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In this newsletter:
Benchtest 02.2020, Corona alias Covid 19, FIM Bill passed through parliament and more...



NAMFISA levies

  • Funds with year-end of March 2020 need to have submitted their 2nd levy returns and payments by 24 April 2020;
  • Funds with year-end of September 2020 need to have submitted their 1st levy returns and payments by 24 April 2020; and
  • Funds with year-end of April 2019 need to submit their final levy returns and payments by 30 April 2020.
FIM Bill approved by parliament

FIM Bill approved by parliament with amendments to section 15 (principal officer and principal office, insurance chapter), 102 (principal officer and principal office, financial markets chapter), 185 (principal officer and principal office, collective investments chapter), 296 (principal officer and principal office, retirement funds chapter), 339 (principal officer and principal office, medical aid funds chapter) and 372 (principal officer and principal office, funds and society administrators chapter) were amended and is now en route to the National Council.

ITAS update and other useful information

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Namibia (ICAN) meets with the ITAS team on a regular basis and provides feedback from these meetings to its members. Here are questions to which you will find an answer in ICAN’s ITAS update #14, as well as useful contact names and their telephone numbers, here...
  1. What if I still don’t have TIN numbers? The IRD has NOT YET COMMUNICATED WHAT IS EXPECTED FROM EMPLOYERS. Once the IRD has confirmed, we will send out an updated communication.
  2. What will the IRD do with the detailed payroll information?
  3. What must employers do if employee tax submissions that were already made and have been assessed for the period March 2019 to Feb 2020 are incorrect, or incomplete?
  4. What if I can’t get hold of the ITAS team or the receiver, or they do not respond to my emails or phone calls?
  5. Update on negative employee tax
  6. Will there be any more ITAS employee tax training?
  7. Feedback on delay in VAT audits and receiving refunds
  8. What to do if the ITAS incentive is not working? IE. penalties not being waived.
  9. What other contacts can help me at the IRD?
And here are 2 questions posed to ICAN and ICAN’s response that some readers may find useful:

Q: If such a taxpayer hasn't submitted the 2020 return by 30 June, how sure can one be that the penalties/interest will  be waived by 30 June? Can one rely on the fact that the due date is after 30 June? Could one arrange for a formal confirmation by ITAS  Revenue?
A: Very sure. If the system does not show any outstanding returns (meaning the due date has passed and the return is not yet submitted) and the taxpayer is registered as an online portal user on ITAS, the penalties and interest will be waived. It doesn’t take into account returns that are not due yet on the date that penalties and interest is waived. Remember that a taxpayer will only get the incentive once. If they have no outstanding returns on ITAS or penalties and interest as of today, then they have already received the incentive. Penalties and interest that accrue thereafter will not be waived.

Q: Has ITAS found a solution how to record/upload 3 or more top-up provisional returns/payments? As you know, the system only provides for 2 provisional returns. I remember we discussed this one already.
A : No additional return is needed for the top up payments as confirmed by Sirkka (ITAS team leader) on 25 Sept 2019. You just make a payment with the period reference part of the payment reference being 201900 or 202000 (whichever the year is with 00 afterwards) and it will allocate correctly. It’s not an account payment, it’s a top up payment. Only if you make a cash payment must you complete that “return of final payment of income tax” because you will pay it at the IRD offices and they still require that form to correctly allocate your payment online.


The all new Electronic Transactions Act

Nowadays most of business communication is in digital format. Business probably generally save all digital communication and documentation in digital format and probably on top of that also file hard copy versions of the digital documents. This obviously requires quite an effort in terms of retention and archive management.

Up to now business really had no choice but to maintain a costly dual system for digital and physical retention of all business communication as technological progress in digital communication had left behind the law that still requires physical documentary evidence should any matter be heard in court.

Reprieve however is in sight now since the promulgation of the Electronic Transactions Act, Act no 4 of 2019 in government gazette 7068 of 29 November 2019 that hardly received any attention in the media although it will bring about major changes to the creation, capturing, processing and retention of business documentation and communication.

If you missed the previous newsletter and would like to obtain an overview of the provisions of the new Electronic Transactions Act, access the newsletter here...

Download the Government Gazette in which this Act was promulgated, here...

Note that the Act still needs to be made effective by the relevant minister by notice in the government gazette.

Pension fund governance - a toolbox for trustees

  • Download the privacy policy here...
  • Download a draft rule dealing with the appointment of the board of trustees here...
  • Download the code of ethics policy here...
  • Download the generic communication policy here...
  • Download the generic risk management policy here...
  • Download the generic conflict-of-interest policy here...
  • Download the generic trustee performance appraisal form here…
  • Download the generic investment policy here...
  • Download the generic trustee code of conduct here...
  • Download the unclaimed benefits policy here...
  • Download the list of fund service providers duly registered by NAMFISA here... 
  • Download the Principal Officer performance appraisal form here...
  • Download the revised service provider self-assessment here...

Registered service providers

Certain pension fund service providers need to be registered by NAMFISA and need to report to NAMFISA regularly

These service providers are:-

  • Registered Investment Managers
  • Registered Stockbrokers
  • Registered Linked Investment Service Providers
  • Registered Unit Trust Management Companies
  • Registered Unlisted Investment Managers
  • Registered Special Purpose Vehicles
  • Registered Long-term brokers
  • Registered Long-term insurers

If you want to find out whether your service providers are registered, or whether you need to establish directly from NAMFISA because the service provider does not appear on the list, use this link...

Check out our new retirement calculator


Our web based retirement and risk shortfall calculator has been enhanced and updated to assist you to determine how much you should contribute additionally, either by way of lump sum or regular salary based contribution, to get to your target income at retirement, death or disablement.

