In this newsletter:
Benchtest 04.2020, provident funds – a time to change and more...

NAMFISA levies

  • Funds with year-end of May 2020 need to have submitted their 2nd levy returns and payments by 25 June 2020;
  • Funds with year-end of November 2020 need to have submitted their 1st levy returns and payments by 25 June 2020; and
  • Funds with year-end of June 2019 need to submit their final levy returns and payments by 30 June 2020.
Suspension of operation of laws during lockdown

If you have missed proclamation no 16 issued under the State of Emergency that suspends the operation of certain provisions in a number of laws, such as prescribed periods for certain legal processes, and provisions of the Labour Act relating to dismissal of employees, reduction of salary and forced leaved, download the gazette here...

Note that the effective date of this proclamation is deemed to be 28 March 2020, i.e. it is backdated by 1 month.

Update on economic stimulus and relief measures

For an overview of all economic stimulus and relief measures government has introduced to mitigate the impact of COVID 19, read PWC’s May 2020 Tax Alert here...

Extension for submission of tax returns

ICAN/ NIPA will not approach Inland Revenue for a general extension of submission of income tax returns.

Taxpayers are rather advised to submit as many returns of income and payments within the time permitted and request an extension of time, on a case by case basis, for all those taxpayers where the necessary work cannot be completed in time.

Download the communication from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Namibia here...

Pensioners and fund members urged to provide TIN number to RFS

RFS is deemed to be the employer of pension fund members for the purpose of deducting PAYE from any benefits payable, and paying this over to the Receiver of Revenue. On a monthly basis RFS is required to load comprehensive information on the person to whom a taxable benefit was paid and tax was deducted. However, the ITAS prevents RFS from meeting its legal obligation to load this information unless the beneficiary’s TIN (tax identification number) is reflected.

RFS will not be able to pay any benefit if it does not have the TIN of the person due to be paid a benefit.

We are therefore urging all pensioners and members who are due to be paid a benefit from their pension fund to provide us with their TIN urgently. To pre-empt the delay of the payment of a benefit, all employees who are due to receive a benefit from their fund are similarly urged to ascertain that RFS is provided with their TIN.

Please mail or arrange to have your ITAS registration certificate delivered to RFS, for attention your fund’s administrator.

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
UPDATED May 2020

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 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:

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

  • Provident funds – a time to change!
  • Corona may never go away;
  • The full article in last month’s Benchmark Performance Review to 31 December 2019 – “It’s not a good time to invest while the volcano is still active!”

In ‘News from RFS’, read about:

  • RFS long service awards;
  • Important circulars issued by RFS;

In ‘News from the market place’ read about “Old Mutual introduces new AGP seriest”.

In ‘Letters from our readers’ read -

  • “Thoughts on Benchtest 03.2020 newsletter”;
  • “Our comments on the oil crisis”;

In ‘News from NAMFISA’, catch up with the latest circular on the temporary suspension or reduction of contributions of employers participating in umbrella funds.

In ‘Legal snippets’ read about –

  • “Death benefits and S37C – when do you have to pay?”
...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!


Tilman Friedrich


Monthly Review of Portfolio Performance
to 30 April 2020

In April 2020 the average prudential balanced portfolio returned 8.3% (March 2020: -8.2%). Top performer is Prudential Namibia Balanced Fund with 9.6%, while Momentum Namibia Growth Balanced Fund with 7.4% takes the bottom spot. For the 3-month period, Investec Namibia Managed Balanced Fund takes the top spot, outperforming the ‘average’ by roughly 4.4%. On the other end of the scale Momentum Namibia Growth Balanced Fund underperformed the ‘average’ by 4.8%. Note that these returns are before (gross of) asset management fees.

The Monthly Review of Portfolio Performance to 30 April 2020 provides a full review of portfolio performances and other interesting analyses. Download it here...

After Corona the world will never be the same again

Every politician, every news medium, and of course Bill Gates, are all heralding that the world we knew before will never be the same again, after Corona. The abbreviations A.C. and B.C. have been given a new meaning – After Corona and Before Corona. Have you noticed like I, that this message is driven in particular by ITC companies and others, clearly wanting to capitalise on IT to promote their business?

