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Pension industry fears Russia–Ukraine conflict

2022-05-06  Maihapa Ndjavera

Pension industry fears Russia–Ukraine conflict

Spiking oil prices and the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict have contributed to the uncertainty faced by financial markets. This could potentially have negative implications for the Namibian retirement fund industry’s investment assets. 

The industry’s investment assets withstood the threats arising from Covid-19, higher-than-expected inflation rates, and relatively tighter central bank policies during the review period. 

According to the financial stability report for April 2022 released by the Bank of Namibia last week, returns on investment were recorded at 15.6% in 2021, growing from 6.7% and 5.8% in 2020 and 2019, respectively. 

“A strong performance was observed particularly in the first and fourth quarters of 2021. Performance in the first quarter of 2021 was due to Covid-19 vaccine rollouts as well as a relatively significant US government stimulus,” reads the report. 

Furthermore, financial markets withstood the threat of the Omicron Covid-19 variant as well as the prospect of stricter central bank policies to close off the fourth quarter of 2021 positively. 

The industry remained operationally resilient for the duration of 2021, withstanding the effects of interest rate hikes in various jurisdictions, amongst others. During the review period, the retirement fund sub-sector’s assets grew by 17.9% to N$212.9 billion as at the end of December 2021 due to favourable financial market performances. On the investment mix, the retirement funds industry held at least 45.7% of its assets in equities during the review period. Bonds and insurance policies made up the remainder of the sub-sector’s top three investment instruments. 

“The reduction in exposure to equities over time coincided with revisions to investment regulations governing these funds. Chief among the revisions was the staggered raising of the minimum domestic holding requirement from 35% in 2014 to 45%, effective as at March 2019. 

Inherently, shocks to financial markets will channel the most severe distress onto the sub-sector’s investment assets, given the industry’s investment mix. The Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa), therefore, monitors developments in the financial markets relative to inflation and geopolitics,” added the report.

Looking into the geographic allocation of funds, the retirement fund sub-sector’s exposure to the domestic economy increased over the course of 2021.

The industry’s domestic exposure increased from 45.6% in December 2020 to 49.4% in December 2021. It noted that the proportional growth in domestic assets is attributable to the domestic holding requirements prescribed by legislation. Retirement funds’ investment assets held in the domestic economy amounted to N$104.6 billion as at December 2021, with N$107.0 billion held outside Namibia over the same reporting period.

2022-05-06  Maihapa Ndjavera

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