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HOW CHANGES TO PROVIDENT FUND ANNUITISATION AFFECT APPROVED LUMP-SUM DISABILITY BENEFITS

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By Dolana Conco – Regional Executive – Alexander Forbes Retirement Consulting

 

New tax rules on the annuitisation of provident funds and lump-sum payouts made at retirement took effect on 1 March 2021. Fund members should be aware of additional implications for approved lump-sum disability benefits.

On retirement, members of these funds who were under age 55 on this date (known as T-day) may still take amounts which accrued prior to 1 March 2021, plus the fund return, in cash. Members over age 55 on T-day will have access to all amounts in the fund in cash when retiring from that fund. This is referred to as “vested benefits” as opposed to “non-vested benefits” where annuitisation rules apply to amounts above R247 500.

 

Approved lump-sum disability benefits paid by a pension fund

The approved (provided by the fund) lump-sum disability benefit in a pension fund was previously included as part of the fund benefit. It was normally treated in its totality as an ill-health early retirement benefit from the fund. The cash amount was limited to a maximum of one-third of the benefit, while the balance was used to buy a pension.

 

Dolana Conco

Approved Lump-sum disability benefits from provident funds

Those under the age of 55 will have the same limitations on their lump-sum disability benefit and how this is treated in terms of annuitisation as applies to pension funds.

  • Members over age 55 on 1 March 2021

The lump-sum disability benefit will be part of the vested benefits in the provident fund of which the member had membership on T-day. This means that the member can receive this payment in cash, after tax.

But if the member transfers to a new fund after T-day, and is then disabled, any lump-sum disability benefit paid out of the new fund will be a non-vested benefit. This means that annuitisation rules will now apply.

  • Lump-sum disability benefits under 55

Only amounts which have accrued before T-day fall into vested benefits. If a member is disabled after T-day, the lump-sum disability benefit payable will not fall into the vested benefits. The payment will be treated as a non-vested benefit. This means that the annuitisation rules, where the total benefit exceeds R247 500, will now apply to the lump-sum disability benefit.

 

Reform

While the above may be an unintended consequence of the annuitisation rules, we should take a step back and reconsider the real intention of reform.

Various stakeholders in the industry introduced and agreed upon reform as it became evident that current regulations were failing the member. Almost 50% of members retire on less than one-third of their final average salary, which renders a large part of people poor and dependent on the state. This is unsustainable and needs to change.

Reform has brought in different forms of laws to increase the savings culture and provide certain incentives – like a tax deduction if a member saves more, up to a certain limit.

With the lump-sum disability benefit now subject to annuitisation, funds need to consider this question: Would an income structured benefit still meet the intention and expectations by members, the fund and the employer in terms of their incapacity procedure?

The trustees and employer will have to revisit why the approved lump-sum disability benefit was selected in the first place. Was this to ensure that there would be a lump sum to:

  • meet the cost of additional care or adjustments to the home to assist the disabled employee, or
  • provide cash support ultimately to members who are found to be totally and permanently disabled?

If the above intent of providing a lump-sum benefit still stands, the trustees and the employer may need to consider changing the tax status of this benefit from approved to unapproved. This will ensure that the initial intention and expectations are still met.

Caution is made that changing to an unapproved benefit would mean that the employee would need to pay fringe benefit tax on the monthly premium. However, the benefit would be paid as a tax-free lump sum separate from the retirement fund for total and permanent disablement.

These discussions must therefore include decision makers on the employer side to:

  • help facilitate the messaging to the employees
  • manage any payroll impacts
  • align with their incapacity procedures

Any benefit structure implemented must be well considered to best suit the needs of the members. This could enhance the financial well-being of employees and lead to the best retirement outcomes.

 

Finance

AIRBANK SELECTS YAPILY TO BUILD A FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT SOLUTION FOR SMBS

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Airbank, a financial management solution for European startups and SMBs, has selected open banking infrastructure provider Yapily to help its users manage their finances with ease.