In the 20 years or so B.C. we experienced a huge tidal wave of human movement across the world. One may probably differentiate between business movement and leisure movement. I believe these two will respond differently in the years A.C.

Maybe me, as a ‘baby boomer’, am still of the old school. I believe human beings are social animals. They like to socialise, meet face to face and interact on a personal level and have that feel-, smell-, taste experience, simply being a human being. We do not want to be prescribed to the n’th degree what we may do, what we may not do, where we may and may not be, how and when we may move around – like an animal in a zoo. We may live being shackled for a while, but we will not, as a species accept shackles for any extended period and the longer we are shackled down, the more violent the breaking of these shackles will eventually be. This is what history tells us. The virtual world may add a facet to our lives but it will not change our human genes. I am convinced that the new reality A.C. is a huge hype blown up by people with a vested interest and opportunists joining the band wagon.

Read part 6 of the Monthly Review of Portfolio Performance to 30 April 2020 to find out what our investment views are. Download it here...

Provident funds – a time to change!

It was reported in previous newsletters that NAMFISA on behalf of Inland Revenue (rightly or wrongly) has taken the position that it will not approve any rule amendment to the rules of a provident fund, where the rules of the fund make provision for a disability income benefit or a funeral benefit. Inland Revenue itself has merely questioned the validity of rules providing for such benefits in the context of the definition of ‘provident fund’ in the Income Tax Act (ITA) and has indicated that it might disallow the portion of the contribution applied towards these benefits.

Whilst I would agree that it is true that the definition of ‘provident fund’ does not seem to provide for such benefits, it must be pointed out that Inland Revenue for many years has approved provident fund rules providing for such benefits. I have also pointed out in a previous newsletter that if one were to strictly go by this definition, a provident fund member would not be allowed to receive a benefit from the fund upon resignation. Similarly, the definition of ‘pension fund’ in the ITA seemingly does not allow for certain benefits commonly offered by pension funds, but that the definition of ‘gross income’ explicitly prescribes that such benefits are ‘gross income’.

I have been mulling on how to accommodate the PHI and funeral benefits that cannot be provided under a provident fund anymore.

I have looked at the FIM Bill and the ITA and conclude that it will most likely not be possible without consulting Inland Revenue and NAMFISA on any alternative one may want to consider within our legal framework as there is some discretion built into the laws.

The objective is to have the premiums being tax deductible. The disability income benefit will be taxable in any event as being an annuity. The funeral benefit could be tax free if it is paid by a ‘benefit fund’ (which includes a ‘friendly society’ under the ITA).

Making provision in the rules of the provident fund that it will purely serve as conduit for payment of premiums, without offering any benefit, is likely to fall foul of the FIM Bill/ PFA that require a fund’s asset to be registered in its name. Thus the policies will probably have to be issued in the name of the fund and I believe it will help little if the benefits were paid directly to the beneficiary by the insurance company. It will legally and from a tax point of view probably still be a benefit offered by the fund.

The FIM Bill definition of ‘friendly society’ requires the member to contribute, else it is not a ‘friendly society’. Since risk premiums are normally borne by the employer such arrangement will not be a ‘friendly society’ unless it was done by way of a cafeteria approach.

Creating an entity in terms of the ITA as a ‘benefit fund’ to accommodate various employers who contribute for risk cover would imply the entity collecting, and accounting for insurance premiums. In terms of the FIM Bill it would then meet one of the 3 conditions in section 5 (5) of the FIM Bill that is considered insurance business and is prohibited to be carried out by anyone other than an insurance company.

Under the FIM Bill the concept of a provident fund paying out all in a lump sum will not exist anymore. In the light of this fact, any solution to these provident fund challenges will be short-lived. Hence the statement in the heading of this article – provident funds – a time to change!

