Award for hospitality industry pension fundOctober 27th, 2009 by H&R | Categories: hotels, legal, restaurants, tourism, training
The Tourism, Hospitality and Catering Pension Fund (THACSA), which has 82 000 members, was given special recognition at this year’s Institute of Retirement Funds annual conference when it scooped a Communication Award, for best practice in training, communication and engagement with organized labour and fund members.
The award confirms that the tourism and hospitality industry is meeting head on the challenge of adequate provision of employee benefits, such as retirement provision that is crucial to South Africa’s future.
According to South African Tourism, tourism and hospitality contributes some R120-billion to the country’s annual income. It recognises that while the sector has outperformed all other sectors in terms of both GDP and job creation, “there remained opportunities to extract further value in the industry”.
One of those opportunities, says hotelier Andy Nold, the chairman of THACSA, is making tourism and hospitality an attractive industry to work in. This means helping employees make provision for their futures and in the event they are unable to work – and doing this better than other industries.
Historically, a small proportion of employees in the tourism and hospitality sector had access to proper employee benefits. “Our goal has not only been to create a fund that’s world class, but a fund that sets benchmarks.”
Nold, an experienced hotelier who is also a director of Newmark Hotels in Cape Town, says that despite the market downturn after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the United States, the THACSA fund had performed well.
“While this could be attributed to the structure and governance policies of the fund – which also include an independent trustee – the fund has also aligned with industry leading providers,” says Nold.
THACSA’s asset consultant Fifth Quadrant, which advises the fund on investment, and Metropolitan Employee Benefits, which administers the fund, also won awards from the Institute of Retirement Funds.
Nold says THACSA currently has more than 82 000 members and the fund’s objective is to attract more employers and employees to the scheme.
The special recognition award for THACSA’s communication policy comes at a time of great change in the retirement fund industry. Many pension funds in SA and abroad have not found a way to communicate effectively with members because of problems associated with low financial literacy levels.
The fund’s communication policy is seen as a crucial enabler for members to start thinking and planning for their futures.
Renier Grosch, service consultant at Metropolitan Employee Benefits, says pension benefits, and retirement planning are somewhat abstract concepts for many people – irrespective of their educational background.
One of the ways that the fund identifies knowledge gaps is through two-way engagements, such as workshops. Ongoing workshops give the fund an opportunity to fully explore some of the terminology, concepts and responsibilities that can be confusing for members.
Grosch says in addition to becoming one of the only funds in SA to communicate in many languages, the fund’s workshops have become vital forums where members feel comfortable addressing issues relating to their pension fund.
In addition, the fund’s website www.thacsa.co.za is a repository for information about how the fund works, who to contact for assistance and detailed information about the member’s fund. The fund is currently upgrading the site, which will soon give members the ability to interact with the fund and access real-time fund-values.
Fedhasa (the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa), an employers/owner organisation with over 1 000 members, has expressed its support for THACSA and is looking at promoting the fund to its members. Nold says Fedhasa members should look at this as an opportunity to not only attract, but also retain skills.