Airbank provides a simple financial management solution that aggregates all bank accounts in one place and delivers more control, visibility, and automation to modern finance teams. Startups & SMBs use Airbank to access bank accounts, monitor cash flow in real-time, create reliable forecasts, and make business payments.

Airbank matches bank transactions with merchant and category data to give finance teams complete visibility into revenues and expenses, thus helping make their lives easier with cash flow budgeting, forecasting, and reporting.

Yapily’s API infrastructure provides Airbank users with a smooth, simple way to connect to more than 1,500 banks across the UK and Europe including Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Sparkassen, Volksbanken and neobanks. Airbank selected Yapily for its strong coverage in Europe, with a specific focus on Germany, France, Spain, and the UK. Yapily’s European bank connectivity enables Airbank’s customers to scale and grow across Europe, delivering forecast visibility anywhere they go.

The partnership with Yapily alleviates Airbank’s customers from spending time and resources managing their finances – giving them direct access to all the financial and contextual data they need in one tool. Historically, most businesses created budgets and cash flow forecasts in manual spreadsheets which is time-consuming and error-prone. With Airbank, customers save time and costs to focus on value-adding business tasks.

The partnership also enables Airbank’s customers to use its data enrichment platform and transaction categorisation engine to turn the raw data from bank accounts into meaningful and actionable insights. Airbank reconciles account balances, forecasts financials and helps business owners make smarter business decisions every day. Harnessing Yapily’s leading open banking infrastructure, Airbank can accelerate its adoption of digital banking services.

Airbank’s vision is to simplify financial management for SMBs and to create a unified platform that helps its users with the full cycle of financial management from cash flow analysis and forecasting, to accounts receivables and payables management, and more. Airbank has raised $3m seed funding from leading VCs, and counts hundreds of users in Germany, Austria, France, Spain and the UK.

Open Banking has enabled smooth integrations with banks, which we utilize to offer richer banking and payments experiences for our users. We’re building a business banking solution that connects all your financial accounts in one place. Our partnership with Yapily gives users a smooth and simple way to connect to thousands of banks in Europe, unlocking real-time insights into their cash flow. We eliminate the pains of finance admin so business owners can focus on what’s really important — growing their business.

Christopher Zemina, Co-founder and CEO of Airbank

Airbank helps simplify the daily routine of banking and finance management for small and medium sized businesses. By leveraging Yapily’s open banking infrastructure, Airbank can provide actionable insights to businesses – at a time where it’s needed. As a small yet fast growing company, Yapily is committed to supporting the SMB community and we are excited to see how Airbank delivers the benefits of open banking to many businesses across Europe.

Comment by Chris Scheuermann, Commercial Lead DACH at Yapily

 

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Interviews

COULD YOU PROVIDE US WITH SOME BACKGROUND ON YOUR CURRENT ROLE WITHIN THE FINANCIAL SERVICES SECTOR?

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– Shanker Ramamurthy, Global Managing Partner – Banking at IBM, BIAN Executive Board Member

 

I lead the banking consulting practice across IBM Consulting, focusing on banks’ digital transformation, core banking, and payments. Additionally, I am the President of the IBM Industry Academy, a dynamic and diverse community of IBM’s industry experts aiming to form new solutions to help our customers win in a constantly evolving industry landscape. The Academy offers IBMers the chance to work together and collaborate with industry experts from all areas of IBM.

Since my career began almost three decades ago, I have been lucky enough to work across six continents in various consulting and leadership roles in the financial services sector. This experience, coupled with my current role, has provided me with a unique insight into the digital trends affecting all industries and enables me to serve IBM’s financial services clients better.

 

Can you explain more about your recent appointment to BIAN’s Executive Board and BIAN’s role in the industry? 