Corona may never go away

“A top World Health Organisation official said the virus may never go away” (quoted from CAM Daily Brief 200514). How is one to read this comment – and it is not the first comment along these lines quoted in the media of late? To my mind it can only mean one thing. We will have to live with the virus. This in turn can only mean one of two things. We either keep our boarders closed and our economies locked down for ever, or we simply have to live alongside the virus. Since former is clearly an impossibility, I read this as an acknowledgement that the measures taken across the world in the initial phase of the virus were inappropriate and we will now have to move to a phase of living with the virus.

It’s not a good time to invest while the volcano is still active!

The lockdown has created a situation in global economies and financial markets that no-one of ‘us mortals’ could have ever foreseen. What is particularly depressing about it, is that it is man-made. Governments across the world consciously decided to do serious harm to their economies in an effort to save lives.

We know for sure that the global economy will take a serious knock and we can be pretty sure that COVID 19, and any other bout of flu for that matter, will take lives. So the argument goes, that saving lives is more important than saving jobs. However, is this true? As well-known SA economist Dawie Roodt, surmises in an article in Moneyweb of 17 April, the number of deaths that will be caused as the result of a significant increase in poverty may very well significantly exceed the number of deaths caused by the Corona virus.

Unfortunately, ‘peer pressure’ will have prevented any country from following any autonomous course of action in addressing the COVID 19 epidemic. Yet country specific circumstances differ vastly from one country to the next and more acutely between developed countries and developing countries. Furthermore, the epidemic started in the northern hemisphere during its winter and flu season, while the southern hemisphere was still in the summer season where the rapid spreading of any flu is unlikely. We will still get into our flu season and we will have ‘spent all our ammunition’. Come winter season, and the spreading of flu, including COVID 19, we will have a serious problem trying to contain the spreading of these diseases.

At this stage, the huge uncertainties and the unknown consequences linked to the prevailing lockdown, markets will remain jittery and volatile. A significant part of the economy will disappear over the lockdown with many companies closing down. Governments will focus on rebuilding their economies. They will make every effort to convince their citizens to travel within their countries and to spend their discretionary moneys within, rather than outside. Tourism for one will not anytime soon return to what it has been before the lockdown. A large number of people will be poorer so their spending capacity will have declined and they will spend less on travelling, hospitality entertainment and other discretionary expenses. Some industries will change their face for an extended period, others forever.

We now have to live with the economic and financial consequences of the COVID 19 measures taken across the world. The global economy was already in the doldrums even before COVID 19, and it’s now in much worse shape. The problem is that we cannot really reliably say how things are going to evolve after we are all out of this disaster nor how long it will take until global economies and global financial markets have found their bottom and will turn around. It is also pretty certain that some industries will be negatively impacted and others will be positively impacted. Tourism, travelling and entertainment industries depending on physical on-site presence such as sport events, shows etc. will take years to recover. In contrast, digital, home-based entertainment and services designed to provide for the home-based consumer will have a bright future. People will generally be more home-bound. Anything depending on people ‘through-put’ and mass consumption should experience tough times while personalized and individualized services and consumption should come out strongly after the lockdown. Health care will obviously enjoy more prominence and growing demand. One can just see drones taking over in providing the home-based consumer with all he may need. Generally, technology driven services should experience an ever-growing demand.

To use an analogy, we currently experience the eruption of an economic and financial volcano that is spewing lava and ash into the atmosphere. Do we know when it will die down or what the world around it will look like after it has died down again? There will be lots of ash all around it and out of this ash in a few years’ time we will see new plants sprouting any growing lusciously and the world will then look quite a lot differently. No crop farmer would start preparing his soil while the volcano is still smouldering. No crop farmer would use all his capital to purchase a single type of seed and to start sowing as if the soil is the same as before the eruption. Of course, the weather will also contribute towards the successful or unsuccessful growth of the seeds. He would probably rather purchase a wide range of different seeds to experiment which ones will flourish in the new environment and he would probably not sow all at the same time but spread it over time so that the impact of the weather can play out as well. Of course, some may be tempted to capitalize on the situation and put all their capital into a single type of seed he believes will flourish and at a time when most still hesitate and rather first experiment with smaller amounts.