Try it out. Here is the link...




Dear reader

In this newsletter we address the following topics:

Read in Marthinuz Fabianus’ column -

  • Covid 19 precautions by RFS and Benchmark.
  • Appeal for special financial distress relief to employers and employees.

In ‘Tilman Friedrich’s industry forum’ we present:

  • FIM Bill sails through parliament;
  • Corona alias COVID 19;
  • The misconception about public funds;
  • The full article in last month’s Benchmark Performance Review to 31 December 2019 – “Does the global economy show and signs of recovery?”

In our Benchmark column, the Fund’s principal officer advises “Do not panic and do not lock in losses caused by Corona”.

In Kai Friedrich’s administration forum a brief note on “By when must contributions be paid”.

In ‘News from RFS’, read about:

  • RFS sponsors RFS/SKW youth soccer tournament;
  • RFS sponsors RFS/K5 indoor hockey league;

In ‘News from the market place’ read about “The National Pension Fund is imminent”.

In ‘Letters from our readers’ read about “If I were a pension fund member and read NAMFISA’s 2019 annual report”;

In ‘News from NAMFISA’, catch up on the discussions and feedback from NAMFISA at the last pension fund industry meeting.

In ‘Legal snippets’ read about –

  • “Joburg adviser on the hook after client email hacked”;
  • “PFA jurisdiction under the spotlight – what applies when group life cover is in involved?”
...and make a point of reading what our clients say about us in the ‘Compliments’ section. It should give you a good appreciation of who and what we are!

As always, your comment is welcome, so open a new mail and drop us a note!

Regards

Tilman Friedrich



Covid 19 precautions by RFS and Benchmark Retirement Fund


This topic is dominating all discussions and actions. RFS saw it necessary to sent out a special newsletter on the precautions it has and is taking in an effort to protect its staff and clients. If you are interested to establish what we are doing , refer to the article, here...
 
Marthinuz Fabianus graduated from Namibian University of Science & Technology with a Diploma in Commerce and Bachelors in Business Management. He completed a senior management development programme at University of Stellenbosch and various short courses including a macro-economic policy course which he completed at the International Training Centre of the ILO in Turin, Italy. Marthinuz also serves as trustee on the board of the Benchmark Retirement Fund and is a member of the board of the Retirement Funds Institute of Namibia. Marthinuz also served as a Commissioner on the Social Security Commission from 2015-2017.
 


Monthly Review of Portfolio Performance
to 29 February 2020


In February 2020 the average prudential balanced portfolio returned -3.7% (January 2020: 1.1%). Top performer is Investment Solutions Balanced Fund with -2.1%, while Hangala Prescient Balance Fund with -5.4% takes the bottom spot. For the 3-month period, Allan Gray Balanced Fund takes the top spot, outperforming the ‘average’ by roughly 2.0%. On the other end of the scale Momentum Namibia Growth Fund underperformed the ‘average’ by 2.8%. Note that these returns are before (gross of) asset management fees.

The Monthly Review of Portfolio Performance to 29 February 2020 provides a full review of portfolio performances and other interesting analyses. Download it here...


Will there be life after Corona?

By now we are all acutely aware of the sharp decline in global financial markets. The JSE Allshare Index declined by 33% from 57,084 at the end of December to 38,267 at the time of writing the column. Earnings of the index were 6.34% at the end of December while the dividend yield was 3.9%. If the underlying companies were able to maintain earnings at that level, earning should currently amount to 9.5% and dividend yield should amount to 5.8%. To put this into a more common context, if you let your house of N$ 2 million generating a return of 6.34% or a rent of N$ 10,600 per month. If you were to continue earning the same rent but your property agent tells you that the value of your house has dropped to N$ 1,3 million, why should you be concerned about this drop in value. Supply and demand should result in the market adjusting upward again in time to come.

Now let’s look at an investor who invests offshore. The S&P 500 index declined by 29% from 3,217 at the end of December to 2,284 at the time of writing. However, the Rand: US$ exchange rate at the same time weakened from 13.98 to 17.7. The value of the index at the end of December for a local investor would have amounted to N$ 44,974 while it now amounts to N$ 42,196, representing a decline in value of ‘only’ 6%. Something one can live with, I suppose. This once again shows the value of diversifying one’s investment across the globe. As readers will know, pension funds typically have invested around 30% offshore as the result of which one can expect the decline in value of pension fund investments to be ‘only’ in the region of 25% to the end of March.

Read part 6 of the Monthly Review of Portfolio Performance to 29 February 2020 to find out what our investment views are. Download it here...

FIM Bill sails through parliament

So the FIM Bill is now through parliament and is on its way to the National Council to probably also sail through there. The only change was made to the section in each chapter that deals with principal officer and principle office. We do not know yet what was changed but the topic in itself it not really prone to controversy so it will unlikely have been an earth-shattering change.

During its first exposure to parliament last year, one parliamentarian indicated that she has a number of questions on the bill and had requested for the discussion to be postponed. ‘The people hear, please note they do not say’ that sponsoring minister Schlettwein got so infuriated that he had to be held back to prevent the poor parliamentarian being assaulted. With such experience, one can imagine that very few if any would have dared to challenge minister Schlettwein and that may well be the reason that only one question was asked, and disposed of without further ado. There is no reference in the minutes about the response to this question but it certainly did not result in any attempt at a rethink.

