Marthinuz Fabianus, Managing Director
In my shoes, it is customary and I would like to take stock of this year that is fast coming to a close. We recently held our staff end of year function under the ‘Western’ or ‘Cowboys’ theme. Over the years, we celebrate the coming to end of a year under a theme and it was the first time to celebrate as “Cowboys & girls”. To appreciate and make sense of the theme, I got the help of Google to read up a bit on definitions, origin and historical significance of this familiar western culture. I am not an ardent reader of history or novels, but if you are or would just like to feed some curiosity, I suggest it may be worth reading up on. In my case, it helped my ignorance, as I eventually learned that the ‘Wild West era’ is largely a myth perpetuated and portrayed via film as made popular by Hollywood characters.
But on the back of this theme, I have taken a leaf from the lives of these ordinary human beings referred to as Cowboys and found various meanings in our own lives at RFS.
As I take wisdom from some Cowboy inspired quotes, I wish to take stock of the past year.
1) "Country fences need to be horse high, pig tight, and bull strong".
This quote sums up the type of people we employ at RFS. We look for specific personalities and go through a thorough process to ensure we only appoint persons we consider fit for our environment. In the course of the year, we were fortunate to secure the appointment of 5 new staff members (the names of the new staff members were shared in our previous editions of the newsletter). Unfortunately, 3 of our staff will be leaving our employ to pursue other interests, and we close the year with a staff complement of 74.
We are very proud of our staff retention track record and in this respect, proud that during the year – 7 of our staff celebrated 5 years of service with the company, 4 celebrated 10 years’ service with the company and 2 staff members (namely Charlotte Drayer and the RFS founder Tilman Friedrich) celebrated 20 years’ service with the company.
2) "Don't worry about biting off more than you can chew; your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger than you think".
Some things are not in your control, but how you choose to respond to those things is in your ultimate control. We no doubt faced difficult challenges this year, but we are not the only business that faced challenges. In fact many businesses faced different challenges or the same challenges but to a greater extent than we did. Some businesses had to decide not to offer any increases to their staff, others had to decide to reduce salaries to retain staff, yet others had to let go of staff or cease doing business altogether. Thankfully, we were not put in any of these severe circumstances. We have taken views and crafted strategies that had at the time not envisaged all current economic and other circumstances into account, but now that we are witnessing the impact of the same challenges on some businesses, as a business, we feel even more confident that the strategies we are pursuing will not just carry us through current challenges, but give us reasons to be very optimistic and confident about the future of RFS in the financial services industry.
3) "If you're riding ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there with ya."
We managed to retain our appointments to 3 of our clients that went on public tender during the course of the year. We are indebted and grateful for retaining our appointments to NBC Retirement Fund, NHE Retirement Fund and the Namwater Retirement Fund in such a difficult operating environment. We were during the year also appointed to the NAPOTEL (Nampost, Telecom & NPTH) Pension Fund. These appointments all signal the long term value that pension fund trustee boards place on quality and reliability of service rather than price.
We will not relent on our efforts to seek optimal efficiencies in our operations. To this end, we are analysing data from our time keeping system with the view to ensure that we remain unrivalled not only in terms of service delivery, but concomitantly in the transparency of our service fees.
During the year, we were also in a position to reflect and celebrate with clients and stakeholders 20 years of service in the pension funds industry. We have enjoyed remarkable support over the past 20 years and on the occasion to mark the milestone in the life of RFS. We have been given every reason to look forward to the next 20 years and beyond with renewed dedication and commitment.
4) “Every path has some puddles”.
This will always be true and was indeed the case for this year. In this respect some aspects of our retail business have been impacted greatly by questionable competitive behaviour on the part of GIPF and its protégé company Kuleni. Fair and even field competition is always necessary. However, our industry still lacks a level of maturity with regard to market conduct and financial literacy.
Another big challenge we faced during the year is on the regulatory front. The Administration of Estates Amendment Act was a new law that was introduced whilst we were away on holiday during December 2018 and came into effect on 01 January 2019. This law is now on the statutory books even if the introducer of the law, the former Minister of Justice is now facing the rough of the laws he was supposed to uphold. The FIM Bill is another law which will change the face of our industry. This law was introduced and discussed in Parliament, but could not be concluded and was postponed to next year. Our FIM Bill Project Manager, Monika Von Flotow has worked very hard this year to make sense of the FIM Bill and we managed to experience first-hand, the fruits of her hard labour as she took us through a few training sessions. The jury is still out on this and we look forward to further training and discussion sessions as we make sure to ready ourselves as an organisation.
5) "Good judgement comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgement".
This was the first calendar year I have been at the helm of RFS. My taking over from Tilman was of course only the beginning of preparing our organisation for the next phase. As we look forward to the coming year, my fellow colleagues in senior management and I will start working on the organisational structure for the next phase of our business.
In conclusion, I feel indebted to thank all our staff who have given so much of themselves and made so many sacrifices in the name of RFS! I also thank all our various clients, fellow service providers and indeed all our stakeholders for the support and for enriching our lives over the past year!
I wish you all a safe and peaceful holiday season. May you enjoy the festive days and may you be blessed throughout as we look forward to see and work with you again come 2020.