The investor is now essentially in the same position as the crop farmer. He either takes a view of what the world will look like and aggressively pursue this view in the hope that the risk will be rewarded appropriately or he follows a more cautious approach. Certainly, it is wise to wait until the Corona volcano has died down before starting to invest. What will markets do if a second bout of COVID 19 breaks out? The response is likely going to be even more violent than we have seen after the first outbreak. At risk in particular will be countries in the southern hemisphere that are only moving into the flu season from June onwards, unless an effective vaccine has been developed by then. We really can only be certain that this volcano has died down once a vaccine has been developed and is freely available. We will also only know which types of business will no longer flourish, over time. We can either learn from the experience of others or we can do our own research and base our investment decisions on what our own research shows.  Principally one can identify with a fair level of certainty some industries that should flourish and others that are likely to whither but there will be a broad spectrum of industries where this will likely not be the case.

Speculation is a short-term game and it is fraught with risk and is highly dependent on timing. Speculating repeatedly reduces the risk but also the return. Pension Fund investments are a long-term game and should not be driven by speculation. Applying the crop farmer analogy and given that we are playing a long-term game in the pensions industry we should not sell all our crop now after the demand for the crop has collapsed because of the outbreak of the volcano which led people to believe the crop may be poisoned. One should not sow new seeds now in the hope that they will yield a better harvest than the crop in the field.


Given this environment, where can a pension fund still invest? Fixed interest assets are evidently too risky being too exposed to monetary and fiscal manipulation. Even if we here at the southern tip of Africa are living in a much more sheltered environment, our financial markets are shackled to global developments. This essentially leaves real business as the asset class to invest in. We all have to live, eat, drink, dress, get to work, nurture our health, go on holiday, learn, find shelter and so on. The ‘real economy’ will continue and is best represented by commerce and industry, in short, investment in equity appears to be really the most appropriate asset class for the normal investor who shies away from the more exotic asset classes such as gold, works of art etc.

As we usually say, based on fundamentals, equity is still our preferred asset class, more specifically value companies offering a high dividend yield in the current environment. However, the company must also operate in a sector that will not whither as the result of the Corona volcano eruption. While it is possible to identify sectors that are likely to whither and those that are likely to flourish it does not necessarily apply to each business in these sectors.

One should not sell out of equities but should selectively dispose of holdings that are clearly in the wrong industry to replace them with ones that are clearly in the right industry as we have alluded to above. One can expand one’s holdings in the right sectors provided one is assured of the sustainability of the specific holding post the volcano having died down. We do not believe it is the right time now to either sell existing holdings, or to invest in new holdings hand over fist.

Index investing will merely result in returns mirroring the general performance of the economy and that will be worse than it has been before the lockdown. Stock picking can add value if the shrewd manager avoids companies likely to suffer and pounces on opportunities that will become available. In these times of high volatility, one should mitigate the risk by spreading one’s investment over a period.

Foreign investments may not have lost at all or may have only incurred limited losses as the result of the severe depreciation of the Rand. While the Rand was already badly under-valued by our assessment it is now in a much worse position having weakened by 26% from 14 to the US$ to close to 19.

At the same time the US S&P 500 dropped by only 14%. Repatriating foreign investment capital is an option to consider. For the sake of spreading ones’ risk globally this should be done with the firm intention to expatriate the capital again at a later stage when the Rand has recovered from its overdone weakness.

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 an HR practitioner of a village council

“...I trust this email finds you well.  This email serves to convey my compliments on the way you really answer your business phone. “Highly professional”, your calls never ring more than 3 times. It is being pick up on time.  Keep up your excellent telephone etiquette, something one can learn from and emulate...”

Read more comments from our clients, here...

Long service awards complement our business philosophy

RFS philosophy is that our business is primarily about people and only secondarily about technology. Every time a fund changes its administrator, a substantial amount of information and knowledge is lost. Similarly, every time the administrator loses a staff member, it loses information and knowledge. We know that as a small Namibia based organisation, we cannot compete with large multinationals technology wise because of the economies of scale that global IT systems offer. To differentiate us we need to focus on personal service and on the persons delivering that service to get customer acceptance and service satisfaction. With this philosophy we have been successful in the market and to support this philosophy we place great emphasis on staff retention and long service.