To put it on record, RFS invested a substantial amount of energy and time into efforts to define our key concerns and to have them being given proper consideration. This was done through RFIN which presented many of these and others to NAMFISA and the Minister. Through RFIN we met with members of the relevant parliamentary committee. Committee members expressed their appreciation for this initiative. The point was made that members wanted to avoid another law passing parliament without properly informed discussion, referring to laws recently passed that had to be referred back to parliament because they proved to contain serious deficiencies when they had to be implemented. To avoid such a recurrence, members suggested that a two-day workshop should be held for all parliamentarians to properly equip them for a constructive discussion on the outrageously complex arrangement of brand-new financial services laws.

RFS put together a list of 40 key concerns, arranged in FIM Bill page order, reflecting the relevant section, the provisions of the section, our concern and the change/s we proposed to eliminate our concern/s. Essentially our key concerns are categorised as follows:

  1. The objective of the bill – we believe that this bill will fail to achieve a number of its stated objectives, so far as it will substantially raise the costs for members thereby reducing the growth of their retirement savings and as it will actually require a compliance rather than a risk based approach as it is hailed to achieve.
  2. Administration and governance – we raised a number of concerns, such as those relating to time frames for industry to implement; the lack of a coordinated approach at the highest level; the effective elimination of the fund sponsor’s commercial interest in its commercial umbrella funds.
  3. Fines and penalties – the outrageous fines and penalties and the risks these pose to employer sponsored arrangements and employer trustees, where NAMFISA has the powers to impose a maximum penalty of twice the maximum fine a court is empowered to mete out.
  4. Regulator’s powers – we believe NAMFISA will, for all intents and purposes, have unfettered powers leaving all market participants at the mercy of the supervisor.
  5. Amendment and protection of benefits – we believe that much of the incentive for an employer to establish and maintain a pension arrangement for its staff has been removed.
  6. Unconstitutional provisions – we believe that the letter of the law creates the untenable situation expropriating all assets, including intellectual property that relate to the business of the fund but belong to the fund administrators and umbrella fund sponsors.

Going by the FIM bill experience it would seem that the Namibian legislative structure is severely hamstrung where we do not really have a functioning regulator who is appropriately equipped to exercise its responsibility of regulating. Instead, the ministry of finance is utterly dependant on, not to say at the mercy of the supervisor, which is NAMFISA. In its attempts to have its concerns heard at regulatory level, industry found that every attempt to be heard merely ended up with the supervisor. So, there is and never was, any channel for having industry’s concerns heard objectively and without bias.

The misconceptions about public funds

The CEO of the Social Security Commission at a public forum recently advised that the National Pension Fund is very much in the pipeline. She did not answer a question why it is necessary to engage foreign consultants and whether Namibia does not have any experts. A suggestion to make pension fund membership compulsory through the existing funds appears not to have found favour with her. She posed as argument for rejecting this suggestion that administration costs in the private sector are excessive and reduce members retirement capital unreasonably. This argument directly contradicts the argument government fielded when it introduced the local investment prescription, as being a necessary cost to the pension fund member for the benefit of the wider community. Centralising activities carried out by the private sector in a government entity not only creates another systemic risk, removes the competitive element that prevails in the private industry and freedom of choice concerning one’s own retirement savings, but if it is efficient as SSC claims it will be, it will also rob jobs of the wider community for a cost benefit of NPF members. With the swearing-in of the new members of government, our president reportedly emphasised that government must listen to the concerns of and promote the private sector.

Considering the argument of cost efficiencies through economies of scale, let us look at the other large systemic risk, the GIPF. Total cost of fund management, excluding asset management amounts to N$ 1,679 per member and pensioner per annum (139,896 members and pensioners as at 31/03/2018). For the balance of the industry of over 70 funds and an average membership of only 2,540 per fund, the average cost of administration per member per annum amounts to only N$ 1,592. In addition, one needs to bear in mind that the GIPF is a defined benefit fund while the balance of the industry are, with one small exception, all defined contribution funds. The administration effort of administering a defined contribution fund is substantially higher than that of a defined benefit fund.

Will the Minister of Labour head the cautioning of the president and listen to the concerns of the private pensions industry and the misconceptions about efficiencies of public funds?


Corona alias COVID 19

This topic currently dominates every discussion within private, social or business circles. By now we know that untold harm has been done to global economies and as the result to every human being across the world in one way or another.

By the last assessment I have seen, the fatality rate from this virus was 2.3%. The accepted fatality rate from the normal annual flu season is ‘only’ 1%. However, the infection rate from the normal annual flu is between 7% and 14% of the population. Applying this to China, the annual flu infections should be in the region of 100 million, every year and the fatality rate should thus be in the region of 1 million. Why have we not been told about this and why does no one seem to be concerned about this but we brought the world economy to a near standstill because of less than 4,000 Corona fatalities in China?

One has to acknowledge that so far Corona was a single bout of this flu-like disease whereas the annual flu season produces recurring bouts of flu. The sharp slump in global financial markets in February and March was a self-inflicted consequence of the Corona. How many people have committed suicide or died of heart attack resulting directly from the slump in financial markets and how many more will follow as the result of the knock-on effects of the measures that were taken globally to curb the spread of the Corona virus, such as unemployment? No-one keeps any record of, let alone reports on, those fatalities. Why should this not concern our decision makers? My guess is that those fatalities are higher than the fatalities from Corona itself.

Does the global economy show any signs of recovery?

