You have the power

IRFA vice-president Geraldine Fowler says that in this year’s conference  the existing pensions ecosystem will be explored in detail

IRFA vice-president Geraldine Fowler says that in this year’s conference the existing pensions ecosystem will be explored in detail

This year’s Institute of Retirement Funders Africa’s (IRFA) conference is being held from July 28 to 30, at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli ICC, in Durban.

IRFA vice-president Geraldine Fowler says: “We hope with this conference to surface trends and practices that equip participants to influence the system for the ultimate benefit of improved retirement outcomes.”

She notes that: “The conference attracts delegates from across the industry spectrum: from service providers, retirement funds, organised labour to policymakers and regulators. The IRFA annual conference is, quite simply, where all stakeholders within the industry come to share knowledge and trends.

“In this year’s conference we will be exploring the existing pensions ecosystem in detail,” she says. “Looking at the world in 2016, we were acutely aware that times were changing and there were serious problems where savings were concerned. We consequently adopted the overarching theme of ‘Navigating the Future’ to look at changes affecting us as a society. We identified the need for partnerships and collaborative alliances — and this general theme has driven our annual conferences since, up to the 2019 theme of the Retirement Ecosystem,” she explains.

Fowler continues: “Investopedia describes the business ecosystem as follows: ‘A business ecosystem is the network of organisations — including suppliers, distributors, customers, competitors, government agencies, and so on — involved in the delivery of a specific product or service through both competition and co-operation. The idea is that each entity in the ecosystem affects and is affected by the others, creating a constantly evolving relationship in which each entity must be flexible and adaptable in order to survive, as in a biological ecosystem.’ The retirement landscape is a system, with all parts and stakeholders reliant on one another. Each part has the power and ability to influence the entire system. There is a synergy (interaction and combined effect) between each,” says Fowler.

In the retirement ecosystem the diverse stakeholders each impact on each other. “The conference will be exploring these relationships, and by the end of the conference delegates will have an understanding of the power of their own actions to affect the ecosystem. It’s important for all of us to understand where we’re coming from and where we’re going to, with the objective of creating better retirement outcomes for everyone, as well as contributing to the economic growth of South Africa,” she says.

Each of the speakers’ topics is aligned to this theme, and Fowler says the IRFA is particularly excited this year at the quality of speakers. This includes Fiona Reynolds, the chief executive of UNPRI (United Nations supported Principles for Responsible Investment), which is a global leader in the concept of responsible investing and the retirement ecosystem. In addition, another thought leader will be Jan Mahlangu, retirement fund policy co-ordinator of Cosatu, who was instrumental in the draft Comprehensive Social Security Fund document released by Nedlac in March 2019. There will also be representatives from the Financial Sector Conduct Authority, the Pension Fund Adjudicator’s office and the Government Employees Pension Fund, the largest pension fund in the country.

The PRI is a UN-supported initiative set up and launched in 2006 by Kofi Annan, with a mission to put sustainability at the heart of the capital markets. It now has more than 2 200 signatories representing more than $82-trillion in AUM (assets under management). The growth of the PRI comes on the back of large gains in the last two years, as the cause of responsible investment has taken widespread hold. Responsible investment is now reaching the mainstream.

The need for better retirement outcomes is crucial to the economic growth of Africa and for our society as a whole. “For this reason we are especially excited to have UNPRI and labour in the form of Cosatu with us this year,” Fowler concludes.