Edition: November 2018/January 2019
New face, safe direction
Financial travails of Eskom are in hand at its retirement fund.
|Lila...cool in the hot seat|
In a sense, the EPPF is unique by having its administration and investment arms under one roof. There’s no outsourcing, except to the extent that it does use a selection of external fund managers for a proportion of the assets. “But everything is led by our chief investment officer,” Lila hastens to add, “right down to specialist teams that manage the multi-managers.”
She condenses her philosophy into promotion of “the three Es”. These are empowerment, education and evolution. Pension funds have vital roles to play in demographic and social challenges, she says, from adapting policies for increased longevity to investments benefiting future generations.
Insufficiently emphasised, she believes, is the need for development of social infrastructure in rural areas: “Many people work in the cities but, when they retire, they go back to where their families are.” Decent infrastructure and comfortable retirement are two sides of the same coin.
Lila is the more impressive for not tub-thumping her causes but for being so thoroughly polite and non-adversarial, presenting her arguments with a quiet authority inclined to understate the muscle of the EPPF to influence the decisions of the companies in which it invests: “It’s all about partnering with companies, reasoning with them from your point of departure at an early stage and not only at their shareholder meetings.”
She feels assured that companies are familiar with the EPPF’s direction, embedded in its strategies. This is the agreeable basis, as she puts it, to go forward from good relationships.
It also pretty much summarises the overall attitude of the lady to others, and of others to her, as a defining leadership attribute. Quiet authority is not to be confused with lack of determination.
In taking over as chief executive and principal officer of the giant EPPF earlier this year, Nopasika Lila took over the reins from Sbu Luthuli. In the same way that Luthuli contributed to the pension-fund industry, where he was highly regarded, so too is Lila to become active on the board of the Batseta Council.
Having worked for several years with Luthuli – he departed the industry when his EPPF contract expired, coincidentally with but unrelated to the ‘Molefe judgment’ (TT May-July) – she’s eminently qualified by a track record of 17 years consistently in the financial sector.
She spent her formative years in Mtata and returned to Transkei for undergraduate studies. Then it was onto the University of Natal where she qualified as a chartered accountant. Her career path subsequently took her through Deloitte for her articles followed by stints at the Gobodo accountancy firm, Portnet (which had been her client at Gobodo), Portnet (“exciting because it was restructuring”) and Old Mutual (“where my life in the financial-services industry really began”).
Her main interests in Transkei were sport and music, but she seems to recall being drawn to a CA “because people there thought it was prestige” and her sister was already serving articles towards becoming a CA. There’s also “a passion” for something off-the-wall, especially for a CA.
It’s to visit Finland, a favourite holiday destination, where she drives on a frozen swamp that’s turned into a race track: “I completely enjoy the exhilarating feeling of spiked tyres on ice.”
Clearly up for unusual challenges is Nopasika.