By Victor Ahiuma-Young
FEW days ago, one of the leading Pension Fund Administrators, PFAs, Trustfund Pensions, held its pre-retiree and retiree forum for its clients and prospective clients in Lagos to among others, interact with them, get feedback and update them with latest information in the industry.
The PFA used the occasion to enlighten prospective retirees on some vital necessities that could delay the payment of the pensions and how to avoid such problems, declaring that it is always better to do the right thing before retirement to avoid difficulties that would have been easily corrected before retirement.
Speaking, Mr. John Opara, Zonal Business Manager, Lagos, noted that among the causes of delay in the payment of pension to fresh retirees included non-remittance of deducted contribution from employers, incomplete documentation, discrepancies in age, names, signature, phone numbers, excess contributions, non- response to letters written to employers for clarification of information and so on. For public sector workers, non-receipt of government such federal, state and local government bonds, change of personal information such as names, telephone numbers, signature discrepancies, and address.
He explained that until these data are corrected and certified, the pensioners would experience delays in the payment of their pensions, advising that prospective retirees should visit their PFAs to regularise and ensure that every data filled at the time of enrollment is consistent and correct.
Others, he noted, are uncertified letter of administration in case of survivors, incorrect or contradictory bank details, non-receipt of programmed withdrawal agreement form, delay in submitting lump sum agreement form, third party not properly identified among others.
Mr Opara informed that because of the sensitive nature of the pension industry, PFAs such as Trustfund have to strictly follow and adhere to rules and guidelines set up by the National Pension Commission, PenCom, to ensure that the right pensioner or beneficiary is paid.
On his part, Regional Manager of Trustfund, Lagos, while stressing the need for continuous engagement of retirees for overall success of the pension reforms in Nigeria, noted that the young industry needs regular engagement with retirees to bridge the knowledge gap and increase penetration of the pension scheme in the country.
According to him: “This industry is very young, barely 10 years and modifications are coming out on a daily basis; the only way they can get accurate information and update is by having this kind of engagement with them. So that one-on-one, they can give us feedback on what they want us to improve on, and we can always update them on new things in the industry.”
According to Ozoekwem, the retiree forum offers opportunity to interact with retirees. “When somebody leaves his place of work, information available to the individual becomes minimal; if we cut them off without engaging them regularly, a gap grows. The feedback we get from them ensures improved services to the pensioners. Retirees get statement of account through e-mail, and also help TrustFund to educate our clients on the importance of programmed withdrawal over annuity.
He said the essence of the forum was also to intimate retirees on the various investment portfolios available to them under the programmed withdrawal scheme, saying: “The essence of the programme is to let them know that money is not given to everyone, it is for people that retire within certain period.
The second reason is the new investment structure for those still working, before now, our investment functions were standard; we only allowed certain investments like the money market, equity market, and few other bonds like FGN and state bonds.” Under the contributory pension scheme, Ozoekwem said clients would be profiled based on their lifespan allowing them for benefit from pension pays with increased income.
“There is a new function in place where customers have been profiled according to age; so you have the right now to say I don’t want my money to be invested in fund one; or I don’t want my money in fund one, please move it to fund two. What this means is that for people with longer years to work, they can opt for investment that will give higher returns but come with minimally higher risks,” Ozoekwem said.