MOTOR INDUSTRY RETIREMENT FUNDS: Expert Opinions: Edition July / September 2019

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Galvanised by the Department of Trade and Industry’s recently launched South African Automotive Masterplan (SAAM), which followed an extensive stakeholder engagement process and resulted in the tabling of clear objectives through to 2035, South Africa’s automotive industry is poised for positive growth in the medium to long-term.

Andrew Kirby, chairman of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa, commenting at the NAAMSA automotive conference late last year, endorsed the DTI’s efforts by saying: “Despite the many challenges we face, there is an air of optimism amongst all members of the South African motor industry regarding the aspirational vision of the upcoming Automotive Masterplan as the path to the future.”

This positive prognosis, however, is coupled with the challenge of rapid technological developments in vehicles, and an apparent need for the SA industry to focus on the rest of Africa as the only ready market for the significant increase required in production output for the industry to sustain itself. And this, combined with the growth of web-based ride-sharing and car-hailing apps, means the industry has to adapt to an era of unprecedented change.

These positive and challenging developments have not gone unnoticed by the forward thinking board of the Motor Industry Retirement Funds (MIRF). Realising that their retirement products and service offering — aimed exclusively at the specific needs of automotive industry employees — need to keep pace with the changes forecast, the board has embarked on a brand reengineering drive they believe will further enhance their relationship with their 250 000 members.

“In order to avoid confusion with similar sounding acronyms in our industry, the board has also decided to rebrand the funds to Motor Industry Retirement Funds (MIRF),” says Radesh Maharaj, recently appointed Principal Officer of the fund. Maharaj says he is acutely aware that the funds’ current culture needs to move with the times and its board needs to ensure it makes sound and transparent decisions in keeping with market changes and members’ expectations.

“Because of the need to up our game before announcing our intentions to our members and the automotive industry at large, we are embarking on a comprehensive staff education and motivation programme to ensure we can deliver what we promise,”recently appointed COO and CFO of the Motor Industry Funds Administrator Pty (Ltd) (MIFA) Ettie Claassen concludes.

As part of their determination to keep up with the times and better communicate with their members, MIRF will also soon launch a significantly more user-friendly website as well as an app aimed at better assisting their members with product information and queries.

Although MIRF already boasts assets in excess of R36 billion and has a board loaded with automotive industry leaders, the funds are clearly not content to rest on their laurels. The board believes the positive growth forecast for SA’s automotive industry could make for a significant increase in their member base and the size of the portfolio they administer; but only if they evolve and actively engage with the fast-changing landscape.

Asked for their opinions on ways to best improve MIRF’s growth over the next 5-10 years, Board members, Kutlwano Mokhele and Jakkie Olivier, said MIRF could best capitalise on the predicted industry growth if they can stave off market share challenges from competing umbrella funds by continuing to provide consistently good returns and even better value for money to their members through cost reductions.