Retirement fund a reliable constant in members' lives

Joe Letswalo, the principal officer of the Transport Sector Retirement Fund. (Photo: Clinton Friedman)

Joe Letswalo, the principal officer of the Transport Sector Retirement Fund. (Photo: Clinton Friedman)

The strength of the Transport Sector Retirement Fund (TSRF) is the quality of its governance structures and the capability of its board of trustees to identify areas in which the fund is able to directly benefit members, according to the fund’s principal officer, Joe Letswalo.

He says one of the success factors has been the fund’s good returns on investments, which are both relevant to the transport industry and ensure that members have sustainable savings when they retire.

“Likewise, the benefits that the fund affords members are highly competitive, because of the fund’s proactive self-insurance of members, which allows for the ploughing back of surpluses into the enhancement of members’ benefits.

“The TSRF lays an emphasis on the integration of environmental, social and governance [ESG] factors in measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of any investment, which helps to better determine the future financial performance of the investment.

“The integration of ESG factors into our investment strategy is one of the main reasons we have invested in the Harrismith highway junction truck stop, which will improve the wellbeing of fund members by providing safe and secure overnight parking, a fully equipped and staffed medical clinic, accommodation for drivers to rest, ablution facilities and a laundromat, truck service facilities and a 24-hour restaurant, to name only a few of the facilities specifically geared to improve conditions for members and their employers.”

Letswalo says another element of the TSRF’s good governance are the clean audits the fund has secured for the past seven years and the submission of all regulated statutory returns.

“We are one of the few funds that has risk log by which we manage our investments by putting risk mitigation processes in place. We have diversified our investment strategy in order for us to be able to navigate both the good and bad investment environment in the economy.”

The fund has experienced excellent growth, with its asset base having grown from R2-billion in 2012 to R7-billion in 2018.

Letswalo explains that the strong governance of the fund is a result of the board of trustees, who themselves are members of the fund, so they know and understand members’ needs.

“Our trustees have worked in the industry, they have driven trucks and they bring their diverse experience to the board, which benefits, because the members’ interests always come first. Instead of a profit orientation we have a member orientation.

“The board is supported by highly qualified professionals in various disciplines to ensure they gain the correct information with which to make decisions in the interest of members.

“Trustees also receive four training sessions each year and are continually assessed, so their performance is measured and if there are any weaknesses then the specific trustee will undergo further training.

“The retirement sector is also continuously evolving with regard to new legislation and regulations, so refresher courses are critical to the performance of trustees, which is the reason we are affiliated to organisations such as the Institute of Retirement Funds Africa and Batseta Council of Retirement Funds for South Africa [from whom] we continually receive input on trends and changes in the industry, so that we can take appropriate action at board of trustees level.”

The fund changed its name in 2017 from the Road Freight and Logistics Industry Provident Fund to the Transport Sector Retirement Fund, because the TSRF’s sphere of operations expanded to encompass the broader transport sector and the scope of the fund’s activities. The fund changed its rules to become an industry umbrella fund after the cancellation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2014.

“The fund originally only covered the road freight and logistics sector, which is limited to transporters carrying other people’s goods for gain. However, there is a lot of movement in the industry among our members, most of whom are truck drivers and can work in any one of the many sectors in the transport industry.

“This movement negatively affected members’ retirement savings when they changed jobs and moved to a transport company outside our jurisdiction, as they had to withdraw their retirement savings.

“Now, the fund is seeing a lot of demand among employers and employees to join, because our fee structures are very low, which means members benefit directly from the fund returns that go directly into their retirement savings.

“We have recently finalised the benefit structure of the new people expected to join the fund from transport sectors that previously fell outside the scope of the TSRF.”

Letswalo explains that in a rapidly changing transport environment the TSRF is aiming to be the constant factor in members’ lives, which they can rely on both while they are working and when they have retired.