nise the need to cre­ate so­cially re­spon­si­ble, sus­tain­able in­vest­ments that de­liver wealth and pro­duce pos­i­tive so­ci­etal out­comes.

“In the South African con­text this means en­sur­ing that the en­tire value chain and range of ser­vice providers are rep­re­sen­ta­tive of our coun­try’s de­mo­graph­ics and the need for eco­nomic growth,” says Hiller van Rens­burg.

Af­ter the for­mal open­ing of the con­fer­ence, econ­o­mist Mike Schüssler pre­sented the first ses­sion, which fo­cussed on re­tire­ment funds and so­cial de­vel­op­ment, ex­plor­ing the po­ten­tial power of as­set own­ers and their abil­ity to ef­fect trans­for­ma­tion. Next up was a ses­sion by Michael McMil­lan from the Char­tered Fi­nan­cial An­a­lyst In­sti­tute (CFA) on eth­i­cal gover­nance by as­set own­ers.

In­vestec As­set Man­age­ment’s Nazmeera Moola pre­sented a highly in­for­ma­tive ses­sion on “In­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment and how the pri­vate sec­tor can help un­lock South Africa’s eco­nomic po­ten­tial”, which was fol­lowed by a panel dis­cus­sion on “So­cial se­cu­rity”. The panel com­prised Rowan Burger from The As­so­ci­a­tion for Sav­ings and In­vest­ment South Africa, Evette Van­re­nen-Lin­ford, prin­ci­pal of­fi­cer of UJ Pen­sion Funds, whose doc­tor­ate stud­ies re­lated to mem­ber rep­re­sen­ta­tion im­prov­ing re­tire­ment out­comes, and Hiller van Rens­burg.

“This year we in­tro­duced a life­style speaker who fo­cused more on life skills rather than hard in­dus­try skills: Gcina Mhlophe, a sto­ry­teller and lit­er­acy cam­paigner who pre­sented a highly in­for­ma­tive pre­sen­ta­tion on ‘Work­ing for change’ fo­cussing on col­lab­o­rat­ing with col­leagues, friends and fam­ily,” says Hiller van Rens­burg.

“As a preview to the Best Prac­tice Awards that took place be­fore our 30th birth­day party on the Mon­day evening, we had a panel dis­cus­sion en­ti­tled ‘Best Prac­tices: Do­ing the right thing for the right rea­son’ that in­cluded Stephanie Grif­fiths from Co­he­sion; Geral­dine Fowler, IRFA vice pres­i­dent; An­thony Williams from the SABC Pen­sion Fund; Agatha Se­joe from the Deb­swana Pen­sion Fund in Botswana; Mma­pula Ika­neng, an IRFA board mem­ber; and Estie van Coller from Re­tire­men­tWise, who dis­cussed best prac­tice is­sues around stake­holder en­gage­ment, in­vest­ment, trans­for­ma­tion, and gover­nance.

“Tues­day’s con­fer­ence ses­sions opened with Mar­ius du Toit from the Of­fice of the Reg­is­trar of Pen­sion Funds and Mu­vhango Lukhaimane, the Pen­sion Funds ad­ju­di­ca­tor, tak­ing ques­tions from del­e­gates.

“The high­light of the sec­ond day was an in­no­va­tion that con­sisted of three Mas­ter Classes on: Im­pact In­vest­ing; Trans­for­ma­tion; and Gover­nance; which were split into two ses­sions each and re­spec­tively cov­ered: ‘In­vest­ments in Gen­eral’ and ‘Cur­rent In­vest­ment Trends; ‘Twin Peaks’ and the ‘Fi­nan­cial Sec­tor Char­ter’; and ‘How does King IV ap­ply to my Re­tire­ment Fund?’ and ‘Fi­nan­cial Re­port­ing and My Fund’.”

Hiller van Rens­burg says over­all the con­fer­ence ex­am­ined re­tire­ment funds’ roles as as­set own­ers that can make an im­pact on em­pow­er­ment, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, wealth cre­ation, em­ploy­ment, eth­i­cal con­duct, good gover­nance, and trans­for­ma­tion in South Africa.

“The con­fer­ence has been highly suc­cess­ful and was an ex­pres­sion of the IRFA’s em­pha­sis on co-op­er­at­ing with in­dus­try stake­hold­ers, in line with global sus­tain­abil­ity trends, which em­pha­sise co-op­er­a­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion to im­prove re­sults. We have iden­ti­fied or­gan­i­sa­tions that we can work to­gether with to im­prove the out­comes of re­tire­ment in­vest­ments and the cre­ation a more in­clu­sive, growth-based economy,” con­cludes the IRFA pres­i­dent.

(Left) Wayne Hiller van Rens­burg, IRFA pres­i­dent and chair­per­son, pre­sented the open­ing ad­dress. (Right) Econ­o­mist Mike Schüssler dis­cussing the po­ten­tial power of as­set own­ers’ abil­ity to ef­fect trans­for­ma­tion. Pho­tos: Val Adam­son

Del­e­gates lis­ten­ing to the open­ing ad­dress at the IRFA’s an­nual con­fer­ence, which took place at the Inkosi Al­bert Luthuli Con­ven­tion Cen­tre in Dur­ban. Photo: Val Adam­son

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