The following staff member celebrated her 5-year work anniversary at RFS! We express our sincere gratitude for her loyalty and support over the past 5 years to:
  • Elaine Blom
We look forward to Elaine continuing her value-addition to our clients!

Important administrative circulars issued by RFS

RFS issued the following fund administration related circulars to its clients over the last four months. Should any client have missed any of these circulars, please get in touch with your client manager:
  1. Late payment interest on unpaid benefits (RFS 2020.01-01);
  2. RFS operations during COVID 19 (RFS 2020.03-02);
  3. TIN for pensioners (2020.04-03);
  4. Payment of claims without a TIN (2020.04-04):
  5. Old Mutual new AGP 2020 (RFS 2020.04-05);
  6. RFS operations during COVID 19 (RFS 2020.04-06);
  7. FS operations during COVID 19 (RFS 2020.05-07);
  8. Changes to Annexure 1 of SLA (RFS 2020.05-08); and
  9. Old Mutual new AGP 2020 update (RFS 2020.05-09).

Old Mutual introduces new AGP portfolio series

In last month’s newsletter, we reported on a circular issued by Old Mutual informing its investors of the introduction of the 2020 series of AGP portfolios resulting from the steep market decline that produced a negative reserve of 20%+ in the in the current AGP series. All new cash flow was to have been transferred to the 2020 series portfolios with effect from end March.

Old Mutual has now issued a new circular offering three options to investors. These are:
  1. Clients may elect to continue in AGP 2020 as already communicated, all new investment inflows shall be directed to AGP 2020 whilst AGP 2007 shall remain active and utilized to affect disinvestments;
  2. Clients may elect to remain in AGP 2007 only, all new investment inflows since 25 March 2020 shall be invested in AGP 2007;
  3. Clients may elect to switch out of AGP 2007 into the AGP 2020 by giving notice to Old Mutual on or before 08 June 2020, however such a switch is not defined as a benefit event and a Market Value Adjustment (MVA) shall be applicable to any amount switched from AGP 2007 during periods when the BSR is negative.
The circular sets out the consequences of these options for the investor and requires each investor to submit its option by 8 June. Any actions Old Mutual had taken following its first circular will be reversed where necessary as the result of an investor’s option.

Find the circular here...

Thoughts on Benchtest 03.2020 newsletter

As usual I have my thoughts on your publications and I want to comment in totality with the hope that it makes some sense and something can be of use to people retiring in the near future.


I have started to wonder why Covid-19 has taken all the attention over the last few months. Is it really that different from Covid-18 and 17 and many other Covid viruses from recent years. I do not want to dwell on any conspiracy theories, because it is what it is and governments have reacted as they have seen fit and we the people have to do the best we can.

I agree with your statement that more people die of hunger than from viral infections. I think what has played an important role in lock down in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe is the fact that there has not been sufficient investment in public health care.

The Actuarial Society of South Africa has published an internal model on the spread of the virus in South Africa based on worldwide data available until about 10 days ago. I suspect the trend will be similar in Namibia and Zimbabwe. The best estimate on current data is that the virus will peak in South Africa by mid August. By then SA will require 80 000 hospital beds and the expected number of deaths could be in the order of 48 000. The worse case projection is a peak in September with a requirement of 120 000 hospital beds and about 100 000 deaths.

In SA we do not have 80 000 hospital beds! The Cape Town convention centre is going to take only 800 emergency beds! This I think is the real reason for the lock down. I would think that a similar train of thought would have been followed in Windhoek.

Treatment of Covid-19 and other matters

This in itself is a dilemma. The protective gear and testing kits used are all(mostly) imported. There is not enough to go around. For the sake of the argument, let us say 60% of the protective gear worn and 70% of the test kits used to identify the virus in humans are imported. With lock down, closed borders and minimal air transport available the supply of these items become a problem for countries at the southern tip of Africa. Many countries where these items are produced have banned the export of these items, because they need it themselves!