Since the performance of the global economy is the underpin of the performance of global equities, our hopes for an improvement of our retirement outlook is pinned to an improvement in the global economy. We have all been incensed by the negative impact of president Trump’s trade war with China in 2018, primarily on equities. Some glimmer of hope of the dispute being resolved reared its head in 2019 and lead to a pleasing recovery in global equities. In 2018, our average prudential balanced portfolio returned a mere 0.5% against the backdrop of an inflation rate of 5.1% - thus a negative real return of 4.6% for the year! In 2019 fortunes turned much to every pension member’s satisfaction. For the year 2019, our average prudential balanced portfolio returned 9.9% against the backdrop of an inflation rate of now only 2.1% - thus a positive real return 7.8% for the year! Many a fund member may not appreciate the fact that funds returned ‘only’ a single digit return having been spoilt in the 20 years or so up to the financial crisis in 2008. However, considering that the expected long-term real return on a typical prudential balanced investment portfolio is around 6%, the real return on our average prudential balanced fund for 2019 actually exceeded the expected long-term real return by around 2% - nothing to be dissatisfied with at all! This has been quite an unexpected turn of fortunes for pension funds.

I acknowledge that I did not expect this and I venture to say that very few people if anyone, expected this turn of fortunes. Certainly, going by the exposure of our prudential balanced portfolio to equities, a slight decrease of total equity exposure from 67% in September 2018 to 66% in September 2019 does not exactly reflect a mass piling into equities by the managers of these portfolios. Not a single manager increased its total equity allocation by more than 1%. Digressing briefly into the no-risk cash vs ‘high risk’ equity debate, the adamant cash proponent’s investment would have underperformed the average equity proponent’s investment by 2.2% for 2019, ranging between as little as no difference to the worst performing portfolio and as much as 5% difference to the best performing portfolio, at the expense of the cash proponent.

Will we see another great year for equities in 2020? Well in the previous two columns of this journal I concluded that it is unlikely. This month I take another perspective to try and form an opinion on this question. Oil is a bell-weather commodity for the global economy, so understanding which direction oil consumption is going in 2020 will give a fair indication for the direction the global economy is likely to take.

Graph 6.1 below depicts global oil supply minus demand as the blue bars up to November 2018 and the oil price depicted as the grey line. We see is that undersupply for most of the time depicted in this graph up until August 2018 has led to a steadily increasing oil price. From September to November the reverse happened where oversupply lead to a sharp decline in the oil price by 40% from its peak in October 2018. For most of 2018 supply thus exceeded demand. But was this due to supply increase or was it due to demand slowing considering that demand reflects the momentum of the global economy?

Graph 6.1


Graph 6.2 below now provides the missing insight, showing that demand started to move sideways over the last 2 quarters of 2019, while supply continued to grow. This does not bode well for global equities as it reflects a flattening of the global economy.

Graph 6.2


The Wallstreet Journal reports on 13 February 2020 that “...the global oil demand is expected to fall in the first 3 months of the year – the first quarterly drop in more than a decade – according to a closely watched forecast of the International Energy Agency, which blamed a likely economic slow-down in China related to the novel corona virus outbreak there.” This corroborates the trend reflected in graph 6.2 and raises the level of concern about the state of the global economy while dashing hopes for meaningful growth in equities for 2020.

Closer to home, graph 6.3 shows the close correlation between the global oil price and SA equities as represented by the JSE ALSI. It is to be noted that since the collapse in the oil price at the end of 2014 from over R 1,000 per barrel to R 562 per barrel just a few months later, the JSE ALSI hardly moved, having reached a peak of 54,440 in April 2015. This graph indicates that one of two things must happen – either the oil price must move beyond R 1,000 per barrel from its current level of R 770 per barrel or the JSE ALSI must drop to about 45,000 to get back to where we were at the end of 2014. The target oil price of R 1,000 per barrel was briefly reached in September/ October 2018, a time when it seemed the global economy was on a good course.

Graph 6.3


Conclusion

Based on our above analysis and as concluded in this column in our preceding performance surveys, we see no recovery in the global economy for 2020 but a growth of around 2% appears achievable nevertheless. For SA and Namibia economic growth is likely to only be in the region of only 1%. Note that the IMF forecasts a 3.3% global growth, but the corona virus is likely to impact negatively. Equities are thus likely to move with inflation and the little bit of economic growth that may still materialize. Inflation having declined to around 2% in Namibia (4.5% in SA) at the end of January 2020, local equities are expected to grow by between 6% and 8% in 2020.  In last month’s column we expressed our expectation that there is not much scope for further reductions in the SA repo rate, after the recent 0.25% reduction in the repo rate, except if SA inflation dropped relative to US inflation or if the US reduced the Fed rate further. It is unlikely that the Fed with raise it policy rate soon and with this SA is also unlikely to lift its repo rate soon. The converse may yet happen in 2020. Interest rates are likely to remain low which should make bonds slightly more attractive. We should see returns of around 11% in 2020, in line with those of 2019. Money market returns should decline to around 7%. We also pointed out last month that the Rand is currently noticeably undervalued. We therefore do not see much scope for a further weakening of the Rand and thus not much support for foreign investments coming from a weakening currency.


If these expectations are to come true, the typical prudential balance portfolio will produce a return of between 7% and 9%, slightly above the expected interest on a money market investment. We expect inflation to be in the region of 3%, which implies that the average prudential balanced portfolio should produce a real return of between 3% and 6% in 2020.

Tilman Friedrich is a qualified chartered accountant and a Namibian Certified Financial Planner ® practitioner, specialising in the pensions field. Tilman is co-founder, shareholder and Chairman of the RFS Board, and retired chairperson, and now trustee, of the Benchmark Retirement Fund.
 


Compliment from the manager (finance and administration) of a Benchmark employer

“Dear RFS Team


Mooi dag en dankie vir julle pragtige gesindheid en uitstekende diens!”

Heinz Ahrens, broker from Swakopmund comments on Facebook

“Best company in the financial services sector.”

Read more comments from our clients, here...



