In one of my earlier communique issued in May this year, I indicated that as the EPPF we “aim to sharpen our focus on our relationship with you, the member, as well as the value we deliver to you. Of importance, is how we communicate and engage with you, as well as how our investment and operational activities respond to your needs in a timely, efficient, effective and empathetic way.”
As 2021 draws to a close, I would like to take the opportunity to update you on the progress the Fund has made in this regard, in what has been a turbulent time. The COVID-19 pandemic presented the Fund with a set of unprecedented and challenging circumstances. Nevertheless, through our digital platforms, we have managed to meet with approximately 5,800 members where we not only shared the Fund’s performance information but also had the opportunity to listen to the concerns of our members. Members have expressed concerns about the safety of their retirement savings, lower than expected annual pensioner increases as well as the lack of access to and engagement with the Fund. We have paid attention and endeavoured to address the issues raised.
The Fund in a healthy position
I am pleased to report that the Fund remains in a healthy position. Our funding level has increased from 135% as at June 2020 to 145% as at June 2021. Our robust investment strategy and diversification approach has cushioned the Fund through the turbulent and volatile market. The Fund delivered a one-year investment return of 17.57% as at June 2021 compared to 0.84% as at June 2020. While the three-year rolling investment return improved to 8.07% as at June 2021 from 3.60% as at June 2020. The assets under management rose from R144.5 Bn in June 2020 to R166.4 Bn in June 2021. The well-being and preservation of the Fund is important to fulfil our purpose “To help our members prepare for a better financial future”.
This year, the Board has approved a minimum pension increase for all pensioners of 5% with effect from 1 January 2022. In addition, there will be an individual pensioner specific top-up to a maximum of 3.7%. The Fund is also in position to pay the annual discretionary bonus to pensioners.
Leveraging digital platforms
In order to improve the convenience of services to our members, as well as to respond to the constraints brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fund accelerated its digital transformation programme. This included moving our member engagements to virtual/online meetings and implementing a new cloud-based call centre system which allows calls to be diverted to several agents in different remote sites, outside of our physical offices.
The Pensioner Administration System has been stabilised and the Fund now has an enhanced Mobile App, WhatsApp and USSD communication channels to ensure easy access to the Fund. Going forward, the Fund will continue to improve the functionalities of these channels.
We have stepped up our efforts to communicate more frequently with our members. This includes, amongst others, monthly and quarterly investment performance fact sheets, member education videos and regular updates on developments at the Fund. We have also revamped our website to enhance the experience for our members.
So as the calendar year draws to a close, we continue to reflect and draw on the lessons we have learned during this challenging period. The Fund’s Integrated Report, which will be published in the upcoming days, demonstrates the strides the Fund has made during the year towards our vision of being “a sustainable and trusted retirement savings provider positively impacting society”.
I would like to thank you for your support, continued participation and engagement with the Fund. The EPPF team and I remain committed to serving you with diligence and C.A.R. E.
Finally, I wish you and your families a safe and wonderful holiday season.
Chief Executive and Principal Officer