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Retirement Fund Solutions turns 15

Expert retirement fund administrator and investment manager, Tilman Friedrich reflects on company growth and the requirement for excellence

Expert retirement fund administrator and investment manager, Tilman Friedrich reflects on company growth and the requirement for excellence

Local pension fund administrator, Retirement Fund Solutions (RFS) last week celebrated its 15th anniversary. Widely regarded as a trailblazer in Namibian financial services, the company was the first administrator to adopt an entirely Namibian mandate.
Founding Managing Director, Tilman Friedrich said the company was established on 1 September 1999 by himself and co-founder Mark Gustafsson, who left the company just over a year ago to pursue his own interests. He said the company’s first employee, Charlotte Drayer, joined on 1 October of the same year, when the company was appointed to manage and consult for two funds.
Friedrich said the company celebrated its fifth anniversary with 8,000 members and N$ 1,3 billion under administration. At that stage, the company had a staff complement of 15. In 2009, when it celebrated its 10th anniversary, the company had a staff of 41 to administer N$ 6 billion on behalf of 21,000 members. On its 15th anniversary, Friedrich said the company has a staff complement of 59, and administers assets of N$ 14.5 billion on behalf of 35,000 fund members.
On the topic of the Benchmark Retirement Fund, which was established by RFS to administer pension investments on behalf of individuals and smaller entities, Friedrich said the fund has grown apace, and administers investments of N$ 1.5 billion for 8,000 members.
Friedrich attributed the growth of the company to its emphasis on governance and compliance to give trustees peace of mind. He said that Namibian pension funds want the assurance that due care and skill is applied to the management of their business, and that strict compliance with Namibian laws and regulations is observed, while the administration of their fund’s business is conducted in a manner which is responsive to the needs of the fund and its members.

In this regard, he said RFS has made a significant investment in technology with the acquisition of a disaster recovery site that will further strengthen its governance and offer peace of mind to its clients to a level typically only offered by large companies. He said the fact that the company’s IT infrastructure is not tied into a foreign parent network, or dependent on foreign expertise or support gives RFS the ability to be responsive to local requirements in terms of governance and compliance
However he also noted that fund management and administration are driven by ‘people helping people’, and that RFS places a major emphasis on development of its human capital. He stated that the company supports individual development through formal and informal education, and that its in-house expertise provides a key competitive edge with ongoing on-the-job training so that staff can respond to the changing regulatory environment.
Friedrich said the company’ strengths are based on several additional factors.
He said that the administrator has rigid quality standards that are benchmarked against international best practices. This, he said, is supported by ongoing training and development of staff.
Friedrich went on to say that quality of service is attained particularly through personal involvement of the owners of the company in day-to-day client service. This ensures that potential problem areas are identified before they occur, contributing significantly to client satisfaction.
He also said that the company’s empowerment policy is to develop individuals for upper tier management from within the company, and pointed out that six members of staff now hold shares and directorship, while an additional 17.5% of shareholding in RFS is assigned to other staff, as the result of which every permanent staff member now benefits from the wealth the company creates.
On the topic of value, Friedrich said that the company has a policy of actively communicating regulatory change to clients, and assisting with development of knowledge to enable clients to make complex decisions regarding pension funds and investments through its monthly Benchtest newsletter. Talking about the future of pension funds administration in Namibia, Friedrich returned to the topic of the regulatory environment. He noted that Namfisa, the regulator of pension funds in Namibia, is implementing new regulations at a rapid rate. These changes, he said, have to consider not only compliance to the letter of the law, but also the needs of funds and their members. Responsive regulation, he said, will grow the financial sector by requiring administrators to their range of services. Friedrich concluded by saying that the company would continue to grow as the financial services sector grows, but would continue with its sustainable approach of measured growth, to ensure that clients receive the level of excellence to which they are accustomed.

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