Edition: Sept - Nov 2013


Rose amongst the thorns

Top-notch lawyer is now the top pensions regulator. It’s a prickly position for which new appointee is well equipped.

Hunter . . . big challenges,
high expectations

First up, a declaration of interest: TT’s instinctive bias is in favour of Rosemary Hunter.

It’s rooted in the relationship, of professional respect and personal warmth, which has developed since the publication’s launch over eight years ago. To have consistently benefited from the support and advice of an individual so highly respected in the retirement-fund industry has been a privilege.

Yet it’s for objective reasons that her appointment, to the Financial Services Board on a three-year contract with effect from August, is welcomed. Given her specialist skills and experience, her communication capabilities and uncompromising integrity, there could hardly have been a better choice than this eminently qualified and socially sensitive pensions lawyer.

Informally, she’d be described as the new Pensions Registrar (although officially she’s the Deputy Registrar under FSB executive officer Dube Tshidi). Her proper title is Deputy Executive Officer: Pensions. Much is expected of her, not only because of the increased regulatory complexity and the pivotal changes in ‘twin peaks’ governance of financial institutions, but also because of the status she brings as a fresh voice untrammelled by bureaucratic ambition.

That in itself is good: for a person to move from the private sector into the public. It brings an ability to assess issues from the perspectives of both.

It also encourages independence of mind that needn’t be compromised by political pandering for career advancement. For she’s voluntarily moved to the lesser-paying FSB from a happy directorship at law firm Bowman Gilfillan.

She didn’t need the job, but she certainly wanted it. Reasons are part emotive, part clinical. Together, they exhibit a unique commitment.

“My late dad would have been proud to see me appointed to a public office with a duty to protect retirement funds and their members, to help them use their money efficiently and wisely, and to serve our country more generally,” she says.

“Our family ethos was one of service, particularly to the most vulnerable. I couldn’t have found my professional life meaningful if I hadn’t been able to balance the fee-earning duties to my law firm with my duties to society by teaching, writing and engaging in other forms of service.”

Over the years, she admits (with understatement for those at the receiving end) to having expressed “a fair degree of criticism” about the conduct of pension-fund regulation. Now she’ll have to see things from the side of the regulator, perhaps forcing her to reconsider some of her past positions: “I’m open to that possibility. Now I must ‘walk the talk’, and do the best I can to help make retirement-fund regulation the best that it can be within the resources available to the FSB.”

On their way are major changes in the regulation of financial services, including retirement funds. Introduction of the ‘twin peaks’ structure and proposals for fundamental reform of retirement funding are likely to throw up legal and other issues simply too interesting and intellectually stimulating for only occasional engagement in legal practice.

That’s why she’s “thrilled” about the opportunity to work on reform with the National Treasury team, whose members she admires: “I hope that the insights I’ve derived from my many years as an advisor to retirement funds, groups of members, unions, employers, service providers and other industry stakeholders will prove valuable in that context.”

Be confident that they will, much as some insights might no longer flavour the chatty breakfasts with a certain Johannesburg journalist. Such are the sacrifices that must be made. The loss for an Illovo coffee shop is a gain for the country.


Flashback to the 1980s . . . then
a student leader

Some background on Rosemary Hunter:

  • BA LLB and LLM in labour law (cum laude) from Wits;
  • President of the Students Representative Council at Wits. Spent a week in detention at Diepsloot prison during a 1980s state of emergency;
  • Admitted as attorney in 1992;
  • Was a director of law firm Edward Nathan & Friedland, then launched Hunter Employee Benefits Law later merging it into Bowman Gilfillan;
  • Senior lecturer (part-time) in Wits Faculty of Law, Commerce & Management, teaching pensions law to certificate, diploma and Masters students;
  • Numerous presentations to, amongst others, the Pension Lawyers Association and the Principal Officers Association;
  • Editor and co-author, with Hunter Law colleagues, of academic-standard textbook The Pension Funds Act: A Commentary;
  • Major contributor to development of SA pensions law, including two terms of three years each on the statutory Pension Funds Advisory Committee by invitation from the Minister of Finance;
  • Consultant to National Treasury on retirement-reform discussion papers and aspects of the proposed ‘twin peaks’ regulatory system for financial services;
  • Lives in a ‘family compound’ with her husband, children, mother, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, student tenant, three dogs and, from time to time, various visitors and strays, both human and animal.