Despite the tough economic conditions and low economic growth rate in SA, the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) had a return on investment of 2.6%, equating to R47bn during the 2018/2019 financial year. The fund’s market value of assets was R 1.82-trillion in the year under review, increasing by R17bn compared with the previous year.

The growth of the fund’s assets is pleasing as it is significantly higher than the collective performance of the top 300 pension funds in the world, which reported a decrease in assets under management (AUM) of 0.4% in 2018.

The GEPF has also continued to generate healthy long-term returns in line with its long-term investment strategy. The accumulated funds and reserves grew an average of 11.2% during the period 2009 to 2019. This performance is in line with our approach of long-term growth in pursuit of sustainable risk-adjusted returns.

Despite the prevailing economic headwinds, the fund’s annual return exceeded its benchmark return of 2.3%. This was due to improved performance from commodity prices, which favoured the fund’s tactical overweight position in resource shares relative to its benchmark. The long-term returns were largely driven by the performance of the local equity and bond markets, which was favourable over the long term.

The financial results once again highlight that the performance of the fund is not isolated from the country’s economic and development constraints. If the GEPF is to address this dependence, it has to consider further diversification, including increasing its offshore investments.

The GEPF invests in line with international best practice, diversifying its portfolio of investments through the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and other asset managers, to reduce its exposure to any one market risk and thereby maximise its return on investment. These decisions are guided by and made in accordance with GEPF’s strategic asset allocation policy and risk-management systems.

The fund also experienced an increase in member contributions by 7.1% during the reporting period, representing an R5bn increase from R70bn in 2018 to R75bn in 2019. Benefits to members upon resignation, retirement, death and funeral benefit also increased.

The total benefits paid during the year under review increased by R8bn, mainly due to the increase in pension payments, which accounted for 45,8% of the total increase. The increase in the pension payments was driven by the 5.5% monthly increase granted to pensioners from April 1 2018 and a 3% increase in the number of pensioners. While the number of pensioners increased, the fund experienced a slight decrease in active members by 0.6% to 1,265,421 members (2018: 1,273,125).

The funding level is the fund’s financial gauge. The higher the funding level, the better the financial situation. The results of the March 2018 actuarial valuation show that the fund is 108.3% funded, which means that there are sufficient assets to cover the actuarial liabilities in full.

The GEPF is aware of the important role it plays in the SA economy and that its members, pensioners and beneficiaries are affected by economic, social and environmental challenges. The GEPF, therefore, directed 5% of its total portfolio towards domestic development including infrastructure, transformation, sustainability priority sectors and small-to-medium enterprises.

The GEPF appreciates its implementing agencies, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC and the Government Pension Administration Agency (GPAA) for the work they do to ensure that the GEPF fulfils its mandate.

The audited financial statement can be reviewed on the GEPF website on www.gepf.co.za.

This article was paid for by the Government Employees Pension Fund.

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