BIAN stands for the Banking Industry Architecture Network. It is a collaborative, not-for-profit organization of institutions and professionals from the financial and technology industries, including leading banks, technology providers, consultants, and academics from all over the globe. Member organizations are committed to lowering the cost of banking and increasing the speed of innovation adoption in the industry. Members draw upon their combined industry expertise to define a revolutionary banking technology framework that standardizes and simplifies banking architecture to overcome limitations preventing growth and efficiency and encourage ease of management in their existing environments.1

The opportunity to become a member of the BIAN board was an invitation I could not turn down. I am honored to be part of BIAN’s executive board to provide counsel and support their work in helping financial institutions negotiate this time of immense opportunity and disruption. For the financial services industry, BIAN’s open framework, services-oriented architecture, and standards model are more critical than ever before.

 

Shanker Ramamurthy

After working in the financial services industry for a number of years, what is it that makes you so passionate about the industry? 

I am delighted to see the impact of exponential technology on financial services because these innovations provide an opportunity to bring positive change to people’s everyday lives. I am also a strong advocate for financial inclusion and emphasize its importance as part of my practice. Financial services should be accessible for all, regardless of financial means and where you are in the world. In this respect, I am committed to helping banks widen the availability of banking services and reduce the cost point of doing so.

 

The importance of financial inclusion is evident. But what measures can global banks take to increase the availability of banking services and keep cost points low?

The financial services industry still has much to do to achieve inclusive banking globally. Having said this, incumbents, fintechs and techfins have made significant investments in technology and innovation, with this end in mind. Unfortunately, we live in a world where globally, billions of people still do not have access to basic financial services. Critical areas such as payments – particularly cross-border payments – remain costly, and access to credit continues to be a challenge for so many.

Global financial institutions will find success for their own business processes and their customers through a technology and business strategy to support the bank of the future and by prioritizing innovation powered by hybrid cloud and AI. Although there is much work to be done, it is encouraging that the combination of innovation will help democratize and transform finance like never before.

 

What can banks do to prepare for the future? 

Banks are facing an evolving landscape due to COVID-19 and changing regulatory environments. This is something banks and fintechs are navigating. At the same time, the financial services industry is being shaped by new consumer trends – from the rise of a cashless society to the pandemic-driven shift towards online banking and mobile payments.

The focus on technological development to accommodate these changes will continue. The banks that succeed will be the ones who have a technology and business strategy to support the ‘bank of the future,’ in which much of the middle and back office gets almost entirely automated and focus shifts to customers and customer value-adding functions. This transition requires rapid digitization and the adoption of exponential technologies powered by the hybrid cloud and AI. BIAN has an essential role in helping banks do just this.

 

What does the shift towards digital banking, including the increasing use of mobile contactless payments by customers, mean for the bank of the future?

Digitization drives innovation, new business models, and efficiency while simultaneously enabling extreme competition from traditional and non-traditional competitors. In tomorrow’s banking eco-system model, the value is increasingly accruing from customer-facing functions supported by platform-based business models. By extension, this has meant competition from both fintech and importantly, techfins (large technology companies that are moving into the less regulated aspects of financial services such as payments, electronic wallets, BNPL – buy now pay later models and more).

Banks in the future will automate extensively, and likely extend their business models to create ‘beyond banking platforms’ to support their customers in areas outside of the traditional banking value chain. The future of such models is being written in Asia by banks such as DBS in Singapore, State Bank of India, among others as they evolve their business models to combat the growth of ‘super-apps’ like Alibaba, Tencent, Grab, Gojek, and more in that part of the world.

 

How can the industry find its footing after such a change?

Banks have several natural advantages that come from incumbency, customer loyalty, and material regulatory barriers preventing non-traditional competitors from quickly breaching their businesses. Regardless, mastering the future will require banks to ask themselves three questions:

  1. Is our strategy ambitious enough?
  2. Are we executing fast enough?
  3. Do we have the talent and capabilities to win?

Answering these questions honestly and then putting in place programs to execute relentlessly is the only way for the industry to continue to thrive and take advantage of the extensive opportunities in the near future.

 

 

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