Do not panic and do not lock in losses caused by Corona

The Coronavirus pandemic will have a very negative social and economic impact – immediately, but probably also for some time to come. Investment markets and asset prices have experienced new record-lows over the past few weeks. This will also impact your investments in the Benchmark Retirement Fund, managed by various asset managers. We expect significant losses when we receive investment values at the end of March.

Stick to your investment objectives

Now is the time to remain focused on your long-term investment objectives and not to make poor short-term investment decisions. The balanced portfolios you are invested in will not have the same negative experience as the stock markets – firstly, since some 45% of assets are invested in Namibia where the down-turn has not yet been so severe; secondly, since the portfolios are diversified across various asset classes other than just equities; and thirdly, because the asset managers managing your funds apply their skill and expertise to minimize such losses.

Do not lock-in losses

Under these circumstances, emotions may over-ride sound financial principles. We strongly advise against switching from balanced funds to money market funds, for example, or to switch asset managers in this phase of high uncertainty. Any such action will mean that unrealized investment losses will become realized. It also means that when stock markets recover – and they will, albeit that we do not know when and how quickly – you may not participate in that recovery. For the typical member of a retirement fund with a horizon of 5 years or more until retirement, no immediate changes should be made to the investments held – remain invested, as hard as it may be!

Be clever about retirement

You may be in a position where you want to retire in the next couple of months. The choice of retirement product at this point becomes critical. Some retirement products will allow you to participate in a market recovery alluded to. Talk to your employer, perhaps they may be in a position to defer your retirement date to get beyond this phase of uncertainty and losses. If you have access to other means of income, consider deferring your retirement date. Alternatively consider preserving your full retirement capital if you do not need an income immediately to allow markets to recover.

Consult

Please contact your financial intermediary and discuss any course of action before you hastily implement changes.

We hope that you will find the courage to seriously consider the few suggestions we made. We cannot guarantee any outcomes and we cannot establish whether things will first get much worse before they improve, but sticking to a clear investment strategy is now more important than ever.


Email Günter Pfeifer or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call either on tel 061 446 000 if this is a matter you are currently grappling with.
 
Paul-Gordon /Guidao-Oab joined RFS as Manager: Audit and Compliance in May 2016 and then moved into the position of Benchmark Product Manager. In 2019 he assumed the duties of Principal Officer of the Funds. Paul holds a B Compt degree from Unisa and has completed his articles with SGA.



By when must contributions be paid?

The Pension Funds Act does not define “day” and therefor the word should be interpreted in terms of the Interpretation Proclamation No 37 of 1920.
Contributions received up to the seventh working day of a month, Saturdays excluded, are accordingly not late.
 
Kai Friedrich, Director: Fund Administration, is a qualified chartered accountant and a Namibian Certified Financial Planner ® practitioner, specialising in the pensions field. He holds the Post Graduate Diploma and the Advanced Post Graduate Diploma in financial planning from the University of the Free State.



RFS sponsors RFS/SKW youth soccer tournament

THE SKW Youth Football Tournament will be held for the 13th successive year at the SKW fields from 3 to 5 April. [At least that was the plan but ‘lady Corona’ has called early school holidays and the tournament will now be rescheduled.]

Retirement Fund Solutions which has sponsored the event since its inception will once again be the main sponsor, with an award of N$53 000 for this year's tournament which will see more than 900 children competing in age groups from u7 to u17.

Established clubs such as SKW, Ramblers, Athletico Football Club, DTS and Swakopmund are expected to enter as well as various other schools.

The Namibian reported on this tournament recently. Click here for more...


RFS sponsors RFS/K5 indoor hockey league


RFS sponsored the RFS/ K5 annual indoor hockey league for the 5th year running. In the photos below, Louis Theron, associate director of RFS, poses with some of the teams that participated in this tournament played over a number of weekends at the Windhoek show grounds.



The National Pension Fund is imminent

At the Elojta Investment Forum that was staged at NIPAM on 10 March, Ms Milka Mungunda, CEO of the Social Security Commission, mentioned that the National Pension Fund is very much in the pipeline. She expects the fund to be implemented in 2 years’ time. It is understood that ILO consultants are currently assisting SSC to draft the new legal framework. The contribution rate and exemption criteria for existing funds, if any, have not been defined yet. Ms Mungunda mentioned that consultations with stakeholders will commence soon.


If you want to delve into more detail, find the presentation here...



If I were a pension fund member and read NAMFISA’S 2019 annual report... part 2

In September 2019 NAMFISA released its annual report on its supervision of non-bank financial institutions (NBFI’s) for the year ended 31 December 2018 (AR 2019), including its financial statements for the financial year ended 31 March 2019. In my opinion any pension fund member who reads AR 2019 will find much to take issue with. Assuming I was such a member, I share my “Top Ten Pet Peeves” in a two-part series. (The first part appeared in Benchtest 01.2020.)

1. One cannot compare “apples with apples”

The asset allocations reported on in AR 2018 are grouped in broad asset categories, while AR 2019 drills down to specific assets within a broader category. How can one compare apples with apples when the composition of the basket differs?

2. What does Risk-based Supervision mean?

Does NAMFISA regard risk-based supervision as just a series of inspections? What did NAMFISA do in 2018 about the structures that pose risks or drive risky behaviour by pension funds? Inspection findings are listed but not adequately explained and no reasons are given for why these are cause for concern. For example, AR 2019 lists the following as key finding following off-site inspections:
-      “significant increases or a lack of movement in unclaimed benefits”. Since NAMFISA levies for pension funds are based on a percentage of such funds’ assets, how keen is NAMFISA to resolve the issue of unclaimed benefits? Is the increase in unclaimed benefits due to investment returns thereon, increasing numbers of beneficiaries failing to claim benefits, a decline in the number of active members or a reduction in other fund assets? What is NAMFISA doing to remedy the situation?
-      Non-compliance with domestic asset requirements. No explanation has been given for the possible reasons for this non-compliance. Is this due to poor pension fund management, blatant disregard for the law or other extraneous factors?

