The Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) saw a significant 27.5% growth in its portfolio over the most recent financial year, bringing the total value of the fund to nearly R2.1 trillion.
According to the annual financial results for the year ended 31 March 2021, the fund grew by R451bn. This figure is the net growth of the fund after accounting for member contributions of R82bn and benefit payments of R110.6bn.
While the annual return is notable, it was, in part, a recovery from the market crash in March 2020. At the end of March 2020 the fund market value had declined by 11.4% (R260bn).
The more significant figure for members is that over the last decade, the GEPF has delivered an annualised return of 8.9%. This is a real return (above inflation) of over 4%. These above-inflation returns allow the GEPF to continue to pay inflation-related increases to pensioners and provide real returns to active members.
The benefits paid by the GEPF are guaranteed by government. While this protects members, poor investment performance would have to be funded by taxpayers, taking money from other vital areas of spending to make up for any shortfall in the GEPF.
Poor returns would also limit the fund’s ability to pay inflation-related pension increases. Therefore, the returns provided by the fund matter not only to members, but to the country.
According to the Annual Report, the increase in investment value was driven mainly by the recovery in equities and bonds, while the fund’s performance was negatively impacted by unlisted and property portfolios which bore the brunt of market conditions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The property market has not fully recovered and the GEPF has implemented a very conservative valuation on its unlisted and property assets. This means that should market conditions improve, these assets could exceed the value of the original investment.
Commenting on the fund’s investment strategy, Musa Mabesa, Principal Executive Officer for the GEPF says that the GEPF’s strategy, which aims to achieve long-term growth, is successfully contributing to the financial soundness of the fund.
“Our strategy is geared towards ensuring the best possible outcome for the fund, its members, pensioners and beneficiaries.”
In terms of sustainability, the growth of the fund continues to exceed the amounts paid out to members and retirees. This means the fund remains solvent and will be able to meet its future liabilities as current members retire or exit the fund.
- Total benefits paid by the fund amounted to R110.6bn compared to net investment income of R483.8bn.
- The GEPF paid out R76bn in retirement claims and the pension administrator GPAA received 27 960 pension claims in 2020/21.
- The number of active members declined by 3 755 with membership now at 1 265 406. The number of pensioners declined by 526 to 312 647.
This article is part of a member education series in partnership with the GEPF.