The Retirement Benefits Authority is working on new guidelines for pension schemes to enhance governance in bid to safeguard workers retirement savings.
The National Retirement Benefits Policy which is under development in collaboration with the National Treasury envisages coverage of all Kenyan workers to ensure they have a retirement plan.
Speaking last weekend, RBA’s Manager for Market Conduct, Tom Kiptanui said, “Currently, we have just 19 percent coverage of the workforce. The National Retirement Benefits Policy will provide a framework for accountability and transparency, operational efficiency, and regulatory compliance by schemes to enhance the protection of members and their dependents as well as sponsors for sustainable growth of the industry”.
Currently there are over 1300 pension schemes in the country with a membership of over 3 million. The local pension industry has expanded quite rapidly from Sh100 billion asset base in 2000 to the current Sh1.08 trillion. There are over 6000 trustees, 21 fund managers, 30 administrators and 11 custodians.
He was giving an address during the annual Trustees Forum organized by local pension administrator, Enwealth Financial Services. The event took place at Hotel English Point, Mombasa on Thursday and Friday.
Some of the governance gaps that have emerged relating to schemes trustees include concerns about term limits for trustees. RBA did a survey which showed 40 percent of pension scheme members are not happy with trustees term limits.
“There is also interference of schemes by sponsors (employers) which is not always to the best interest of the scheme members. Sometimes leading to non-remittance of sponsor contributions with no compensation for the employees for the lost interest,” the RBA official said.
A study on Governance of Retirement Benefits Schemes in Kenya conducted by Enwealth Financial Services in conjunction with Strathmore University and Institute for Human Resource Management (IHRM) in 2017 revealed that close to 40 percent of Trustees cannot explain their fund’s strategic goals and accomplishments.
“Time has come for a paradigm shift in the management of retirement benefits schemes through applying risk management concepts, identifying and pursuing strategic objectives. A strategic plan will enable both the members and trustees to have a clear understanding of the ‘Big Picture’,” Mr. Simon Wafubwa, CEO Enwealth Financial Services said.
RBA has developed a Trustees Development Program – Kenya (TDPK) to equip trustees with the basic skills to run and advice on funds investment.
“Trustees of such pension schemes are tasked with ensuring that funds are invested in such a way as to secure competitive returns,” Enwealth Financial services CEO added.
The RBA representative also said there have been instances of Trustees by pass fund managers or ignore advice like title verification during Investment in property and private equity. There have also been reported cases of conflict of interest in selection of service providers such as fund managers, administrators and custodians.
Kiptanui said the guideline has been developed to align with the general principles of corporate governance and takes into account the provisions of the Act and regulations.
“Undercutting on fees structure is rampant in the industry in a bid for fund managers and other Service Providers to acquire and retain clients which has raised the question on whether should RBA set a minimum fee,” said the RBA representative.
This is due to the highly concentrated market where most of the business in the industry is held by a few players, new comers therefore use undercutting tactics; not sustainable, also level of service is the key.
“Whereas prudent management of retirement benefits schemes is the responsibility of the Trustees, participating members and employers play a key role in choosing the leaders and holding them accountable to deliver the scheme objectives,” added the Enwealth CEO.