Pension fund experts may well understand why certain inspection findings are cause for concern, but does the average pension fund member? I would argue that NAMFISA’s Leadership Creed makes member education NAMFISA’s business too.

While it may be easy to spot problems, it’s not always easy to remedy them as evidenced by the same inspection findings over the last two reporting periods and no explanation or indication of remedial action by NAMFISA. Can NAMFISA identify the structural drivers of such non-compliance and remedy the problem? How will NAMFISA address issues like inaccurate reporting of fund investments and composition of boards of trustees not in accordance with fund rules?


3. Who is to blame for pension funds’ failure to meet domestic asset requirements?

No reasons are furnished for the probable causes of pension funds’ collective failure to meet the domestic asset requirements.  While the causes of this failure may be obvious to NAMFISA, misperceptions may arise among those not in the know. To ascribe the failure solely to the devaluation of domestic assets relative to those denominated in foreign currency prevents the real question being asked; is non-compliance with domestic asset prescriptions really “failure” when the goal is unattainable? Will the average member realise that the demand by pension funds for domestic investment opportunities outstrips local supply or that the due to their size, quality, liquidity and spread of asset classes, domestic capital markets are not entirely appropriate for pension fund investments? If I were a pension fund member, I would be inclined to lay the blame for this so-called failure to meet the domestic asset requirements squarely on the shoulders of the trustees in the absence of any other explanation. Just about every pension fund in Namibia is a defined contribution fund. This means that members’ end benefit (merely an accumulation of savings plus any investment growth thereon) are utterly dependent on pension funds consistently earning real returns for their members who bear the full investment risk. A member of a defined contribution fund does not have the safety net of a guarantee by the employer to make good any shortfall if the member’s actual pension pay-out is lower than his/her projected pay-out. If I were a member, I would be relieved to see that despite the continued contraction of the Namibian economy in 2018, volatile financial markets and pension funds’ failure to meet domestic asset requirements, pension funds have managed to grow their assets through investment returns as well as the addition of new contributions.      

4. AR 2019’s focus is in the wrong place

The report shows that the non-banking financial sector has remained financially sound, with no inherent vulnerabilities in the system. This is mentioned almost in passing and much lip service is paid to the size of the regulated markets.  As a pension fund member, I would derive much comfort from knowing that my retirement nest egg is as safe as can be.

5. Who is sending whom a message?

In the light of the increased prescribed domestic asset requirements introduced 2 years ago, the amendments and proposed further amendments to the Administration of Estates Act and the imminent promulgation of the FIM Bill, I cannot but question why NAMFISA chooses to emphasise the size of the asset base of the pension industry and its composition while virtually no mention is made of the owners of these assets.  Who is sending whom a message? Knowledge is power, but when statistics are presented without explanation and divorced from the welfare and livelihoods of the members served by the pension industry, then we can expect to see pension fund monies come under increasing pressure from government and by those not currently served by the industry. We are talking about citizens’ hard-earned savings here, not discussing the market capitalisation of profit-driven entities seeking to garner wealth for their own selfish ends. We are talking about accumulated assets that will ensure that the owners thereof will not be a burden on the state one day if the pension industry continues to do its job well. (As an aside, there are huge economic and income disparities in Namibia and these must be addressed, but an eye for an eye simply leaves a nation of blind people. Any redistributive mechanism that simply exchanges one group of citizens for another will have achieved nothing at the end of the day. The poor will still be with us, but the danger is that their ranks will have swelled.)       

Against the backdrop of political uncertainty and economic volatility, the last thing any member of a pension fund needs is information for the sake of information. What NAMFISA reports on and the way it does so is as important as the regulation that it performs. Members want to know that their pension funds are well managed, well-regulated and that their retirement savings are secure against all comers, whether unscrupulous or incompetent service providers, overreaching regulators or cash-strapped governments. If the pension industry charged with helping members attain financial security in their old age is not discharging its mandate, members surely want to know this, just as surely as they want to know that the regulator that they fund is holding up its end of the deal and the government that their taxes support is indeed serving the best interests of all citizens. If any of these parties is found wanting, then members want to know that the rot has been stopped and that remedial action has been implemented. At least, that is what this member would want to know. As international experience has shown, if pension funds and their members “lose”, society at large also loses.


Note: The opinion of our readers does not necessarily reflect the opinion of RFS. We reserve the right to shorten and to edit letters received from our readers.



Industry Meeting held on 3 December 2019

In Benchtest 11.2019 we provided bullet point feedback by RFS representatives who attended the industry meeting. NAMFISA recently circulated its minutes of this meeting. A common trend appears to further manifest itself in that the meeting was by our count attended by 19 retirement funds (just less than 20% of the industry) of which 13 are administered by RFS. Whilst RFS regularly has its differences with the supervisor, it is evident from the attendance of these industry meetings that funds administered by RFS appear to be the more active industry participants. Is this because of or despite the role RFS plays in the lives of funds administered by RFS?

