On the eve of the annual IRFA conference, the Mail & Guardian spoke to Institute of Retirement Funds (IRFA) president Wayne Hiller van Rensburg on the role and contribution an industry body such as IRFA should play for members and the retirement sector at large.
Hiller van Rensburg says that IRFA takes this responsibility extremely seriously and undertakes continuous research into the needs and expectations of industry, both in South Africa and on the continent, to ensure that the industry body is relevant to and supportive of this critical sector of the socioeconomic landscape.
“We have undertaken ongoing research into industry perceptions and requirements over the past five years to determine our mandate as defined by the sector,” he says. “We know that our retirement ecosystem is never stagnant, and it is interesting to note how our role has needed to change as the industry moves forward to ensure the right outcomes, not only for the sector, but for the members of retirement funds themselves.”
A continental dipstick survey conducted by IRFA shows comparative trends in expectations in the continental space
Hiller van Rensburg points out that the top expectations of IRFA are in terms of positioning and lobbying for the industry, playing a strategic role in policymaking, and regulatory and government liaison.
“We are also being called on to play a strong advisory role to our members in terms of best practices, governance and legal and technical variables.”
Then moving onto knowledge transfer and financial acumen in the sector, Hiller van Rensburg notes an increase in the perceived developmental role required from industry bodies such as IRFA in upskilling retirement fund management boards and the members of retirement funds themselves.
“This trend is borne out by a clear mandate from our members and broader industry to conduct research into best practices and trends. This also ensures that we provide the products and services necessary for high-quality industry support.”
He says that IRFA recently had an opportunity to measure the perceptions of sector representatives from Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana and eSwatini — and the findings exhibit similar patterns and trends. “We do note however that research and benchmarking ranked higher amongst the continental group, while the advisory role moved down the rankings.”
Hiller van Rensburg also cautions industry and professional bodies to look to electronic delivery mechanisms for knowledge transfer and interaction. “Our findings certainly indicate that the retirement sector exhibits a strong preference for the use of electronic platforms to deliver information and education to members, as well as services such online advisory portals. A call for member specific/customised research and development programmes also seems to suggest a consultancy role beginning to emerge for industry bodies.”
Do industry bodies make a positive contribution to the sectors they serve? Hiller van Rensburg notes that local industry rates IRFA’s contribution highly, notably towards sector standards and practices, and financial knowledge and literacy.
He concludes: “We believe that industry and professional bodies have a vital role to play in terms of industry delivery to the members of retirement funds within the socioeconomic space. We are proud of our contribution and will continue to monitor sector needs, and be responsive and accountable in our delivery.”