1. What is Today's Trustee about?
It’s about grassroots empowerment. It’s about more than R3 trillion invested by SA retirement funds on your behalf. It’s about your democratic right to get a handle on it.
Because it represents your future security. Because it gives you influence over SA’s corporate environment, since your retirement fund makes you a part-owner of JSE-listed companies.
The Pension Funds Act enables members of retirement funds to elect half of their trustee boards. These boards appoint managers for your fund. The managers are accountable to the trustees who are accountable to you.
4. Their powers?
To decide who’s best to manage your money, and the terms on which they’re to manage it. Your trustees can set benchmarks for performance and define mandates for investment, right down to how fund managers should vote on your behalf at meetings of company shareholders.
5. Can't I just leave it to the professionals?
It’s your choice. You can also choose to participate and take responsibility for your financial wellbeing. The least you should do is ensure that you elect trustees who’re competent and skilled to represent your interests.
6. What role does Today's Trustee play?
Precisely to help promote such competence and skills. While many trustees are financially sophisticated, many aren’t. Whether drawn from ranks of blue or white-collar workers, they all need to be kept aware of their fiduciary duties. They must also be kept informed of significant developments in the retirement-fund industry that affect them. This includes being alive to controversies on which they should take their own views.
7. The numbers that we're talking about:
There are approximately 1 700 active funds, including multi-employer umbrella funds, that report to the Financial Services Board (to be replaced during 2017 by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority). Each must have a minimum of four trustees and a principal officer. In addition, there are such huge public-sector funds as Eskom and Transnet as well as those managed by the Public Investment Corporation (asset manager of the Government Employees Pension Fund, amongst others).
Taken together there are approximately 8 000 000 members of SA retirement funds. Assuming that each member has an average of three dependents, some 24 000 000 South Africans could be affected by retirement funds’ performance.
And the decisions trustees can influence?
Performance, transparency and accountability. Shareholder activism. Corporate governance. Empowerment and transformation. It influences into every corner of the SA economy’s mining, financial and consumer sectors. That should pretty much carry influence with government too.
8. The progress being made:
Change in the retirement-fund industry is continuous. Today’s Trustee tries to assist trustees and principal officers keep abreast of the processes. The more that financial literacy becomes pervasive, the more that significant industry issues are aired for debate, the greater that awareness and confidence to participate are stimulated, the better for trustees to serve as fiduciaries in their fund members’ best interests.
9. And Today's Trustee’s overriding philosophy?
To help accelerate the achievement of a stakeholder democracy.