Here are key matters addressed in the industry meeting in bullet point format:
  • NAMFISA is busy correcting errors on the COA and developing an upload function. Industry will be informed once upload function is available.
  • The circular on death benefits is clarified. Accordingly, all death benefits, whether it is of an active member or a pensioner, should be administered in terms of Section 37C of the Act.  Section 37C of the Pension Fund Act governs the distribution and payment of lump sum benefits payable on the death (our emphasis) of a member of a fund. This seems to confirm RFS’ contention all along that Section 37C does not deal with income benefits being offered for spouses and children in the event of the death of a member. In fact the definition of ‘pension fund organisation’ in the PFA provides specifically for “...annuities or lump sum payments for members or former members of such association upon their reaching retirement dates, or for the dependants of such members or former members upon the death of such members or former members;”
  • The Financial Services Adjudicator Bill has passed through the National Council with amendments.  Complaints will move to the Financial Service Adjudicator once the FIM Bill is passed and there will be a different process to be followed in resolving these complaints. Funds are urged to improve their communicaiton with members.
  • The NAMFISA Bill has passed through the National Council without amendments.
  • FIM Bill will give industry a period of 12 months to transition before the effective date of implementation. From the date of implementation, funds have 12 months to apply for reregistration. Should funds who have not received approval within the 12 months (but have duly applied) – the deemed registration will continue until such time as a response is received from the Registrar.
  • In the next calendar year 2020, NAMFISA intends to embark on drafting a new process of receiving and processing rule amendments, i.e block submissions at specific intervals during the year.
  • Industry was encouraged to approach NAMFISA for consultations and guidance before sending through a rule amendment application.
  • NAMFISA and RFIN have agreed to cooperate on matters affecting the Pension Funds industry. The two parties agreed to hold quarterly meetings, the first of which was held on 2 December 2019.
  • NAMFISA website states that voluntary contributions are not tax deductible. NAMFISA will investigate whether voluntary contributions are tax deductible and will revert back to industry.
  • NAMIFSA confirmed that going forward, it would try to provide information of interest to the industry in the format that the industry wants, provided that such format is communicated.


Joburg adviser on the hook after client email hacked

Global & Local Investment Advisors paid out R804 000 of Nickolaus Ludick Fouché’s funds to three third-party accounts after receiving emails requesting it to do so.

It all started in November 2015, when Fouché, a mining consultant, gave a written mandate to Global & Local to act as his agent and invest money with Investec Bank on his behalf.

In the written agreement, it was stipulated that: “All instructions must be sent by fax or by email with Fouché’s signature.”

Fouché realised that his Gmail account had been hacked by fraudsters who used his email address to send three emails to Global & Local – on August 15, 18 and 24 – requesting that the funds be transferred into the accounts of named third parties at First National Bank (FNB).

Two of the three emails ended with the words: ‘Regards, Nick’ while the third ended with ‘Thanks, Nick’.

Responding to the instructions as per the three emails sent – which had no attachments – the financial services provider based in Johannesburg paid out R 804 000 from Fouché’s account over three days in August 2016.

According to the Supreme Court of Appeal: “Fouché claimed payment of the amounts transferred to third party accounts on the basis that Global had paid out contrary to the written mandate.”

In its defence Global & Local said it had acted within the terms of the mandate on instructions that originated from Fouché’s legitimate email address and that the typewritten name ‘Nick’ at the foot of the emails satisfied the signature requirement.

It said this is in consideration of 13(3) of the Electronic Communications and Transactions (ECT) Act 25 of 2002.

The act says that when an electronic signature is required by the parties to an electronic transaction and the parties have not agreed on the type of electronic signature to be used, that requirement is met in relation to a data message if:
  • A method is used to identify the person as to indicate the person’s approval of the information communication; and
  • Having regard to all the relevant circumstances at the time the method was used, the method was as reliable as was appropriate for the purposes for which the information was communicated.
The court dismissed Global & Local’s appeal, as per a previous High Court judgment that ruled in favour of Fouché. It said the mandate “specifically required” Fouché’s signature for a valid instruction and not merely an email or fax message purporting to be sent to Global & Local.

The High Court stated that this is not a case where the parties agreed to accept an electronic signature as envisaged by the act.

It had elaborated by saying that this was “a case where the parties required a signature. No more and no less”.

“A simple mechanism to achieve that requirement would simply be to reduce the request to writing, to sign it and to forward it by email or fax to the defendant as the recipient.”

The High Court said the agreed mechanism is in line with a purpose and practical interpretation of the provisions of the mandate in line with the probable common intention of the parties and was aimed at avoiding precisely the unlawful activity that caused the damage to Fouché.

“It is common cause that no signed instruction has been given to the defendant [Global & Local] empowering it to transfer the amounts totalling R804 000 from the plaintiff’s [Fouchés] CCM account,” the High Court noted.

It found that the transfer was made unlawfully, conflicting with the terms of the mandate that required an instruction bearing Fouché’s signature.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed Global & Local’s appeal with costs, saying “in the commercial and legal world signatures serve established purposes”.

“Signatures are used as a basis to determine authority and can be checked for authenticity. When money is paid out on a cheque it is done on the basis of an authorised signatory whose signature can be verified.”

Read the full article by Melitta Ngalonkulu in Moneyweb of 19 March 2020  here...


PFA jurisdiction under the spotlight – What applies when group life cover is involved?

A recent Financial Services Tribunal case highlights the jurisdiction of the Pension Funds Adjudicator (PFA) in so far as group life insurance scheme falls under the Pension Funds Act are concerned.

Case background
  • Mr B was the spouse of the late Mrs B (the deceased).
  • The deceased was an employee of the ABSA Group and held membership in both the ABSA Pension Fund and the ABSA Group Life Scheme.
  • Mr B challenged the allocation in respect of the Group Life Scheme proceeds.
  • The claims committee of the insurer approved the distribution as follows:
    • 80% to the applicant, Mr B;
    • 5% to the deceased’s mother in law;
    • 15% to the deceased’s father.
  • Mr B lodged a complaint and as a result of this, no distributions were made to the dependants. (He first lodged a complaint with the Long-term Ombud and then with the PFA).
Does a group life insurance scheme fall under the ambit of the Pension Funds Act?