This adds to the argument for a required lock down.

National finances

It is worth just to re-emphasise the strain the lock down has on the finances of government in lost tax receipts. The question is then how is the increased government budget deficit going to be financed. In Namibia's case the main budget has not been presented, but still, the deficit is no doubt going to be bigger than initially thought.

National Health Insurance or National Pension Fund

I am afraid my vote is for neither. Unfortunately, both institutions will open doors for the misappropriation of very scarce resources.

The UK is still trying to make its National Health System to work. Such a grand centrally planned system is too complicated to organise and run efficiently.

Pension Funds

This brings me to where my real concern is - although I do not work in this field!

Many people about to retire has just seen their retirement pot just disappear. I am sad to admit that I think the actuarial profession has not provided good service to the general public with the demise of defined benefit funds. All the profession has done was to allow the employer discharge investment risk and to let the pension fund member take all the investment risk. Most pension fund members do not care about invest risk.

Then there are Pension Fund Regulators who insist on balanced portfolios. And then there is the issue of fund managers' fees. Where to begin. Here are just a few thoughts.

1. Fund manager fees.
When total return was about 13% and a fund manager took 1%, then his return as a percentage of total return is 7.7%, but when returns are about 7.2% then the fund manager takes 13.9% of the return. Surely this is highly questionable and fund managers should also take a reduction in fees? There is a lady at Alexander Forbes who does research on this matter and she has interesting thoughts on the matter. I forget her name for the moment.

2. Inflation
You might recall I ended my previous email with the next possible risk being inflation. Here this the thought. Oil is currently in over production and price is very low. Shale producers are forced to close, wells are closed. The problem is when a well is closed it takes a fairly big investment to open again, so the oil price could rise in about 18/24 months time when some form of normality returns and demand for oil increases. This could ignite inflation. With the lock down of transport, supply chains have been disrupted and this can also lead  to an increase in inflation.  

3. Investment returns
There are commentators who are surprised at the returns as shown by indices. The truth of the matter is that an index like the S&P 500 suffers the same problem as the Top 40 index in South Africa. In the S&P 500 the top 6 constituents make up just under 17% of the index and all but one (JP Morgan) are tech companies. The tech companies are increasing in value and they draw the index with them. The actual return of a fund's equity exposure could well be very different to what an index is showing, not withstanding the effect of expenses.

4. Where to hide
Could a hiding place for those retiring over the next 12/15 months perhaps be Namibian very long dated government bonds. If there is sufficient protection against a further downgrade and unexpected inflation - which I do not think will materialise in the next 12 months.

I have left you with my thoughts and nothing else.

Best wishes from Cape Town.


Phillip Barnard

Editor’s note: Letter shortened slightly

Response from the editor:

Dear Phillip

Thank you for your interesting thoughts.

We are living in challenging times. I am personally very hesitant to commit any funds to any type of investment ‘until the dust has settled’.

We have no idea what the economy will be like after Corona, and like you say, probably up to 2 years after lockdown has ended. There will be many surprises of companies folding who one would have never expected to fold. It will start with smaller companies and their demise will spread like the virus to every bigger companies. Just to think that Lufthansa is in trouble and has indicated that it will not make it without government support! How many other airlines will go down and who will they draw down with them?

Kind regards

Our comments on the oil crisis

Dear RFS, ...

I really enjoy reading your articles. Academic knowledge is being applied in Financial markets.  

Would you point me to your latest article regarding the Oil crisis.

Kind Regards  

Jens Heiser

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.

Temporary suspension or reduction of contributions

NAMFISA issued circular PF/Cir/02/2020 that allows trustees of umbrella funds to submit ‘master rules’ amendments to alter fund contribution rates, that empower the trustees to permit temporary contribution reductions or suspensions to a participating employer. This circular was issued in response to the financial distress many employers are currently experiencing as the result of COVID 19. The circular sets a number of stringent requirements for funds submitting such an application.

