The National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) last month completed issuing of licences to service providers, Pension Trustees, Fund Managers and Custodians, two years after the new three-tier pension Act was enacted.
Afriyie Oware, the CEO of Axis Pensions Trust, one of the licenced Trustees, told the B&FT during an interview in Accra that the over two-year wait for licences was worthwhile, as the new pension scheme holds the key to the country’s economic growth.
“The selection process in my view has been very democratic. The NPRA involved stakeholders every step of the way to build partnership with the industry participants. The requirements for licencing of Corporate Trustees are also clearly set out in the Pensions Act, the Occupational Pensions Regulations and NPRA’s guidelines. These are the basic requirements applicants must meet. All that Axis did was to pay attention to these details, and we are not surprised to have the licence,” he said.
The new contributory three-tier pension scheme comprises two mandatory schemes and a voluntary scheme, which includes a first-tier basic national social security scheme.
The NPRA last month issued licences to about 45 institutions to begin full implementation of the new pension scheme.
Out of the number, 29 of them are to operate as corporate pension fund managers, nine as corporate trustees, while seven will serve as pension fund custodians.
With the approval, companies and institutions and individuals will have the opportunity to choose which of the companies is best suited to manage the contributions of their employees.
Mr. Oware said education on the new pension scheme has been moderate as a result of the structure of the country’s pension regime.
He explained: “Our pension regime is occupation-based, so the initial effort of the NPRA has been to educate trade union leaders and employers. Service providers have also played a significant role in keeping employers abreast with developments in the pensions sector. Perhaps, more could have been done to take the education to the level of workers.”
Since January 2010, when the new Pension Act came into force, companies have made a mandatory 18.5 percent contribution to both Tier-1 and Tier-2 schemes. These payments have been made to the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), although the Tier-2 funds are being held in trust at the Bank of Ghana.
According to the Pensions law, the funds must be released from the temporary pension fund account at the Bank of Ghana to the trustee accounts within 90 days of licencing, with details of how much each worker has contributed and the returns made.
Mr. Oware, who once managed some of the country’s leading mutual funds while at Databank, said employers now have the mandate to enrol their workers on approved schemes.
He said the process of disbursement requires several reconciliations, which will inform the NPRA to release workers contribution to their respective trustees on a case by case basis.
“Employers who are unable to complete their reconciliations within the three months can always receive their monies when they are ready. Employers should therefore keep faith and feel comfortable, because the monies are in safe hands with the Bank of Ghana under the supervision of the NPRA,” he assured.
The full implementation of the new pension Act is expected to bring competition to industry players, and Axis Pension Trust is hopeful that its investments in technology and innovation will drive the company’s growth in the pensions industry.
“We have developed a number of schemes which give employers flexibility to implement tailor-made features to suit their peculiar organisational needs. Our schemes also allow members to choose investment plans that best meet their expectation for competitive returns and risk tolerance. We believe this innovation will be a novelty as it offers greater member and employer involvement.
“Axis seeks to be the market-leader in service. To achieve this, we have invested heavily in modern technology to make information accessible to our clients through any medium they feel comfortable with. We think these two factors will distinguish us from competition at this stage.
“Our vision is to lead the market in innovation and service. We will therefore focus on the segment of the market that offers us the best opportunity to provide our services efficiently,” he said.
It is envisaged that the new three-tier pension scheme will enhance pension benefits and increase the retirement income security of workers in both the formal and informal sectors.