Issue: March 2013 / May 2013


Towards professionalization

POA leads the way. Strong progress to achieve set objective.

The principal officer of a retirement fund has a role similar to the chief executive of a public company. He or she helps to set the fund’s strategy, runs its daily operations and has responsibility for other people’s money. While accountability and liability remainwith the trustees, many of would be lost without a good principal officer to steer them.

In a word, the principal officer is critical to the governance and management of pension funds. That much is acknowledged. It follows that principal officers should have the highest levels of competence, enhanced by the confidence that certification provides, in all necessary aspects of funds’ operations.

It’s the reason that the Principal Officers Association wants them to beenjoy professional status and to be officially recognised as such. Success is within reach. Having been busy for some time with its continuous development programme, the POA is soon to submit its application to the SA Qualifications Authority for registration as a professional body.

Click to view larger imageFramework

It will mean that, like other professions, POA members will have access to a professional designation provided they meet certain standards. These include the successful completion of board exams. They must also adhere to a code of conduct, pay membership fees and follow a programme of continuing education that will keep them abreast of industry changes.

Although a POA team was instrumental in developing the learning design, the association does not own the intended designation of Professional Principal Executive Officer (PPEO). This is the qualification to be obtained on passing the relevant exams. Having been appointed as the assessment quality partner by the Department of Higher Education, the POA will take responsibility for these exams.

There’re to be four modules: governance and strategy, operations, external and internal regulatory issues. “Since it is an occupational qualification, much of the learning will be in the workplace,” says POA chief executive Anne-Marie D’Alton.

The qualification is pegged at the NQF 7 level. Two summative exams will be written and trainees will have to submit a portfolio of evidence.

D’Alton foresees numerous benefits. Amongst them:

  • Enhance the trust relationship with fund members, beneficiaries and trustees;
  • Retain old skills and develop new ones;
  • Expand horizons and create career opportunities;
  • Set standards of conduct and behaviour;
  • Allow focus on the principal officer’s executive function.

Most importantly, too, it will support the drive by National Treasury to ensure that retirement funds are competently managed. For funds, there’ll be a pool of qualified principal officers from which to draw; for individuals, there’s the status and the remuneration possibilities that professionalization invites.

It’s an endeavour that comes not a moment too soon.