The following requirements need to be met as a minimum:
  1. Relief may only be granted to avoid or minimise job losses.
  2. Employees must have accepted a general reduction in remuneration (i.e. be it through the reduction of the employer contribution to the fund).
  3. Fund members must have been informed of such a temporary reduction and the impact thereof on their benefits.
  4. The reduction may not be for longer than an initial period of 4 months, which period may be extended by another period of 4 months at a time upon application by the employer. The application by the employer must be properly substantiated.
  5. The employer must disclose the following information to the fund:
    1. the circumstances necessitating the reduction or suspension;
    2. how these circumstances have rendered it unable to pay the full contribution.
If you wish to study the circular, you can download it here...

Death benefits and S 37C - when do you have to pay?

In a technical guide on the distribution of death benefits, the author, Liz del la Harpe makes a few important points that are overlooked too easily, regarding the time frames for the payment of death benefits in case of each of the 5 different scenarios envisaged in section 37C:
  • There are dependants but no nominated beneficiary:
    The benefits must be paid to the identified dependants within 12 months from the date of death.
  • There are no dependants but nominated beneficiaries:
    Payment to the beneficiaries may only be made after the expiry of the 12 month period.
  • There are both dependants and nominated beneficiaries:
    The benefits must be paid within 12 months from the date of death.
  • There are neither dependants nor nominated beneficiaries:
    The relevant subsection of section 37C does not set out a time frame and it is argued that the benefit can only be paid to the estate of the deceased after expiry of the 12 month period from date of death.
  • There are no dependants and the deceased nominated a beneficiary only for a portion of the benefit:
    Payment to the estate and the nominee will become due and enforceable on the expiry of the 12 month period from date of death.
One topical question addressed in this article is ‘when does the duty to pay arise?’

A debt becomes due when the duty to pay arises. Where a debtor’s liability is dependent upon the performance of certain conditions, the debtor will not be in mora until a duty to pay arises, e.g. all dependants of a deceased needed to be and then have been determined.

Mora can arise where the debtor’s need is urgent and the creditor’s delay is unreasonable. The common belief that a fund’s duty to pay is contingent upon the expiry of the 12 month period referred to in Section 37c is not correct. The duty to pay is not dependent on this but rather whether the trustees are satisfied that they have investigated and considered with due diligence and are in a position to make a decision.

Other questions addressed are :
  • What is the objective of Section 37C;
  • What is the duty of the board of trustees in this regard;
  • Identifying and tracing dependants;
  • Do all identified dependants automatically qualify;
  • What about nominated beneficiaries;
  • Benefit allocations to the identified dependants.
Read the full technical guide for trustees by Liz de la Harpe, legal adviser, Glacier by Sanlam in Insurance Gateway, here...

How to handle changes to living annuity draw downs

The SA Minister of Finance is in the process of changing the draw down regime for living annuities. Proposals are that pensioners be able to draw anything between 0.5% and 20% of their savings instead of anything between 2.5% and 17.5% of their savings. This will address both the need of a pensioner to reduce his draw down to compensate for the sharp market decline as well as the need to increase the draw down where a person is in dire need to generate additional income during the lockdown.

Although similar proposals were made in Namibia, unfortunately nothing has come of this yet. In Namibia, a living annuity pensioner may draw down up to 20% but cannot draw down less than 5%.  

“When the proposed changes are gazetted [in SA] it is expected that annuitants will be able to change their drawdown rate immediately instead of waiting until the anniversary date of their policy. This will mitigate the risk that comes with regular withdrawals when the capital value is down — as it will be now after large falls in global and local financial markets.

If you continue to draw high percentages on your depleted capital, the percentage drawn can quickly escalate until it reaches the maximum you are allowed to draw.
At that point — known as the point of ruin — you can no longer increase your pension each year to keep up with inflation, resulting in your income declining in real (after-inflation) terms...”

Pensioners considering to change their draw downs, particularly those that contemplate to draw down the maximum of 20%, are well advised to read the article by Laura du Preez in the Money section of Business Live of 12 May here...