ABSA claimed that the rules of the Scheme governing the distribution of benefits offered under the Scheme, and how the Scheme is administered with regard to death benefits, is aligned with the principles of section 37C of the Act even through the scheme is not governed by the principles of the Pension Funds Act. The Employee Benefit Insurer therefore took cognisance of the fact that:
  • the deceased did not complete any nomination form for the Scheme;
  • distribution of the benefits under the Scheme are therefore overseen by the trustees;
  • the distribution was done according to the rules of the Scheme.
However, in order for the PFA to have jurisdiction, the Fund must be a “pension fund” as defined in the Pension Funds Act, more particularly sections 2 and 4 thereof. Furthermore, section 2 of the PFA specifically require that every pension fund must apply for registration and be provisionally or finally registered under the PFA. Consequently, without having been registered, the Group Life Insurance Scheme will not fall under the provisions of the PFA and consequently the PFA will not have the requisite jurisdiction, even in the event where the scheme meets the definition of a pension fund or pension fund organisation.

It was demonstrated that the Scheme in this case was not registered and therefore the PFA did not have jurisdiction in the matter. As a result, the order was dismissed.

Read the full article by Janine Geldenhuys, in Moonstone journal of 4 February 2020, here...




Here’s Your Best 5-Point plan for Covid-19 disruption

“1. Know where to go for reliable, up-to-date information: ...We should not be gathering information from Facebook, from “friends of friends” WhatsApp messages, or from any news sources known to be sensationalist... If you are a leader in a school, a public building, or a leader in the community, or at a business, make a decision about who will be the spokesperson for your organisation and let everyone know

2. Ensure you understand – and prepare for – the implications of a worst-case scenario (it is not as bad as you think, but worse than you can imagine, if you haven’t thought about it): It is very unlikely that we will be able to contain it. It will spread to every country and region in the world. For most people, this will just mean mild flu-like symptoms for a few days...

3. Inform your people about the procedures they must follow, and how they will be supported: ...We should then think about our clients, staff, family and friends. What will we do if someone in our circle contracts COVID-19? What is our response plan?... Businesses need to be thinking about staff policies, leave implications and setting up for remote working where possible, amongst many other issues.

4. Look after the vulnerable: ...If we ourselves or our loved ones are in a vulnerable group, we need to take extra precautions and consider carefully how we will respond if anyone in our circle gets COVID-19...

5. Remember to “never waste a crisis”: ...There are honestly two important considerations in the midst of this crisis. The first is the opportunities that will arise. There will be opportunities for entrepreneurial minded people to take hold of... Secondly, this crisis is the first crisis of the 2020’s. It is not going to be the last. Our team at TomorrowToday has been predicting that the 2020’s is going to be the most disruptive decade any of us has experienced...”


Read the full article Graeme Codrington in TomorrowToday Tuesday tips of 11 March 2020, here...



Coronavirus market sell-off

“...We would caution investors not to panic and sell their assets in the downturn, since they could lock in short-term losses. Rather, stepping back and taking a long-term view will help to weather the volatile conditions.

It’s worth remembering that this is only one of many “epidemics” that the world has experienced since the SARS outbreak in February 2003. Among others, we have also had the Avian flu (H5N1) in 2006, the new strain of Swine flu (H1N1)  in 2009, the Ebola outbreaks of 2014 and 2018 and the Zika virus in 2016...

The real world impacts of the Coronavirus are tragic and profound, and today’s investment mood has changed dramatically from the relative comfort of only a month ago. Ultimately, however, the greatest opportunities occur when investors (including ourselves) are at our most fearful, and in that respect this is an episode that is still developing.”

Read the full article by Pieter Hugo Chief Client and Distribution Officer at Prudential SA of March 2020 here...


Financial fraud lubricates the banking system

"The traditional argument for central banking, of course, was that a little bit of financial fraud (3% per year balance sheet expansion per Uncle Milton Friedman, for example) could help lubricate the banking system and nudge gross domestic product (GDP) to steadier performance over time.

What we have now is epic-scale counterfeiting.

There are now upward of $5 trillion of fiat money liabilities at the Fed and $25 trillion at all the world’s central banks, compared to just $500 billion and $2 trillion, respectively, at the turn of the century. And the latter figures were achieved only after decades, in some cases centuries...

Indeed, they’ve turned the entire global financial system into a cesspool of false prices and destructive gambling rackets. They’ve stripped it of the honest money and legitimate capital formation its needs to function and thrive.

What lies ahead is a no man’s land of statist demolition.

You don’t need to be a cynic to see why the Eccles Building has launched its limp baby bazookas this week. The Federal Reserve now, and for many years past, has been the abject handmaid of the Wall Street gamblers, bullies and crybabies.

Fedheads are deathly afraid of honest stock market prices – i.e., a crash – because they know it will make a mockery of their risible claims that the U.S. economy is in a “good place,” that the consumer is “strong,” that they’ve delivered the hallowed state of price stability and full employment, world without end...

In truth, decades of monetary central planning have sucked the lifeblood out of Main Street. It’s destroyed savers; addicted households to debt-based hand-to-mouth living; eviscerated the purchasing power of wages via its 2.00% inflation obsession; and turned the C-suites of Corporate America into stock trading rooms and financial engineering joints in the service of Wall Street, not the construction of resilient, value-creating enterprises.


But the mask is being ripped off the phony narrative about the strength of the Main Street economy – especially the purported Energizer Bunny of household consumption."

Liston Meintjes’ excerpt from David Stockman’s e-mail of 18 March.




Great quotes have an incredible ability to put things in perspective.

Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.
~ Robert A. Heinlein

 
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