Between 2010 and 2014 an estimated 230 000 workers were retrenched according to the Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency(ZIMSTAT)
Furthermore an average of 200 000 beneficiaries from the largest Social security service provider in the country-National Social Security Authority (NSSA) received their pensions and other benefits in 2017 alone.These figures are not inclusive of retirement and other related benefits statistics from other self-administered and insurance administered funds, Occupational schemes,Provident and Preservation Funds and some Life Assurers.
To ensure that all those retrenched and those retired or entitled to pension’s related benefits are paid timeously-the onus of this gigantic task lies on trained and skilled personnel specializing in the Insurance and Pensions field.The task of ensuring that retirement,retrenchment and pension related benefits are paid entails an arrangement of activities in a Pension scheme or Fund-from the moment the employee begins contributing to the Fund(even if the employer is contributing on behalf of the employee) up to the moment the employee exit the scheme due to varying circumstances.In simple terms a lot of paperwork and procedures are involved in tracking and maintaining these records and databases as well as to calculate benefits when one reaches the end of their working life. Such an end to an employees working life maybe triggered by retrenchment or downsizing, old age, ill health and death.
Demystifying some misconception about Insurance and Pensions Profession.
Rewinding to 2014 when I enrolled for a 4 year Pensions qualification at Harare polytechnic,I remember our class was the smallest with less than 20 students.The course(our pension’s course) was often met with ridicule from our peers. At that time I only understood one thing-that a pension was a form of Insurance as such we were in the same category with our peers from Universities and other Institutions who pursued Risk Management and Insurance as a program.As I tried to explain and enlighten my peers from other programs such as Accounting about our profession-they still somehow felt that there was no need to spend the entire four college years studying pensions.The ridicule characterized by misconceptions or misinformation continued-and they concluded that we were only cut out for NSSA-Zimbabwe’s most popular Pension Scheme.As I and my classmates got scattered along various self-administered and Insurance administered Funds-with some working as Insurance brokers during our attachment year-reality and awakening soon struck to our colleagues who previously ridiculed us as they began to realize the broader scope of our course.
The Skills gap and Institutions that offer Insurance and Pension courses.
There are various Institutions which offer Insurance and Pensions related qualifications.The Insurance Institute of Zimbabweis one of the examining professional body that primarily exist as an oven to bake well-rounded Insurance professionals by providing them with technical skills that can bring a magical touch in handling the demands that come with the Insurance profession. Prior to the Formation of IIZ, most of the workforce dominating the Insurance Industry either did not possess the qualification required in the industry or either had different qualifications not entirely linked to the Industry. The Institute Offers Professional courses from the Certificate of Proficiency (COP) up to the Associateship for those in either the short term or long-term business and such courses can be pursued within the flexibility of their own time. The Institute so far only has a COP in retirement fund trusteeship for Trustees and Top managers of various Funds.
Distinguishing the role of Insurance,Pensions Professionals Versus Accounting and Finance personnel.
In most Self-administered Occupational Pension schemes,Pension and Insurance personnel who maintain records of pension contributions and calculate pension benefits are referred to as Pension Officers.In Insurance Administered funds-these same professionals are often referred to as Employee Benefits Officers.This however is not a one size fit all approach as Funds use the terminology they prefer.Summarily the work of Pensions and Benefits Officers involves maintaining the database or records of contributing employees(even if the employer is contributing for them) and to calculate pension benefits in the case of retirement, retrenchment, ill-health or death using a certain formula and certain software used by that particular scheme. Once the Pension or Employee Benefit officer has done their part, he or she will then remit the paperwork to the Accountant or Finance department depending with the procedures for that particular Fund.Normally the accountant or finance personnel’s task is to ensure that the Pension benefit gets into the bank account of the retrenched or retired employee,their spouse or their respective beneficiaries.
The writer Fungai Antony Sox is a graduate of Pension’s and Investment Management from Harare Polytechnic’s School of Business Studies and he also holds a Certificate of Proficiency in Long-term Business from the Insurance Institute of Zimbabwe.He shares a strong bias in articulating Business related issues and the state of the Insurance sector through Digital media. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com