A guide to COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on retirement funds
  1. Retirement fund savings have decreased -... Share prices in all countries have fallen because of COVID-19 and other problems in the world economy” What we are also seeing is that shares are not the only asset class falling during this time. We are experiencing a broad-based fall across most asset classes...
  2. Global financial markets affect retirement savings in South Africa - ...What happens in the world economy and to global financial markets can affect retirement savings that are invested in financial markets offshore or local investments...
  3. Managing retirement fund savings during high market volatility - ...When investment values fall, people often react by changing their investment portfolios or preferring a cash-type investment like a money market fund, but because we don’t know when financial markets will fall and how far they will fall, these actions usually take place too late after investment values have already decreased...
  4. Continue contributions to your retirement fund - Lange recommends that investors make every effort to continue their retirement fund contributions. Retirement funds have several other benefits that are worth mentioning...
Read the full article by Vickie Lange, head of best practice at Alexander Forbes in Cover of 9 April 2020 here...

Seven executive remuneration trends in 2020

“What then are the executive remuneration trends for 2020 that will drive the desired outcome of ensuring that business is sustainable in the changing world?
  1. Defining the purpose of the business more overtly with regard to all stakeholders, only one of which are shareholders...
  2. There will be a strong focus on changing the remuneration strategy in companies to include a section on fair and responsible pay across all levels of the organisation...
  3. Stakeholder engagement will become part of business. The days of focussing only on the shareholders (shareholder capitalism) are being replaced swiftly by stakeholder capitalism...
  4. Executive variable pay will be re-designed to align it with the principle 14 outcomes of long-term value creation...
  5. Executives will be held to account for sustainable performance by introducing both malus and clawback provisions in the variable pay designs...
  6. The end of golden parachutes and short-term project-based payments will become a thing of the past...
  7. A move to simplifying executive variable pay schemes, particularly long-term incentives by addressing the performance measures that ensure value creation...”
Read the full article by Bryden Morton and Chris Blair in Moneyweb of 9 May 2020 here...

Should I invest or pay off debt?

“I currently have R25 000 available to either invest into an FNB share-builder type account or reduce my credit card debt which is close to R50 000. What would be the better choice given the current state of affairs? I feel shares are depressed and could produce real returns in the future, but I know credit card debt carries a high interest rate. Any advice would be appreciated...”

Read the response to this important question by Thulisile Nkomo in Moneyweb of 7 May 2020 here...

10 Tips to financially survive retrenchment
  1. Don’t take it personally - ... The reality is that it’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong.  Your company probably came to a point where they needed to make a financial decision for its future existence...
  2. Overhaul your CV and get it out there - This may seem obvious, but looking for a new job takes time, and in many instances, you may not even make shortlists. Ask the HR specialist handling your retrenchment about the possibility of redeployment...
  3. Reinvent yourself and your career, but... A new business – or even buying an existing one that looks profitable on paper – can drain you financially...
  4. Cut your household budget - Bills will continue to reach you, while the salary that you have been receiving monthly, won’t. Now is the time to go through your monthly household budget ...
  5. Appoint a financial planner - This truly is the best time to get a financial planner. There are some big, important financial decisions to be made, and a qualified financial planner can help you...
  6. Stay away from your pension fund - Cashing in 100% of your pension fund can be the most financially damaging decision you can make...
  7. Transfer your pension fund into a preservation fund - ... preservation funds protect your pension money. You can withdraw it later but the longer it stays there, the better...
  8. Calculate how you will live until you start earning again - cashing in your pension fund is not a good idea. If you are worried about covering your living expenses, find out the following, before you touch your retirement savings...
  9. Check if you have retrenchment cover - Check the cover on your credit card or retail store accounts. Perhaps there is built-in retrenchment cover...
  10. Speak up - Don’t be embarrassed to ask for better interest rates, reduced instalments on your accounts or even payment holidays...

Read the full article by Sherwin Govender, Business Development Manager at Glacier by Sanlam, in Cover of 9 April 2020 here...

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

"Correction does much but encouragement does more."
~ Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

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