Edition: Dec 2013 - Feb 2014
Editorials

NEW TRUSTEE BODY

Hearty welcome to Batseta

At long last, trustees are to have their own voice. Labour federations and the POA set the ball rolling.



Brown . . . sore wrist

It’s been many months in the making, but now a body to speak for trustees of pension funds is set to be launched. The initiative comes from the trade unions, supported by the Principal Officers Association.

Isaac Ramputa, the Cosatu benefits coordinator, chairs the working committee overseeing the establishment process. He points out that the idea of a single voice for retirement funds isn’t new, having been a point of discussion between stakeholders as far back as 2006-07. Earlier attempts were shelved “due to funding and other constraints”.


Last year Cosatu – in consultation with the Fedusa and Nactu labour federations – revived the initiative. They invited the POA to join with them in facilitating a new organisation. Ramputa anticipates that it will have three main roles within the industry:

  • An influential and effective fiduciary body lobbying National Treasury, the Financial Services Board and other government structures;
  • A facilitator of stakeholder engagements;
  • The leading standard-setter in matters of industry governance and ethics.

“It will be an independent voice representing funds through their fiduciaries,” he adds.

The need is evident, not only because of its goals but also because of the industry’s fragmented representation (TT March-May). Amidst the number of specialised bodies, there’s a gaping hole in respect of those who actually instruct the service providers. Even the Institute of Retirement Funds, which has been invited to join the new body and where an attempt to convert it a few years ago to a trustee-only organisation failed, is serviceprovider dominant.

Why should this body, likely to be named the Batseta Council of Retirement Funds for SA, succeed? One reason is the clout of its founding participants. They’ve held discussions with National Treasury and the Financial Services Board who appear to have granted an implicit blessing, as they should because they need it as much as the rest of the industry.

Another reason is that the working committee is merely the base from which to broaden membership. Eligible are trustees and principal officers whose interests Batseta is intended to serve. With labour already involved, the committee (to be replaced by an interim board) will need to make a special effort for inclusion particularly of employer-nominated trustees. To this end, Business Unity SA should add its weight too.

The body’s formation takes place at a time of profound change in the industry. Retirement-fund reform is underway, which means that a voice representative of trustees must be heard. Many standalone funds are rapidly consolidating into umbrellas, which means that there’ll be fewer trustees and principal officers but a greater need for their professionalism.

It also means that, against their shrinking number, umbrellas’ management committees will gain in importance.

INDUSTRY EXHIBITION

Hopefully to coincide with the launch of Batseta, the 'Thenga Thengisa' Expo wil take place at Sandton Convention Centre in February. Unlike the Principle Officers Association winter conference that focuses on education, the expo will focus on selling and buying.

The intention is to provide a one-stop forum for the trustees and principal officers of retirement funds to compare financial products designed for institutional investors. it will be an occasion for them to network with with one another and to share experiences.

For service providers, there'll be the chance to engage with a variety of clients and potential clients over two days.

The environment, it's promised, will be relaxed and entertaining.

www.quickregister.co.za/thenga

The new body should give attention to the role they can perform at the coalface of employer employee interaction, and how these structures can possibly be incorporated.

“There is recognition that service providers are an important strategic stakeholder and partner who have a wealth of knowledge and expertise to offer pension funds. The new organisation will continue to work closely with service providers now and in the future,” says its working document.

However, it continues, there is awareness that there are areas of interest conflicts: “Fiduciaries have to be vigilant and proactive to address such issues in order to ensure and maintain the independence of the organisation.”

To enjoy the status of a professional body and to operate as a non-profit company, it will be partly funded by membership fees, conferences and other special projects (see box). The strategic aim is to be financially independent and self-sufficient. Discussions with government are underway to explore funding possibilities by way of levies.